The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a preseason victory at TCF Bank Stadium over the Oakland Raiders and now must shift their focus to the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona will feature a much different kind of challenge for this Minnesota team than the ones they faced in the previous week. The game is scheduled to kick off Saturday at 8:30 central time, and hopefully the Vikings will look more prepared this week.
Not that the first preseason game was a total disappointment though. There were a lot of good things that came from it too. However, there are a lot of young players on this team that need to face tough challenges and either adapt to the NFL level or attempt to win a starting position.
In particular, fans seem to want to see more from first round pick Teddy Bridgewater. Those fans will have to be patient though, because it has already been said that Matt Cassel will start this game and could play all the way through the first half according to an interview from Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer. This could be good news for Bridgewater though, since it makes it much more likely that he would face a second or possibly even third string defense.
Other players on offense to watch for include those battling for jobs at wide receiver and on the offensive line.
While Adam Thielen may have already shown enough potential to make the 53 man roster, there is still possibly up to 2 more spots left on the roster if Jerome Simpson is suspended heading into the season. Rodney Smith, Eric Lora, Kain Colter and several others will attempt to work against the excellent defense of the Arizona Cardinals.
Meanwhile, backup jobs are on the line for the Vikings as they search for their swing tackle and replacement interior linemen. Sure, battles for positions on the offensive line aren’t typically big things to watch for, they can make a huge difference if a starter becomes unavailable. Some of the guys to watch there are “Tiny” Antonio Richardson, David Yankey, Joe Berger, Jeff Baca, Vladimir Ducasse, and Mike Remmers.
Last season, the Cardinals defense was absolutely stellar. They were at or near the top of the league in many statistical categories. Here are some of the achievements they had last year:
- allowed only 317.4 yards per game (6th best in the NFL)
- 6.5 yards per completion (5th best in the NFL)
- 3.7 yards per rush (tied for 2nd in the NFL)
- 47 sacks (tied for 6th in the NFL)
- 20 interceptions (tied for 5th in the NFL)
- gave up 68 rushing first downs (tied for 2nd in the NFL)
I think by now you get the idea that Arizona’s defense is quite stout. They are led by the highest paid cornerback in the league, Patrick Peterson. Peterson is joined by Antonio Cromartie in the secondary and form one of the league’s most dangerous pair of cornerbacks. They could become even more dangerous with the return of defender John Abraham to the team this week.
Defensively for Minnesota, there are a ton of things to watch for. There is competition all over the field for the Vikings, including middle linebacker, cornerback, and safety. By far, the most interesting battle is the safety position.
Recently signed Chris Crocker joins the battle for a starting safety job that already includes guys like Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo, Kurt Coleman and more. There isn’t a bigger competition with more people fighting for a starting job on the team than the spot alongside Harrison Smith at safety.
At linebacker, the Vikings have rookie Anthony Barr coming off what I felt was a solid and encouraging performance against the Raiders starting offensive unit. Past that, we need to see more from several of the other linebackers including Jasper Brinkley, Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole and Michael Mauti. However, the battle for backups at linebacker could come down to who can play well on special teams as well.
There will be familiar faces that Vikings fans could recognize on the Cardinals team. Here’s a quick list of those individuals:
- tight end John Carlson (Member of the Vikings the last two seasons)
- assistant coach Tom Moore (Vikings assistant coach 1990-1993)
- linebacker Desmond Bishop (played with Vikings during last year)
- cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross (assistant coach for Minnesota 2003-2005)
What are you most looking forward to seeing when the Minnesota Vikings take on the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday night? Are there any players that you feel need to make in impact in order to make the 53 man roster this year?
Let me know in the comments.