Takeaways: Vikings beat Cardinals, 20-9

Mike Zimmer improved to 20-4 in the preseason after the Vikings beat the Cardinals 20-9 on Saturday, but he could’ve cared less.

After all, preseason results are irrelevant. He was disappointed and frustrated with his team’s performance, especially his first-team offense. He still has questions with his kickers, and many questions will linger into the Sept. 8 season-opener against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Vikings preseason finishes at Buffalo Thursday night, but most starters won’t play. The last preseason game is about third and fourth-string players battling for final roster spots. The Vikings have to cut down to 53 this weekend.

What’s with the kicking game?

Honest to God, what is it with the Vikings and kickers? Zimmer said Saturday his level of concern for the kicking game is ‘high” and he’s “at a loss” after punter/kicker Kaare Vedvik went 0-for-2 on field goals. He missed wide left from 43 yards out, and wide right from 54 yards out. Vedvik also handled kickoff duties, while Matt Wile had the punting duties.

Dan Bailey, who did not play Saturday, will likely start the season as the kicker. Will Wile get cut? Will Vedvik take over kickoffs and punting? Who will hold on field goals and extra points? There are still plenty of questions among the specialists that likely won’t get answered until roster cuts are made.

Sloter excels after Zimmer calls him out

Last week, Zimmer made it very clear how we feels about quarterback Kyle Sloter. “He needs to get a lot better if he wants to be the back-up quarterback.”

Well, Sloter responded and then some against the Cardinals. He led a pair of touchdown drives and finished 6-of-7 passing for 102 yards and a touchdown to Khari Blasingame. His quarterback rating? A perfect 158.3.

In the win over Seattle, Sloter finished 11-of-13 for 116 yards and a touchdown. But it’s the preseason, and preseason numbers don’t matter. That said, he’s doing everything he can to compete with Sean Mannion for the No. 2 quarterback job.

Kirk Cousins struggles

After getting off to such a positive start at New Orleans and leading a touchdown drive, there was nothing but disappointment on Kirk Cousins’ face after his play against Arizona. He was sacked twice, the first time that’s happened since the end of last season. He finished just 3-of-13 passing for 35 yards with a 39.6 quarterback rating.

Cousins had a drive stalled after a sack, and nearly had a screen pass intercepted by Terrell Suggs. It would have been even uglier if not for a 29-yard completion to Stefon Diggs near the end of the first half. There are plenty of things to fix before he takes the field against the Falcons.

“All I know right now without that benefit of hindsight is that if I play the way I did today, it’s going to be a long year," Cousins said Saturday.

Dalvin Cook is ready

It took all of two snaps for Dalvin Cook to show he’s ready for the regular season. He took his second carry on Minnesota’s opening drive 85 yards for a touchdown. Most impressive, he wasn’t touched until he was 15 yards into the play. He shook one tackle, and was off to the races.

Zimmer and the coaches saw what they needed to see, and he didn’t play the rest of the game. Zimmer said he just wanted to see Cook get hit a couple times and stay healthy. That’s been an issue for Cook, who has played just 15 games the last two seasons after knee and hamstring injuries. The Vikings are hoping that Cook can stay healthy, and take their offense to a different level.

Key players get rest

There were some notable names not on the field Saturday, considering the third preseason game is typically when the starters play the most. The Vikings rested eight players. The notables to not play included Linval Joseph, who returned to practice last week. Brian O’Neill, who suffered a right elbow injury early in Training Camp, did not play.

Harrison Smith and Adam Thielen also did not dress Saturday. Zimmer said after the game Smith had a cut on his finger and sat as a precaution, adding he would’ve played if it were a regular season game. Thielen was sore and rested as a precaution. Most importantly, the Vikings didn’t suffer any significant injuries to any big names before the Sept. 8 opener. Other teams can’t say that same thing.

There’s a lot of work to do, but the Vikings are mostly healthy for Week 1.