The Minnesota Vikings hosted the Houston Texans in their preseason opener on Friday night.
Neither team played their star players much in the preseason tilt, but let's take a look at five things we learned from the players that did get some real playing time.
DeAndre Hopkins is for real
The Texans selected rookie wideout DeAndre Hopkins with the 27th overall pick in the draft to take some of the pressure off star wideout Andre Johnson.
In his first preseason game, Hopkins flashed brightly hauling in 4 passes for 52 yards and a touchdown, including a great leap on a jump ball over Vikings' cornerback Bobby Felder. As he continues to get more reps with starting quarterback Matt Schaub he should be able to draw consistent one on one coverage and improve the Texans' passing attack.
Cordarrelle Patterson is for real too!
Rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson took the opening kickoff 5 yards deep in the end zone, and sprinted out to the 45 where he was tripped up by the kicker. He also snared 4 passes for 54 yards, and showed that the Vikings made the right choice to move up four spots to grab the talented receiver.
Patterson showed that he can work the short routes, but also flashed down-field speed giving the Vikings the receiver depth that they have lacked in the past two years.
Ponder shows little in limited work, but Cassel proves to be a more than competent backup
Christian Ponder completed his first pass, but his second was tipped by Jerome Simpson right into the hands of safety Shiloh Keo, killing the Vikings' early momentum. Ponder only played the first series, but he did look calm and collected in the pocket, even after the interception.
The Vikings signed QB Matt Cassel in the offseason as insurance for Ponder, and he looked solid in his first game in purple going 12-of-19 for 212 yards with one TD and one pick. Cassel gives the Vikings the depth that they need, and the solid protection from the offensive line (even the second and third units) will only improve when the games matter and Adrian Peterson is in the backfield.
Special teams woes and wows
The Texans didn't look great on either side of the special teams battle, allowing kick returns of 50 and 31 yards. Kicker Randy Bullock missed woefully on a 54-yard field goal attempt, but punter Andrew Shapiro looked great pinning the Vikings deep twice.
Vikings rookie punter, Jeff Locke, looked solid with five punts, one that had so much hang time the Vikings' punt coverage team had to stand and wait next to the returner. Second-year kicker, Blair Walsh, picked up where he left off with 2 short field goals, and continuing to boom the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs.
Staying healthy is key for both teams
The star players for both teams, including Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson and Jared Allen, all spent the game on the sidelines in the first game. Both of these teams come into the preseason relatively healthy, and both have the star players to make a solid run at the playoffs.
It's too bad that the fans don't get to see the stars in these early games, but I'm sure that will all be forgotten if the Texans and Vikings are playing into the postseason this year.