No Peterson? No problem.
At least, that was the case for Teddy Bridgewater and the Minnesota Vikings' offense in the team's third preseason game of 2016 -- and its first in shiny, new US Bank Stadium. Bridgewater led the Vikings on three scoring drives in five opportunities during the first half of their dress rehearsal game -- a 23-10 win. Were it not for a fumble inside San Diego territory, he might have made it four of five.
Bridgewater, who was one of the lowest-volume throwers in the league last season, completed 12 of his 16 first-half passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. He connected with No. 1 WR Stefon Diggs all five times he threw the ball Diggs' way, for 71 of those 161 yards. Diggs created good separation for Bridgewater to get him the ball, but also created extra yards with the ball on his hands after the catch.
Bridgewater's touchdown toss was a 27-yarder to tight end Kyle Rudolph, who split the seam down the middle of the field. Bridgewater dropped the ball into a bucket, over the heads of the linebackers and in front of the safeties, and Rudolph walked into the end zone.
Teddy also made some plays with his legs, notably a 22-yard scamper where he made Chargers safety Adrian Williams look silly:
He wasn't the only Viking making things happen in the ground game, either. Jerick McKinnon, occupying Adrian Peterson's role with the first-team offense, carried 8 times for 56 yards. His best play of the day was a 35-yarder where he broke through the middle of the line untouched and bounced around the right side for additional yardage:
The Chargers defense is not exactly the toughest unit (it finished the 2015 season 28th in Football Outsiders' defensive DVOA, lost Eric Weddle to free agency and still hasn't signed No. 3 overall pick Joey Bosa), but it had to be encouraging for the Vikings to see their first-teamers move the ball up and down the field with relative ease (they stalled in the red zone twice) without the guy around whom their entire offense is based.
Here are some more takeaways from Sunday's preseason action (article will be updated at the conclusion of each game):
2. Chargers lose two to injuries
Barksdale had his leg rolled up on by fellow offensive lineman Orlando Franklin and did not return to the game. The Chargers have yet to announce any further information about his injury (he did walk off the field on his own power). He was the only member of the unit that stayed healthy for the entire 2015 season, and the Chargers badly need him back on the field as soon as possible. Coming off the best season of his career, Barksdale is a huge component of San Diego's offensive line.
Oliver, meanwhile, is done for the year after tearing his Achilles. He's not quite as important a piece for the Chargers as Barksdale, but he did acquit himself well (853 total yards on 196 touches) in 2014 when pressed into duty due to injuries to Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead. He played only eight games last season, but was averaging 4.5 yards per carry (better than both Woodhead and Melvin Gordon) this preseason before suffering the injury.
3. Joey Bosa's replacement shows up big
Joey Bosa, obviously, was not on the field. He still hasn't received what his agents feel is an appropriate contract offer. His replacement, Darius Philon, had himself a heck of a game in this one.
Philon sacked Teddy Bridgewater late in the first half, but also had three tackles (one for a loss) and three additional quarterback hits. The Minnesota offensive line wasn't very good last year, but added Alex Boone during the offseason and should be much better this year. San Diego obviously wants Bosa on the field as soon as he can get there, but Philon showed nicely in the dress rehearsal game.
4. Texans' new toys are shiny
Houston won the AFC South last year, but its offense underwent the type of renovation that's usually reserved for bottom dwellers. The scale was massive: A new quarterback, new running back, and new receivers to fill the spaces around DeAndre Hopkins.
On the Texans' first drive against the Cardinals on Sunday, all of those new toys were on display. After the defense, which should still remain the strength of the team, picked off Carson Palmer, the offense faced an early fourth-and-3 at the Cardinals' 19-yard line. Texans coach Bill O'Brien kept his offense on the field.
The result? New quarterback Brock Osweiler stepped up to escape a shrinking pocket and found rookie receiver Braxton Miller to move the ball to the one-yard line. On the next snap, new running back Lamar Miller plunged into the end zone.
Midway through the Texans' second drive, Osweiler hit rookie receiver Will Fuller down the right sideline for a perfectly timed 35-yard strike. That drive also included Nuk doing some Nuk stuff and ended with a field goal.
The Osweiler-Fuller connection struck later, this time with 2:44 remaining in the first half. On second down from the Arizona 26-yard line, Osweiler dropped a dime into Fuller's outstretched arms. Fuller hung onto the pass and demonstrated some sound footwork to secure the touchdown.
According to Pro Football Focus, Osweiler compiled "the second-lowest adjusted completion percentage on pass attempts of 20-plus yards despite averaging almost four such attempts per game" last year. Over the course of the 2015 season, the Texans passing game notched just 46 plays of 20-plus yards, which tied for 25th in the league. Deep balls weren't an issue on Sunday -- not much was.
In all, Osweiler went 11 of 13 (two drops) for 146 yards and a touchdown against a tough Cardinals defense. If he replicates what he did Sunday in the regular season, the Texans will be dangerous.
It's the preseason, but there's tons of reasons to be optimistic about the Texans' new-look offense. Lamar Miller scored a touchdown, Braxton Miller caught all three of his targets for 29 yards, Fuller snagged three passes for 67 yards and that impressive touchdown (he did drop another deep ball, though), and Hopkins put such a move on Cardinals corner Mike Jenkins that Jenkins left the game with a non-contact injury. Then, with second-string quarterback Tom Savage in for Osweiler, second-year receiver Jaelen Strong won a battle in the end zone and adjusted on the ball to haul in a 17-yard touchdown to cap a 31-point first half.
At halftime, the Texans' two quarterbacks combined for a 158.0 passer rating.
A year ago, this offense couldn't pick between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Sleepyhead Mallett. There's no way to know just how much of Sunday's success will translate over to the regular season, but there appears to be potential brewing in Houston.
For what it's worth (nothing, really), the Cardinals' second and third units fared better. They limited the Texans to three second-half points, but still lost, 34-24.
5. Carson Palmer had a bad day
Carson Palmer's Sunday involved an opening-drive interception, a pick-six, and the kind of hit that no player -- much less a quarterback -- ever wants to endure. The hit ended his afternoon.
His final stat line: 5 of 9 for 64 yards, zero touchdowns, two picks, and a 38.4 passer rating.
That doesn't mean Palmer played poorly. Both of his interceptions were tipped.
Pick No. 1 was created by Vince Wilfork's hand:
That's gotta be the play of the preseason, right?
To make matters worse for Palmer, he was on the receiving end of a brutal head shot during that return. He did not check back into game, but he is not expected to have suffered an injury.
Probably time for Carson Palmer to take a two-week vacay. pic.twitter.com/8GAyxmuuwn— Sean Wagner-McGough (@seanjwagner) August 28, 2016
Photos via NFL Gamepass.
6. Draft David Johnson
After David Johnson's super season-ending stretch last year, he landed near the top of every fantasy football draft board. On Sunday, he provided a reminder of his dominance by picking up 28 yards on six carries.
He also found the end zone using his shiftiness and power.
7. Jaguars first-team offense: Bad
The Jaguars are (allegedly) supposed to enter the realm of relevance after nearly a decade of losing. But on Sunday, the Jaguars looked like, well, the Jaguars.
After one quarter, quarterback Blake Bortles had more completions (3) than yards (2). Their first three drives went like this:
- Four plays, fumble
- Three plays, punt
- Three plays, punt
On the first drive, converted guard Luke Joeckel got steamrolled by Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. It led to a low hit on Bortles.
Let's break down that play, frame by frame:
No. 1: Before the fallNo. 2: The FallNo. 3: Fallen
In fairness to Joeckel, he's learning a new position and went up against Atkins, one of the best defensive tackles in the game. He's not the first guard to be eaten alive by Atkins.
That drive ended with a fumble, which came on a pass that Bortles should've never thrown -- a completely covered screen more than a few yards behind the line of scrimmage. T.J. Yeldon caught it and fumbled. And then Bortles, for some reason, made the tackle. He should ask Andy Dalton why that's a bad idea.
There was also this false start on Bortles in the second quarter:
When the Jaguars finally mounted a drive -- 12 plays, 66 yards, five minutes and 24 seconds -- they bungled the ending. On third and goal, they thought they scored a touchdown, but it was negated by an illegal substitution penalty. Before they could get off another snap, they committed a false start. Finally, they got through a play without a penalty, but that play didn't result in a touchdown because tight end Julius Thomas tried to body catch Bortles' pass, which allowed a defender to sneak in with his arm and deflect the ball.
Even the Jaguars' chip-shot field goal wasn't easy. The ball hit the upright before falling through for three points.
The Jaguars' next drive ended with boos when Gus Bradley chose to punt on fourth-and-1. At halftime, they had run 25 plays and gained 90 yards.
The most exciting aspect of the Jaguars game ended up being the halftime show.
Bortles' final numbers: 10 of 16 for 52 yards (3.3 yards per attempt) and a 67.7 passer rating.
"We played pretty bad," Bortles told NBC after he was pulled from the game, showing more accuracy in that interview than he did throughout the entire first half.
8. Dalton-led offense picks up where it left off
The Bengals are without offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who relocated to Cleveland to try to turn the Browns into a competent franchise for the first time in forever. They're also without injured tight end Tyler Eifert, and receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who both bolted in free agency.
So, despite getting Andy Dalton back, the Bengals offense is still riddled with question marks.
In the Bengals' dress rehearsal for the regular season, their first-team offense led by Dalton looked just fine. They started with a three-play, 22-yard touchdown drive after a fumble recovery.
Running back Giovani Bernard did all of the work, scoring a 19-yard touchdown on a screen.
Running back Jeremy Hill was next in line. At the beginning of the second quarter, Hill finished off a 16-play, 69-yard drive with a short-range touchdown run.
In a stark contrast to Bortles' stats, Dalton went 6 of 10 for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Efficient -- that's the best way to describe the Bengals' first-team offense. The flip side of that is the disappointing state of the Jaguars' defense, which got manhandled by the Bengals' offensive front in the first half.
9. Injuries for the Bengals
Cornerback Adam Jones injured himself during warmups. The severity is unknown.
NBC video showed Adam Jones trying to backpedal during warmups. Stopped, grabbed his leg and walked off gingerly.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) August 29, 2016
Receiver A.J. Green hobbled off the field in first quarter with a right knee injury, which occurred after a routine catch that involved no contact. The Bengals dodged a bullet, though. The injury isn't expected to be serious. Green said so during an in-game interview with NBC.
The Bengals also lost running back Cedric Peerman to a fractured forearm. He went to the Pro Bowl last year as a special teams player.
Ultimately, injuries are all that matter in the preseason. So, in that sense, the Jaguars won Sunday night.