Vikings: Why Kevin O’Connell isn’t playing starters in preseason

The Minnesota Vikings hosted the Tennessee Titans for the first of two preseason home games last Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium, and it should come as no surprise that not a single starter played.

Vikings’ players listed among the starters on the depth chart put on their pads and helmets for pregame warm-ups just as if they were going to play. But when it was time for kickoff, Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter stood and watched from the sidelines as reserve players continued to compete for jobs on the 53-man roster.


FOX 9 Sports Now: Jim Rich talks Vikings' preseason with Pete Bercich

Sunday night on FOX 9 Sports Now, Jim Rich sat down with Pete Bercich of the Vikings Radio Network to talk about the preseason after two games.

Vikings’ coach Kevin O’Connell was asked after the game if he has any plans to play starters in the preseason. Some teams are doing it, like the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes. For O’Connell and the Vikings, it works better to have the first and second-team players get their work done during joint practices. That’s why O’Connell scheduled two weeks of them this preseason: Last week against the Titans, and this week against the Arizona Cardinals.

"I’m thinking from the standpoint of when I count the reps for the 1s from this past Wednesday and Thursday and knowing what it’s going to be like Wednesday and Thursday with the heat. My plan is to keep the rep count the same as planned, which is more than last week, those guys are going to get plenty of work," O’Connell said. 

This week, the Cardinals visit TCO Performance Center in Eagan Wednesday and Thursday for joint workouts ahead of Saturday’s preseason finale. It will be scorching hot with temperatures in the upper 90s, but starters again will get their work in and leave Saturday for players that are battling for a roster spot.

The Vikings showed last year they were more than ready to face the Green Bay Packers Week 1 without starters playing in the preseason. And the fan base would be all over the team and O’Connell if a key starter got hurt in a meaningless exhibition game.

"The point of it all is we’ve spent a lot of time planning training camp, these joint practices and I know these games are genuine opportunities for game situations to come up. We hit just about every situation possible in two days and had ultra competitiveness out there," O’Connell said.

Everyone wants to know what the 2023 Vikings will look like. We won’t get our first real glimpse until Sept. 10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium.