Norv Turner got a good long look at his offensive starters Saturday night against the Cardinals. The first team offense stayed on the field the entire first half, and there were plenty of positives to take away from the performance.
The biggest positive had to be the chemistry between Matt Cassel and Kyle Rudolph. Everyone expects a monster year from Rudolph in Norv Turner’s system and Saturday night provided a nice preview of what that could be like.
Rudolph was on the receiving end of the big offensive play of the entire half, a 51-yard TD strike from Cassel that was broken open by a huge downfield block from rookie Jerick McKinnon. Rudolph was Cassel’s main target throughout the half as the quarterback piled up 153 yards and a TD on 12-for-16 passing.
Rudolph’s only negative on the evening was a missed touchdown reception in the end zone. Otherwise it was a very productive half for the slimmed-down, speedier-looking tight end.
Cassel overall looked sharp, spreading the ball around to all his receivers, and making a couple of plays with his legs when the middle of the field opened up. Cordarrelle Patterson had a couple more short receptions of the type he caught last week, but missed a chance for a big play early when he he beat his man in one-on-one coverage and the ball was a tad overthrown.
It was an efficient half for the offense, a lot of it played against the Cardinals’ second-team, but it could have been even better. As it was, the Vikings were able to put up 13 points on Arizona. It would have been 16 but Blair Walsh hit the upright on a long field goal attempt.
I think Norv Turner will be satisfied with some of what his offense did but he’ll be bothered by a couple of plays they didn’t execute, and I’m not sure he’ll be thrilled with some of the run blocking especially on outside plays. He has to like the development of Jerick McKinnon as a blocker, but now we need to see more from the rookie as a runner and receiver.
There will be plenty for Turner and everyone else to chew on for the next couple days after a full two quarters of work from the first team offense. The one thing I know for sure? Matt Cassel is ready to start the season at quarterback.