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Vikings’ defense inconsistent against Arizona

By Chris Tomasson

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Quarterbacks were the focus of Minnesota’s 30-28 preseason victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday, but it wasn’t lost on fans that the Vikings didn’t use star running back Adrian Peterson, who sat out for a second straight week for precautionary reasons.

Because of that, it wasn’t surprising that Minnesota’s running backs struggled much of the night.

But deep reserve Joe Banyard did break loose for a 56-yard run in the third quarter. Banyard also had a 44-yard kickoff return in the first half.

Minnesota’s defense also produced an uneven effort. The Vikings gave up 320 yards, including 224 through the air.

The pass rush, though, had its moments. Defensive end Everson Griffen, trying to show he is worth the five-year, $42.5 million contract he got last March, had three quarterback pressures. Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr had a sack that forced a fumble. Arizona recovered it, but Barr now has 1.5 sacks in his first 1.5 preseason games.

On defense, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was most concerned with getting a look at several players at strong safety, a job that is wide open. Chris Crocker started and Kurt Coleman also played in the first half. In the second half, Zimmer looked at Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo.

Other than quarterback and strong safety, the only other starting spot that looks to still be up for grabs is at middle linebacker. Jasper Brinkley got the start and Audie Cole, trying to beat him out, also saw plenty of action.

In addition to Peterson, other Vikings sitting out were cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring), tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) and Linval Joseph. Joseph suffered a minor calf injury Aug. 9 when he was grazed by a bullet as an innocent bystander during a shooting at a Minneapolis nightclub.

Fred Evans got the start for Joseph, who could get into a preseason game but at least is expected back for the regular-season opener. Rookie Shamar Stephen also saw some snaps with the first team.

On special teams, other than Baynard’s kickoff return, Minnesota’s big play was cornerback Marcus Sherels returning a punt 32 yards in the first half. Sherels, who played at the University of Minnesota and missed the preseason opener due to a hamstring injury, was playing his first NFL game on his old college field.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.