With the Minnesota Vikings preseason set to begin soon, what are some key factors to look for when trying to foreshadow regular season success.
The Minnesota Vikings will start their late summer NFL rite of passage in just a few weeks. Mankato is awaiting the arrival of Minnesota’s most beloved team, let the preseason begin. So what are some factors in the preseason that may foretell if the Vikings can repeat as NFC North champions.
Keeping in mind that preseason win-loss record is basically meaningless, let’s look a little deeper at some signs that the Vikings are on track for a successful 2016.
Teddy Bridgewater should look like a polished veteran coming out of camp. I’ll be looking to see how in control of the offense he appears to be in the four games leading up to the Tennessee Titans. A couple deep completions would be terrific but Teddy has proven he can win with his current skill-set. Finishing drives in the Red Zone seemed to plague this team, especially against the Seahawks in the playoffs. Teddy and company should be looking to score touchdowns instead of settling for field goals this preseason.
Opposing teams seemed to figure out Stefon Diggs a little bit after some early progress. Look for the second year standout to work on staying relevant in the offense during the preseason. This position group is lacking a strong leader and the Minnesota Vikings chose not to bring in any veteran wideouts, instead trusting in players like Adam Theilen and Charles Johnson. Does Laquon Treadwell get involved early on? Now would be a good time for Cordarrelle Patterson to step up and finally shine as a receiver.
Jerick Mckinnon may be on the verge of a great career. Although he’s stuck behind a work-horse, Jerick will have the opportunity to show off his talents in July and August, keeping Peterson healthy and happy until the season opener. Mckinnon averaged 5.2 yards per carry in 2015, and hasn’t fumbled in 165 rushing attempts. It will be interesting to see what he can do behind a revamped offensive line. The Vikings may find out if they already have AD’s successor on the current roster.
Can Tony Sparano find that magical combination on the front line. As a group, I’m looking for more physical play, taking to Mike Zimmer’s tough guy mentality. Staying healthy will also be a positive sign. The Vikings brought in new strength and conditioning coach Brent Salazar to help reduce injuries that decimated the offensive line last season. Pass protection was abysmal at times for this group, hopefully the Viking QB’s have time to complete their passes without having to run for cover or throw the ball away.
Seeing some stability opposite Harrison Smith, whether it’s Andrew Sendejo, Michael Griffin, Anthony Harris, or rookie Jayron Kearse, someone needs to step up and show consistent play. Trae Waynes having early success on the field would benefit an already stout Minnesota Vikings defense. Although Zimmer has shown that he likes to let his rookie corners sit and learn, Mackensie Alexander’s progression will be interesting to observe.
I can guarantee Blair Walsh will see a heavy dose of high-pressure field goal attempts. The Vikings are hoping Blair can brush off last seasons playoff miss. Jeff Locke is also looking to improve on a down 2015 as the Vikings punter.
Finding out what’s ailing Anthony Barr will be on every Vikings fan mind going into next season. Mike Zimmer will remain quiet about his superstar but fans are hoping to see him on the practice field. Phil Loadholt is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and is looking to battle Andre Smith for the starting right tackle position.
All signs are pointing upwards for the Vikings, here’s to getting off to a strong 2016 season.