Five Things to Watch for in Tonight’s Vikings Preseason Game
It might just be preseason football, but the Minnesota Vikings take the field tonight against the Cincinnati Bengals. Here's five things to watch for.
Expectations are high for the Vikings this year and tonight gives us the first look at where the team stands. All eyes will be on the starters at the beginning of the season, which brings us to the first item on the list:
How far along are the starters compared to the Bengals?
The Minnesota Vikings have been in Cincinnati over the last few days conducting joint practices with the Bengals. During those practices, media members have tweeted about how much better the Vikings have looked overall. There wasn't as many mistakes and both sides of the ball controlled the practice. We'll see tonight if this gets confirmed during the preseason game against the Bengals.
Who will be starting on the offensive line?
Is it crazy to say that the Vikings might actually have depth at the offensive line position? Been a long, long time since that has even been written. The Vikings depth chart that was issued this week showed an offensive line of:
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Alex Boone
C: John Sullivan
RG: Brandon Fusco
RT: Andre Smith
But that might not necessarily be the case heading into tonight. Brandon Fusco has been dealing a bit with injuries, which has lead to Joe Berger stepping in at right guard. Berger is currently also tied into a battle with Sullivan for the starting center position. Andre Smith seemed to be the favorite to play RT following the retirement of Phil Loadholdt, however T.J. Clemmings will get plenty of reps from both the RT and LT positions.
We'll be watching of course to see who starts and how they perform, but it will be interesting to see how the combinations work throughout the game.
Just who exactly is behind Teddy Bridgewater?
Never underestimate the value of backup quarterbacks. Minnesota currently sits with veteran Shaun Hill behind Teddy, as expected, but behind Hill becomes quite the story. Chances are three quarterbacks will be on the roster come Week 1, and currently Joel Stave is the only other quarterback participating in camp. Stave was signed as an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin. He would be battling with Taylor Heinicke, but Heinicke is currently injured after breaking into his own house....for real.
What rookies should we be watching on offense?
Three rookie players on the offensive have my attention this preseason. C.J. Ham, from Augustana University, is currently battling for a roster position at running back but he has a tall task ahead of him with veterans Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata in front of him. I recently had a chance to talk with Augustana Football Coach Jerry Olszewski, who attended a training camp practice, and he says that Ham has impressed Vikings coaches throughout camp. Ham is currently listed as the top running back in the "Other" category of running backs behind Peterson, McKinnon, and Asiata.
Laquon Treadwell will have the most eyes on him. The first round draft pick is currently listed on the second string behind Charles Johnson, but he should be receiving plenty of reps between the first and second teams tonight. Expectations are high for the rookie wide receiver.
Moritz Boehringer will also line up as a wide receiver. Boehringer is the first European football player to be drafted without playing college football. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash during his pro day, and accounted for over 1200 yards in the German Football League last year. His story is interesting, and he even walks to work each day.
How Much Has Trae Waynes Progressed?
He showed flashes last year of what he could become, but the first round pick of 2015 will look to continue to build on it. Waynes participated mostly on special teams last year, but in his work on defense he did account for 30 tackles and his first interception of his career came in the playoff game against Seattle. He has battled a bit of an illness over the last week, but coach Zimmer tells Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he will be good to go.
It will be fun to see how much he has progressed with a year under his belt in the Mike Zimmer defense. We won't get it all in one night, but there might be enough to see the development.
The Vikings and Bengals kick off the preseason tonight at 6:30.