The third game of the preseason is the one to watch. The first team offense and defense will play at least half the game, a little more of the playbook will probably be used and a good chunk of the final decisions will begin taking shape. The Vikings have looked a little hit-and-miss on the offensive side and downright stacked top-to-bottom on the defensive side. Will week three be a continuation of that, or will new stories take shape?
Here are five of the prime things to focus on in the Vikings’ third preseason game.
Finally, a little dose of Cook
The last time we saw Dalvin Cook on an NFL field was Oct. 1, 2017. Almost 11 months later, we at last get to see the bright young star flex his muscles once again. Tom Pelissero reported that he is expected to make his return to the field tonight against Seattle. It is unclear how much time he will get or if he will start, but the clean bill of health can only be viewed as good news, even if he only gets a handful of touches. It also helps that starting linemen Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill returned to practice this week. Presumably, they will return to the starting lineup, giving Cook a little extra security.
Defensive back battle gets a little tighter
New signee-George Iloka likely will not suit up against Seattle just 48 hours after signing with Minnesota. However, his roster spot appears locked in when the Vikings make cuts in a couple weeks. Because of that, there are a handful of guys whose spots once were secure who now are in a bit of a battle. Terence Newman, Jayron Kearse, Anthony Harris and Holton Hill, to name a few, could all be in danger of being cut. Heck, Iloka could even take a roster spot from a linebacker. As such, these preseason games become all the more important. Players have to make big plays, show special teams value and/or not expose themselves to game-changing errors. Room on the ship is only getting more crowded; these players have to prove they are a useful hand.
Linebackers, the preseason stars, making roster cuts tough
One could argue that Eric Wilson and Ben Gedeon were two of the best players on the field last week. Mike Zimmer had them all over the field, in coverage, blitzing up the middle and on the edge, and they made plays wherever they were asked to be. Reshard Cliett and Antwione Williams were no slouches either with three tackles apiece. Plus, Williams had a de facto sack that was overturned by a call that was, to put politely, questionable. While most of these guys will primarily be special teamers, they are all showing how effective they can be as system linebackers. This is proving to be a surprisingly deep position group with a lot of guys vying for only a handful of spots.
Odenigbo continues push for roster spot
Ifeadi Odenigbo moved from end to tackle this offseason to take advantage of his raw power and low center-of-gravity. In the first preseason game, he fared well in that role, creating a good push in both run and pass defense. However, due to team injuries, he had to bump back outside to end last week for many of his snaps. And holy cow, did he take advantage. Odenigbo recorded seven tackles, two sacks and three quarterback hits while mixing interior and end reps against Jacksonville. He looked like a star, to say the least.
The problem is that the defensive line room is crowded with a lot of promising young talent fighting for a small number of spots. Odenigbo is certainly in the conversation for one of them, especially with last week’s performance. But he has to keep presenting himself as undeniable week-in and week-out.
Cousins, receivers, find first game magic again?
The best sight of week one was the instant connection between Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs and the overall efficiency of the offense. Week two, that was nowhere to be found. To be fair, Jacksonville boasts a top-two NFL defense, and they showed it last week. But the Vikings invested a lot of money in this quarterback overhaul. With Cousins likely getting at least a full half, if not more, this is the game to prove that the offense is headed in the right direction.
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