The Minnesota Vikings will roll back the film of Saturday night's 30-12 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs and likely feel very comfortable about the futures of first-round picks Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr.
The preseason asterisk still applies—these games don't count, and they rarely matter in the grand scheme of things—but both rookies handled themselves well in the third and most important exhibition contest.
Barr, the No. 9 overall pick, played the majority of the first half. While the Vikings continue to increase his responsibilities within the defense, the young linebacker continues to play faster and more aggressively—a good sign for a rookie in a new, diverse role.
Bridgewater, the future of the quarterback position in Minnesota, completed two of his first three attempts for touchdowns. He finished 4-of-7 for 40 yards and a passer rating of 113.1.
There is no quicker way to turn around a franchise than to hit on a quarterback and pass-rusher. Needing help at both positions, the Vikings took Barr to be the versatile chess piece for Mike Zimmer's defense, and then moved back into the first round to steal Bridgewater at No. 32 overall.
Nothing definitive can be said about either player after three exhibition games, but the results from Saturday night were another positive step for both first-round picks.
On Minnesota's second defensive series, Barr stayed home on an outside run to his side and stopped running back Knile Davis for no gain. Later, he dropped into coverage in the flats and forced a scrambling Alex Smith to retreat to the sidelines for a minimal gain.
Down in the red zone, Barr blitzed off the edge and forced a poor screen throw from Smith.
His athleticism jumped off the screen all half, whether he was moving forward rushing the passer or dropping into coverage in space.
I underestimated Barr. A lot thrown at him on defense, and he's handling it well to this point. Landed in good situation with Zimmer.— Master Tesfatsion (@MasterStrib) August 24, 2014
Zimmer gave him chances to rush standing up and with his hand on the ground. His versatility will provide the Minnesota defense with myriad looks, especially when in blitz packages.
The Vikings harassed Smith for most of the first half.
"We got five sacks, I thought we could have had quite a few more," Zimmer said to the media after the game. "We had our hands on the quarterback quite a few times and didn't get him on the ground. It's good for our players to build some confidence."
In the second half, Bridgewater picked up where he left off against the Arizona Cardinals a week ago.
His first possession began at the 8-yard line following Shaun Prater's interception. After bobbling a good snap on his second play, Bridgewater stepped up in the pocket and found tight end Allen Reisner for a touchdown on third down.
The play didn't look all that impressive on the surface, but Bridgewater's innate ability to feel and avoid pressure in the pocket—while also resetting his feet and throwing accurately—is a good sign for his future at the position.
Adam Thielen's 75-yard punt return set up Bridgewater's second drive at Kansas City's 5-yard line. On the first play, Bridgewater lofted a perfect throw to Reisner in the corner of the end zone for another score.
The touch was perfect for the route and situation.
A three-and-out on the next series was followed by an 11-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in a field goal. Bridgewater completed to Jarius Wright for 14 yards and Rodney Smith for 13 on the march. For whatever reason, Minnesota did not give Bridgewater a chance to throw after the offense entered the red zone.
So...that Teddy Bridgewater looks alright, huh?— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 24, 2014
Overall, Bridgewater's four drives (his fifth was all of one kneel-down) resulted in 94 yards and 17 points. He was obviously given great field position on each touchdown, but his efficiency in the red zone continued, and he again led a long drive that led to points.
Over three preseason games, Bridgewater has completed 26 of 40 passes for 266 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. His exhibition passer rating is 117.3.
Barr will likely play a variety of roles of for the Vikings' first-team defense right away. Bridgewater will have to wait—Matt Cassel is likely to start the season as Minnesota's No. 1 quarterback—but his preseason has been nothing but positive.
After three exhibition games, the Vikings must be giddy about the future of both first-round picks. Barr and Bridgewater look like players. If both pan out, Minnesota's rebuild under Zimmer will progress much quicker than expected.
Zach Kruse covers the NFC North for Bleacher Report.