The countdown to preseason is underway for the Minnesota Vikings and their anxious fans.
With preseason right around the corner Minnesota Vikings’ fans are gearing up for the annual pilgrimage to Mankato. Mike Zimmer has molded this team into a contender and one could assume there will be some early buzz and heightened anticipation emanating out of southern Minnesota.
I recommend arriving early for that prime seat and bring plenty of sunscreen. Break out those binoculars and keep a close eye on these five things.
5 things to watch during the 2016 Minnesota Vikings preseason:
5. Offensive Line
This position group was one of the Vikings biggest flaws in 2015. Can Matt Kalil rebound into that promising rookie we saw back in 2012? Working against defensive stud Everson Griffen everyday in camp cannot hurt, and adding Alex Boone‘s imposing presence should help to solidify the left side. Although John Sullivan is coming off an injury plagued 2015 we still have Pro Football Focus highest graded run blocking center in the NFL backing him up, Joe Berger adds versatile depth, who can play both center and guard.
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T.J. Clemmings was thrown in the mix as a rookie and struggled mightily at right tackle. Coach Mike Zimmer announced earlier that Clemmings will begin backing up Kalil at left tackle, leaving Phil Loadholt and free agent Andre Smith to slug it out for the starting job. Michael Harris graded out much better than anyone could have expected, it’s his job to lose at right guard.
What to watch: Who is running with the first team early and do they remain there?
4. Weak-side Linebacker
Chad Greenway resigning was important but bringing in Emmanuel Lamur was a must. The Minnesota Vikings have some young talent at linebacker who need time to develop and learn. Greenway will take on that mentor role but Lamur will be logging the majority of the snaps. Lamur already knows Zimmer’s system and will not be playing catch-up. Throw in Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks and the Vikings will have a formidable linebacking core going into 2016.
What to watch: How soon does Greenway pass the torch to Lamur? Can rookie tackling machine Kentrell Brothers somehow standout in this crowded group?
3. Trae Waynes progression
Although his play on the field was still solid at age 37, Terence Newman, unfortunately, is not Benjamin Button. Waynes flashed at the end of last season and into the playoffs and the Vikings are hoping Trae’s play hasn’t regressed over the summer. Although Waynes was a high first round draft pick coach Zimmer will make him earn the starting role beside Xavier Rhodes. If Waynes can step up early the Minnesota Vikings cornerback situation will be in good hands for years to come.
What to watch: Keep an eye on Waynes but check out Captain Munnerlyn in the slot as well. Munnerlyn is looking to perform well in a contract year.
Guess who else is entering the last year of his contract, Cordarrelle Patterson. The former first rounder knows his NFL career depends on his performance this season, and that may work in the Vikings favor. Patterson recently admitted that he was not always giving it his all, look for him to put in a memorable 2016. What may have first appeared to be a deficiency is turning into one of the most competitive position groups going into training camp. Stefon Diggs will improve and Charles Johnson re-emerged during OTA’s.
What to watch: Stay focused on rookie Laquon Treadwell’s progress. Is he running with first team by preseason week 1?
He can silence all of his critics with a solid preseason. Vikings’ nation is hoping that the teddy-two-gloves passing academy paid off. We should be able to tell early on if Bridgewater is in rhythm with his wideouts. Making a quick decision and pulling the trigger was one of Bridgewater’s major points of focus in OTA’s, be on the lookout for the ball coming out early on passing plays. Blake Bortles and Derek Carr have been labeled as “franchise” QB’s heading into this season, look for Bridgewater to try to add his name to that 2014 draft class list.
What to watch: Keep an eye on Teddy’s deep ball. Let’s hope the long passes are hitting their targets in preseason.