The Vikings are using the preseason to slowly unveil a faster way to play offense.
“Less thinking, more get up and go and reacting more,” coach Mike Zimmer said of his new-look offense.
“It’s like basketball. You can’t sit there and think on every play. You just got to go, and if something happens, you got to react to it and go from there.
“I think it helps the offensive line. I think it helps everybody when you can do that.”
You betcha, says quarterback Kirk Cousins.
“The advantages of tempo are fatigue on the opponent,” he said. “Obviously, you’re fatigued as well as an offense. But to fatigue your opponent should slow down the pass rush, it should get your opponent into more vanilla coverages and blitzes. They can’t do as much variations of their defense. And anytime you can simplify the game … that’s an advantage.”
The first-team offense — sans running back Dalvin Cook and injured right tackle Brian O’Neill — has played three series in two preseason games. Cook likely will join in for a series as the starters play the entire first half against Arizona on Saturday in what will be their last live action before the Sept. 8 season opener. Only backups are expected to play at Buffalo on Thursday.
“The nice thing with the third game is you have a little larger sample size in case you don’t start fast,” Cousins said. “Certainly, we hope to and expect to start fast.”
So far, so fast.
Cousins has completed 83.3% of his passes (10 of 12) for 133 yards, one touchdown, no sacks, no interceptions and a 140.6 passer rating. He’s directed 26 plays, including penalties, that have produced 195 yards, 10 points and 10 first downs, including at least two in each series.
“The biggest thing I’ve liked [about Cousins] — his stats have been good and all that — but he’s moved the team down [the field],” Zimmer said.
“He’s tried to execute the offense the way we want to get it done. Obviously, not taking any sacks has been big. We hope to continue moving forward with what we’ve been doing.”
As for balance, the Vikings have thrown the ball 12 times for 133 yards and run it 11 times for 40.
In regard to Zimmer’s mandate to stay committed to the run, two plays from last week’s win over Seattle stand out. One play after Alexander Mattison gained only 1 yard on third-and-2, fullback C.J. Ham ran for 3 yards and a first down. Later, Mattison had carries of minus-1 and 6 yards on back-to-back snaps.
Wednesday, Zimmer was sitting in his TCO Performance Center office talking about the importance of playing fast offensively.
“I’m sure there are going to be some hiccups [offensively], but at least we have ways of getting guys to play fast,” he said. “Not thinking too much and sitting there at the line of scrimmage and making checks and doing this and doing that. Just get up there and, ‘Let’s go, baby.’ ”