MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Football is back. The Minnesota Vikings travel to face the New Orleans Saints Friday night in their first preseason game.
It’s a reunion of sorts with former Vikings Teddy Bridgewater, Nick Easton, Marcus Sherels and Latavius Murray. More importantly, it’s a chance for current players who have been in camp for the last three weeks to show what they’ve been working on in a live game situation.
A good chunk of Vikings’ starters will either see very limited action Friday night, or not play at all. With that in mind, here’s a few things to watch in the first preseason game.
No. 3 wide receiver battle
It’s one of the most intriguing competitions in camp, and the Vikings released an unofficial depth chart earlier this week for the third wide receiver spot behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. The current leaders are Chad Beebe and Jordan Taylor, which line up with who has been getting the second team reps in Training Camp practices. Veteran Laquon Treadwell is listed behind Beebe in the fifth slot. Treadwell is in the final year of his rookie contract, and may have work to do to make the 53-man roster for Week 1 in September.
What is it with the Vikings and kickers? Dan Bailey re-signed with the Vikings in free agency, and has been up and down in Training Camp. He went 1-for-3 in his early session on Wednesday, but one miss came on a bad snap and the other on a bad hold. In end-of-game situations simulated in practice, Bailey has been on the money. That includes making a 53-yarder earlier this week at the end of a three-minute drill that would’ve been a game-winner. If he gets a good snap and a good hold, Bailey probably makes it. We’ll see what happens Friday when he gets inside in a controlled environment.
Friday marks the unofficial debut for rookies Garrett Bradbury, Irv Smith Jr., Alexander Mattison, Dru Samia, Cameron Smith, Dillon Mitchell and Olabisi Johnson among others. So what are we looking for? First of all, that they’re all healthy and able to play. Bradbury has stood out in camp with his play and forming a chemistry with the line and Kirk Cousins. Smith is making plays all over the field in various formations and scenarios. All the rookies have made plays at some point in Training Camp, but will it translate in a live game situation? We’ll find out Friday night.
With the starting defense pretty much set, rookies Kris Boyd and Marcus Epps should get plenty of reps in the preseason. But the signing of veteran Bene Benwikere indicates Mike Zimmer isn’t completely comfortable with the depth in his secondary. With Mike Hughes still coming back from knee surgery and Holton Hill suspended eight games to start the season, Boyd, Epps and Benwikere will get their chance to make plays in the preseason.
No. 2 quarterback
Sean Mannion leads the depth chart currently as the back-up to Cousins and has taken a majority of the snaps with the second-team offense, but he has company. The Vikings will likely keep three quarterbacks on the roster, and that third spot will be a battle between Jake Browning and Kyle Sloter. Browning has made plays in camp, but has also thrown a few interceptions. The battle between Mannion, Sloter and Browning will be one to monitor throughout the preseason.
No. 2 running back
Mattison, the rookie out of Boise State, is the No. 2 running back on the depth chart currently. He has company with Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone and De'Angelo Henderson. Abdullah is also the primary return option on special teams. They’re all getting reps in Training Camp, but the job appears to be Mattison’s to lose. He looks a lot like Latavius Murray on the field. If Mattison lives up to his potential, the Vikings will have a decision to make between Boone and Henderson for the No. 3 running back.
Football is back, so sit back and enjoy the next four games, even if they don’t mean anything from a results standpoint.