One day after the Vikings' disappointing 27-24 loss to the Bengals in Week 1, let's dive a little deeper by looking at the snap counts on both sides of the ball, some players who stood out either positively or negatively, and additional observations.
Offensive snap counts
Total offensive snaps: 83
- QB Kirk Cousins: 83
- LT Rashod Hill: 83
- LG Ezra Cleveland: 83
- C Garrett Bradbury: 83
- RG Oli Udoh: 83
- RT Brian O'Neill: 83
- WR Adam Thielen: 78
- WR Justin Jefferson: 76
- WR K.J. Osborn: 67
- TE Tyler Conklin: 59
- RB Dalvin Cook: 59
- FB C.J. Ham: 25
- WR Dede Westbrook: 15
- TE Chris Herndon: 12
- RB Alexander Mattison: 9
- RB Ameer Abdullah: 9
- WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette: 4
- LT Blake Brandel: 2
The big story here is Osborn. Seeing his first regular season action at wide receiver, the breakout star of training camp was out there for over 80 percent of the team's snaps. Now, that was partially due to the Vikings putting themselves in so many unfavorable down and distance situations because of penalties — and falling into a 21-7 deficit — which required them to throw the ball almost 50 times. But it also might've been a sign that Klint Kubiak will use more 11 personnel this season, regardless of situation.
Osborn took full advantage of the opportunities, catching seven of nine targets for 76 yards. He had more receptions and yards than Jefferson on the same number of targets. Osborn showed an ability to make plays after the catch, including a wild dash up the sideline on 3rd and 24 to set up the Vikings' first touchdown. He also displayed reliable hands, most notably on a late 4th down catch that set up the game-tying field goal.
"We expect him to [make those plays]," Mike Zimmer said on Monday. "I think he played well. The conversion on third-and-24. The conversion on fourth-and-4. He’ll keep improving. I think he’s done a good job. But getting some game access, and making some plays in a game, I think that will help."
With Osborn dominating snaps as the No. 3 receiver, Westbrook only got 12 and Smith-Marsette four. If Osborn keeps playing well, that probably won't change. Herndon will almost certainly get more than 12 snaps in most games as the Vikings use multiple tight ends. It was at least a good start for him that Brandon Dillon didn't see a single snap.
Defensive snap counts
Total defensive snaps: 69
- S Xavier Woods: 69
- S Harrison Smith: 69
- LB Eric Kendricks: 69
- LB Nick Vigil: 69
- CB Patrick Peterson: 69
- CB Bashaud Breeland: 61
- DE Danielle Hunter: 60
- CB Mackensie Alexander: 50
- DE D.J. Wonnum: 47
- DT Dalvin Tomlinson: 47
- DT Michael Pierce: 41
- DE Everson Griffen: 28
- DT Sheldon Richardson: 22
- DT Armon Watts: 17
- DE Stephen Weatherly: 17
- LB Blake Lynch: 16
- CB Kris Boyd: 8
There's nothing too surprising here. Richardson's 22 snaps were a career low, so it'll be worth watching to see if that number goes up next week. Breeland got a little banged up and had to come off the field a couple times, with Boyd filling in. There's been plenty of discussion about what the ideal number of snaps for Pierce is, but I'd imagine the Vikings will be tempted to give him even more than 41 after seeing him record two sacks.
Pro Football Focus notes
Here are the Vikings' top five and bottom five grades on offense and defense, via PFF, for players with a minimum of 15 snaps played.
Bradbury's pass protection still poor
Bradbury's poor play remains a major concern. He's been one of the worst pass-blocking centers in football over the past two seasons, and this is the year where he needs to make a leap forward if he's going to secure a long-term future with the Vikings. One game in, that hasn't been the case. He was driven back into Cousins' lap on several plays during Sunday's game, at least one of which resulted in a sack.
"He’s on bigger guys and sometimes that’s going to happen," Zimmer said. "So we’ve got to do a little bit more with the guards to help him at times as well. He’s a powerful, athletic guy. Hopefully we don't get in there where we have to throw the ball 49 times."
Even though the Vikings threw the ball a ton, that doesn't change the fact that Bradbury has consistently struggled to stand his ground against defensive tackles. Sure, the Bengals' DT duo of D.J. Reader and Larry Ogunjobi is a good one, but most teams in the NFL have at least one or two big, powerful players at that position. The 2019 first-round pick needs to step things up after a rough first game.
Breeland struggles in Vikings debut
The other standout from a negative perspective is Breeland. Per PFF, he gave up five catches on eight targets for 107 yards and two touchdowns, and also led the Vikings in missed tackles with five. That's a pretty ugly way to kick off your career with a new team. However, Zimmer doesn't sound too concerned about Breeland.
"[He] gave up a pass interference, which was really just about a technique of turning and looking at the ball as opposed to turning over the other shoulder." Zimmer said. "There were a lot of good plays in there. He got beat on a dig, and the [long touchdown], honestly, was a bad call [by me]. I tried to blitz them in the 2-minute drill, and he stared at the quarterback too long. But other than that, he did some really good things. And once he settled down, I thought made some really good plays in the running game. Just consistency with him."
Breeland, Peterson, and Alexander are going to have a tough matchup this week in Cardinals receivers DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, and A.J. Green.
- Weatherly played well in limited action, while Wonnum didn't make much of an impact in his starting role. It would take much more than one game to reverse the outcome of a training camp battle that Wonnum won pretty soundly, but it's something to keep an eye on.
- The Vikings' safety tandem of Smith and Woods played well, with a couple mistakes: a missed tackle by Smith and Woods losing C.J. Uzomah on the Bengals' final fourth-down conversion.
- Pierce, Hunter, and Griffen tied for the team lead with two pressures apiece. Pierce and Hunter were able to turn theirs into three combined sacks, while Griffen nearly got one as well. Hunter wasn't as dominant as he typically is, not making much of an impact until his sack in the fourth quarter. I'd expect him to keep getting better as he shakes off some rust.
- Cousins probably played as well as you could ask for in the context of all the penalties committed by his offensive teammates. There were a couple times where he may have held onto the ball too long and a couple errant throws, but he wasn't the problem in this loss.
- All three of the Vikings' receivers played well, which is encouraging.
- Fresh off signing the big extension, O'Neill was the one Vikings offensive linemen who was great in pass protection. He committed one penalty (a false start) and allowed zero pressures, while the other four combined for seven penalties and ten pressures.
- Lastly, special teams were a major positive for the Vikings. The have PFF's highest special teams grade as a team by a decent margin. Greg Joseph made the clutch kick, new punter Jordan Berry was good, and players like Camryn Bynum and Harrison Hand were excellent in punt and kick coverage.
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