MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' playoff hopes will depend on Teddy Bridgewater in Year 2, and the quarterback looked precise in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night. He completed five of his six passes for 44 yards, ran once for 6 yards and led a drive that got stopped on fourth down deep in Pittsburgh Steelers territory in a 14-3 Vikings victory.
QB depth chart: Bridgewater had a strong start to his preseason, and did an especially solid job of coming off his primary receivers to find secondary options. On his 7-yard pass to Jarius Wright, Bridgewater's eyes held the safeties deep before he found Wright crossing the middle of the field. Bridgewater's only miss was a low throw to Mike Wallace. Mike Kafka hit seven of his 10 passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. Rookie free agent Taylor Heinicke was also 7-of-10, though he had a tipped pass intercepted.
Maybe that dude could start: Linebacker Audie Cole got the start at middle linebacker, ahead of second-round pick Eric Kendricks, and Cole did plenty to suggest he could hold onto the job. He made a nice play to tip a pass, even though it wound up in the hands of Sammie Coates, and crunched C.J. Goodwin to force a fumble that Antone Exum recovered. It's possible the Vikings could work Kendricks into their nickel package, even if they do start Cole in the base. But Cole, who has turned heads when he has had chances to play, got off to a strong start.
Who got hurt? The Vikings seemed to escape the first of five preseason games without any major injuries, though they left seven injured players at home, including linebacker Anthony Barr. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who has been dealing with a foot injury that has limited his work in training camp, made the trip but didn't play.
A surprise who looks amazing: Defensive end Justin Trattou got some playing time late last season, and began his preseason looking intent on beating out young players such as Scott Crichton and Danielle Hunter for the third defensive end spot. Trattou got consistent pressure throughout the game, nearly sacking Landry Jones in the fourth quarter and deflecting a pass early.
Rookie watch: Wide receiver Stefon Diggs returned a punt 62 yards to the Steelers' 1, and came just short of stretching the ball across the goal line. A review upheld the call on the field after Mike Zimmer challenged the play. His fellow fifth-rounder, MyCole Pruitt, got some work with the first-team offense, making a nice block on a screen to Jerick McKinnon, and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Mike Kafka on a busted coverage.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Vikings looked : Pretty good. The first-team offense drove down the field before getting stopped on fourth down, and the defense forced a punt in the Vikings' only series of first-team work. It should be noted the Vikings didn't see most of the Steelers' biggest contributors on offense, but still, it was a solid (albeit brief) start for the top units.
One reason to freak out, good or bad: The Vikings' specialists struggled late last season, and the group had some hiccups to begin the preseason. Kicker Blair Walsh, who signed a contract extension early in training camp, missed wide right from 48 yards, and punter Jeff Locke hit a 32-yard punt before booming one 58 yards into the end zone. Long snapper Kevin McDermott, who is battling Cullen Loeffler for the job, had a low snap on Locke's first punt.
Kalil holds up well: Left tackle Matt Kalil, who played last season under heavy scrutiny, has said he feels better after a pair of knee surgeries in the offseason. Kalil played only on the Vikings' first drive Sunday night, but he was sturdy in pass protection, keeping Bridgewater's blind side clean. Considering how much Kalil has struggled the past two preseasons, he's probably worth watching as closely as any other starter this preseason. He got off to a good start Sunday.
Long night for Waynes: The Vikings have put their cornerback group together in a way that they shouldn't have to rely on first-round pick Trae Waynes heavily as a rookie. They've used him both outside and in the slot as he goes through a crash course on coach Mike Zimmer's defense, and Zimmer has said Waynes will have to learn how to walk the line between physical play and penalties, as many rookies do. All things considered, Sunday was probably a good learning experience for Waynes, who played most of the game between left cornerback and the slot, was flagged for three penalties and gave up a long completion in the first quarter. He'll have some things to learn from Sunday's game.