Kirk Cousins will don purple for the first time Saturday as the Vikings take on the Broncos in week one of preseason action. New questions have arisen with this team since training camp opened, and tomorrow presents the first chance to get a few answers.
Here are five stories I am looking at as the 2018 Vikings take the field for the first time.
Offensive Line, Offensive Line, Offensive Line
It is the biggest question mark on this Vikings team, and Nick Easton‘s injury certainly did not help matters. Granted, Easton was not exactly Larry Allen last year, so his loss is not detrimental. Plus, Tom Compton is certainly a capable replacement, having started five games for the Bears last year.
But more than just left guard, the Vikings are hurt up and down the line. Danny Isidora is likely to start in place of Mike Remmers and Cornelius Edison should start at center for the recovering Pat Elflein. On top of that, Rashod Hill is still unproven as a starter and has rookie Brian O’Neill waiting in the wings. There are realistically 10-to-12 guys in play to make the 53-man roster. Everyone on the back end of that group is going to get a chance to show what they are capable of against first and second defenses on Saturday.
Treadwell Improvement Showing on Game Day?
Laquon Treadwell’s growth has been one of the hottest topics of camp thus far. He has earned praise from coaches, players and passive observers alike for his improved body control and tough catches. Cousins noted that Treadwell is getting the ball a lot due to play calls and reads, and he has taken advantage of those numerous opportunities. Now, the question is how working a top-flight secondary in practice will translate to game speed. He has yet to be a consistent threat in game action, but the fact that he is finding room against Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes is certainly a sign for optimism.
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Defensive Line Questions Starting to Get Answers
We know the starting line. Who fills out the rest of the group is a mystery at this point. Only Brian Robison truly has a spot locked in outside of the top-four; the other four or five spots are wide open to a wide array of young players. David Parry, Jaleel Johnson, Ifeadi Odenigbo and rookie Jalyn Holmes are likely to have most of the second half snaps on the interior, and no one really seems to have a major edge yet. As for the ends, we have detailed the numerous candidates to crack the rotation. Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower and rookies Ade Aruna and Jonathan Wynn are all in play, as is Odenigbo, who has flipped inside and out early on.
Outside of Treadwell and Cousins, these two seem to earn the most talk from fans and reporters every day after practice. They are the inexperienced rookie defensive backs, one a first-rounder and one undrafted. Yet, they both have been the recipients of endless praise. Both should receive substantial playing time against the twos, with Hughes probably getting some nickel snaps against the first group. Plus, Hughes will likely handle some returns, as well. Both guys are strong, physical freaks with somewhat limited college resumes. It will be interesting to see how they stack up against NFL receivers.
All the Running Back Stuff
Wait, Cousins is not a key story to watch? Well, here is the thing: he is going to throw six passes tops. We already have a general idea of what he is capable of. So no, I am not as focused on Cousins in this one. Instead, the numerous running back stories have my eye. For one, Dalvin Cook: will he play, how many snaps will they give him, how will he look, all of that is worth noting.
The other thing to note is the battle for third and fourth running back. If the Vikings keep three, chances are C.J. Ham will have the last spot, given that he is the fullback and a decent ball carrier. However, should the Vikings keep four, then a couple rookies and a veteran are in play. Roc Thomas has the home run ability, Mike Boone the explosive change of direction and Mack Brown the NFL experience. These first couple of games are chances for these three to separate themselves.
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