Now that the Minnesota Vikings are 2-0 under head coach Mike Zimmer, I’m slowly but surely becoming a bigger and bigger fan of his. The next game against the Chiefs, however, will surely be more of a challenge, considering the 3rd preseason game is normally the closest to regular season game action.
The Vikings will be traveling to Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday, with kickoff at 7 P.M. CDT. Some of the Vikings’ starters could easily play into the third quarter, but Zimmer has said little about the amount of playing time he will be giving his players.
One thing that is certain is that Adrian Peterson will not be seeing the field, and if he does, don’t expect him to be touching the football. Zimmer has said though, to my dismay, that Cordarrelle Patterson could get the chance to return some kicks in the preseason, but he did not specify whether Patterson would be back to return kicks on Saturday. When asked if Patterson would return kicks this preseason, Zimmer replied, “He might.”
I won’t speculate on how many times Patterson will return the ball, if he does at all, but I can imagine the Vikings will also be looking to give the other returners a chance to make their case for return duties.
Zimmer has also said that the Vikings are still looking towards improving on their own game, rather than focusing on what the Chiefs will be doing. The head coach is more worried about improving their team and making sure guys are getting the concepts and schemes down before really game planning in the preseason.
Unfortunately the Vikings are dealing with a few minor injuries, as Zimmer stated on Wednesday that Jabari Price, Gerald Hodges, Brandon Watts, and Linval Joseph were out of practice due to injures. I don’t think any of them will play on Saturday. Chad Greenway also suffered a minor wrist injury, althought Mike Zimmer said it “wasn’t broken”, and that it’s nothing serious.
Greenway should play against the Chiefs, but I don’t see him playing the entire time with the first team defense, because I don’t think Zimmer wants to take any chances after Greenway broke it in two places last season. It would also prompt more playing time for guys like Audie Cole, Michael Mauti, and Larry Dean.
One of the most important parts of Saturday’s game will be that Robert Blanton will finally get to see the field after nursing a hamstring injury. So far Zimmer hasn’t really seen Blanton very much, and Zimmer said that Blanton should see a lot of playing time next to Harrison Smith. With the starting safety spot next to Smith still in the air, Zimmer said on Wednesday that he is going to try and split the rest of the playing time among the others competing (Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo, and Kurt Coleman.)
This battle for the second starting safety spot could come down to the last few days before the game against St. Louis, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think all 4 of the guys fighting for the spot could start and hold their own, it more comes down to who fits the best with what Zimmer wants to do defensively.
With regards to the quarterback situation, Matt Cassel will start for a 3rd straight week, but other than that the Vikings have said little else about playing time between the other two quarterbacks. When asked about Ponder on Wednesday, Zimmer said that there’s a “possibility he will play.” Although it’s always good to have three guys competing for the starting quarterbacking job, I think Cassel and Bridgewater should split a majority of the time, because they’re the two that I see realistically competing for the starting job.
Linval Joseph will be out for a second straight week, it allows the rookie nose tackle Shamar Stephen another chance to showcase his talent. On Thursday, Vikings’ defensive coordinator George Edwards had praise for the young defensive lineman, saying he’s come in and “worked his butt off all through the offseason.. and now it’s starting to show in his play.”
With the first set of rosters cuts coming on August 26th, Stephen will really want to take advantage of the extra playing time to ensure he makes the first cut.
[<strong>Analysis: <a title="Minnesota Vikings 2-0 in preseason with 30-28 win over Cardinals" href="http://isportsweb.com/2014/08/17/minnesota-vikings-2-0-preseason-30-28-rout-cardinals/">Minnesota Vikings 2-0 in preseason with 30-28 win over Cardinals</a></strong>]
One thing I’m the most excited about this match up against the Chiefs is the Chiefs’ pass rush. With Tamba Hali coming off the edge, Matt Khalil will really be tested in this game. After an up and down sophomore season, Khalil really needs to work on his consistency, and a hard match up against Hali should help him in that aspect.
The crowd at Arrowhead stadium is usually a noisy one, so it will also help the Vikings’ offense prepare for the crowds they will be dealing with during the regular season. This is especially helpful for Teddy Bridgewater, who has gotten the advantage of a home crowd in both of his first NFL games (a crowd that has continually chanted “TEDDY! TEDDY! TEDDY!” when he’s on the field.)
One match up I’m really excited to watch is Anthony Barr versus the number one overall pick from last year, Eric Fisher. Fisher has struggled as of late, so I want to see how Barr handles the lengthy left tackle.
The Chiefs haven’t publicly stated whether or not their star running back Jamaal Charles will play Saturday, but if he does he will give the Vikings’ defense some good looks before the regular season starts.
Because a lot of the Vikings’ and Chiefs’ starters could very well play nearly 3 full quarters, the most important thing (yet again) in this preseason game is that both teams come out of this game without any injuries. Because starters hardly play the fourth preseason game, this could be the last good look we see of guys like Everson Griffen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph before the regular season starts.