Entering Saturday night, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer hadn’t been enamored with his backup linebackers. But that could be changing.
In an ugly 12-10 loss to Indianapolis in the second preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium, at least the play of Minnesota’s linebackers was a rare bright spot.
Troy Dye returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter and almost had another pick in the second quarter. Blake Lynch had a nice tackle for loss in the first quarter. And rookie Chazz Surratt led the Vikings with nine tackles, including one for loss, and he had an impressive hard hit on a punt return.
“They did better tonight,’’ Zimmer said.
Entering the Aug. 14 preseason opener against Denver, Zimmer said that Minnesota’s linebackers after starters Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr and Nick Vigil needed to step up. After that game, a 33-6 home loss that featured all three starters sitting out, Zimmer was asked what he thought about the linebacker play.
“Not much, honestly,’’ he said.
Now, it looks to be a good time for the linebackers to be improving their play. Barr hasn’t practiced the past two weeks and has sat out both preseason games due to an undisclosed injury. Lynch got the start Saturday in his place.
“I think we did a really good job,’’ Dye said of the linebackers. “There are still things we need to clean up.’’
Dye had no issues with the play that resulted in his touchdown. He picked off a Sam Ehlinger pass and galloped down the left sideline.
“I had some great blocks, some fantastic blocks by everybody on the defense,’’ Dye said. “I think it was great to be able to put some points on the board as a defense.”
Zimmer said Surratt “did some good things” but added that he made few mistakes.
“The second-string guys came in and wanted to improve from last week,’’ Surratt said. “There are still things we can clean up out there, Me, I made some mistakes I’ve got to get better at.’’
Minnesota’s linebacker depth was hampered last Wednesday, when Cameron Smith announced his retirement. He missed last season following open-heart surgery and was lost in the Denver game with a concussion suffered early in the second quarter.
However, Saturday’s play by the reserve linebackers at least offered some encouragement for the Vikings.