Familiar formula: Vikings D leads way while OL struggles in win

The Minnesota Vikings opened their preseason schedule with a 17-10 win over the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York, on Thursday. The Vikings jumped to a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter by capping a 14-play, 71-yard drive with a touchdown. Buffalo gave itself a chance by scoring on a Nathan Peterman pass to the corner of the end zone late in the third, but the Vikings defense held strong in the fourth to secure the win.

QB depth chart:

Sam Bradford didn't see much work, playing the first three series of the game, all of which ended in punts. The Vikings starter completed 5-of-7 passes for 35 yards. He also was sacked twice.

Veteran backup Case Keenum followed Bradford, taking over to start the second quarter. Keenum completed 11-of-16 throws for 121 yards, the best of which was a 38-yard completion to Stacy Coley that set up a touchdown.

Taylor Heinicke, who has spent the last two seasons on the Vikings practice squad, had a rough night, picking up just 20 yards on 3-for-8 passing. While the Minnesota backup did toss a touchdown to rookie Rodney Adams, he also tossed an ugly interception and was forced out of the pocket multiple times.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Vikings looked ...

Strong on defense. Both defenses dominated while the first teams were in the game. The Vikings’ starting offense made rookie Dalvin Cook its focus, giving the second-round pick from Florida State nine touches. He gained 13 yards rushing and 30 yards through the air, but the Vikings punted on all three first-team drives.

On the defensive side, the Vikings looked like they were ready to start the season. Defensive end Everson Griffen dominated, sacking Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor once and forcing him to escape the pocket on another rush.

One reason to be concerned:

Trae Waynes, who started nine games for the Vikings last season, went down with a shoulder injury on the first drive. Entering training camp, the team hoped that Waynes would continue to make progress after showing promise at times last season. If he misses any portion of time, that would force veteran Terence Newman to play the role full time.

That guy could start:

Rookie center Pat Elflein drove back his man at the goal line to give CJ Ham a chance to punch the ball into the end zone. He also opened up a big hole on a 14-yard run by Bishop Sankey. The Vikings’ third-round pick is competing for a starting job with Nick Easton. If Elflein continues to play well, he could end up winning the job by opening night.

Rookie watch:

Coley, a seventh-round pick out of Miami, had the best game of any rookie, picking up 67 yards on three catches. He showed impressive quickness after the catch and made a high-difficulty catch on a 38-yard completion. Undrafted free agent Tashawn Bower made an impact rushing off the edge, picking up a sack and putting pressure on the Bills’ quarterbacks several more times.

Eyes on the offensive line:

The Minnesota offensive line struggled out of the gate, which is not what the coaches wanted to see. Right tackle Mike Remmers, a free-agent signee this offseason, was beaten for one of the two sacks of Bradford. The backup linemen protected Keenum well, keeping him unscathed, and gave up one sack against Heinicke. There will be a great deal of focus on the Vikings’ new-look line during each preseason game.