Week 3 of the NFL Preseason continues with the Minnesota Vikings heading down to Kansas City to battle the Chiefs on Saturday night. Week 3 is considered the most important preseason game and most teams will likely play their starters deep into the third quarter. This game will give Vikings fans a good hard look at what the new offense will look like. We will also get a good look at the defensive changes as well. It has been hard to gauge changes due to a revolving door of players and skill-sets during the previous preseason match-ups. With most of the starters expected to see extended action this week, we will get a better look at the roles each player will have once the regular season starts.
There are still some questions and areas of concern going in to this game, here’s where I’ll be keeping my attention Saturday night:
Adam Thielen/ Rodney Smith – WR
The most entertaining battle this preseason, both players have made big plays and contributed to both Vikings wins. The question here is whether or not the Vikes keep five or six wide receivers on their roster. With Jerome Simpson facing a three-game suspension, the team could keep six receivers to start the season, or they could cut Simpson, who has made more headlines for his off-field activity than his actions on it. Look for Thielen and Smith to do the little things (blocking, special teams) to solidify their hold on a roster spot.
There has been a revolving door of safeties next to stud Harrison Smith this preseason. Robert Blanton was thought to have an edge before a hamstring injury held him out for two weeks. He returns this week to fend off challengers Kurt Coleman, Chris Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo and Mistral Raymond. All of them have started games in the NFL and, of the seven, three of them will be looking for work in a couple weeks. This is not only an opportunity for these guys to make the squad, but it is an audition for other teams who could be looking for safety help.
Jasper Brinkley/Audie Cole – MLB
These guys are fighting tooth and nail for the starting middle linebacker job. Brinkley has tallied two more tackles (8) than Cole (6), but Cole provides more versatility to the defense if Chad Greenway’s wrist injury becomes a problem. Both of these guys seem to have secured a spot on the roster come week 1, but who gets the starting nod is still up on the air. It should be noted that, in the modern NFL, the nickel defense is more common than a base 4-3 alignment. What that means is that there will be only two linebackers on the field with an extra cornerback taking the place of the third linebacker. In Minnesota this season, that third linebacker will likely be whoever is starting in the middle. Look for both players to showcase their strong suits in an attempt to wow coaches and teammates.
Jerick McKinnon/ Matt Asiata – HB
It is set in stone that All World HB Adrian Peterson will start at HB this season. He is getting older, however, entering his eight season in the league, he is approaching the end of the standard NFL running back’s shelf life. While he has shown he is no standard anything, coaches don’t feel the need to ruin a good thing. That is why the backup HB job is so important. Matt Asiata has shown he can carry the load if it is asked of him. He is a steady, fall forward bruiser. Jerick McKinnon is a do-it-all type of player with freakish athleticism. I would expect these guys to share near equal opportunities in Saturday’s game and, depending on the situation, continue that trend into the regular season.
Defensive Line Rotation
The Vikings defense will rely on a strong pass rush. Guys like Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, and Shariff Floyd will look to provide a quality rush when they’re in the game. But what about the others? What will they provide?
Linval Joseph was brought in to plug the middle and take up space. At 323 pounds, one would think that he is fully capable of doing so. Corey Wootton and Scott Crichton will come off the bench and get after the quarterback and play solid against the run. Tom Johnson and Fred Evans will look to provide solid time on the field with their run stopping abilities. All of these players are athletic and versatile. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see Brian Robison lined up at defensive tackle during pass situations or to see Floyd lined up at end during obvious rushing downs. Wait, I’ve seen that already this preseason. The Vikes will have a great rotation, but now is the time to piece it all together and find out who works well with others.
This is also the last chance for many players to make an impression on the coaching staff as all teams will have to have their rosters cut down to 75 players by 4pm ET on Tuesday the 26th. Guys like Kain Kolter, Chase Baker, Dominique Williams, and Mike Remmers, who hope to continue their NFL career face stiff competition to do so and will look to make the most out of their time on the field.
What do you think Vikes fans? Is there anybody who’s job you think is in jeopardy? Is there anybody who you’d like to see step up during Saturday’s game?
Let me know in the comments below.