As the Vikings decided between their options to start at center on Sunday, with Pat Elflein out for at least Week 1, they went with the one that had more experience.
According to a league source, the Vikings have decided to start Brett Jones at center on Sunday in their regular-season opener against the San Francisco 49ers, giving the nod to the 27-year-old they acquired from the New York Giants for a 7th-round pick on Aug. 27.
The Vikings had started Danny Isidora at center in their preseason finale last Thursday at Tennessee, and coach Mike Zimmer has praised the second-year lineman’s work at the position, saying it could be a natural spot for him. For Sunday’s game, though, the Vikings will go with Jones.
Zimmer would not discuss the team’s plans at the position on Wednesday, though quarterback Kirk Cousins all but confirmed Jones would get the start.
“It’s not ideal but it is what it is,” Cousins said when asked about playing with a new center against the 49ers. “We’re not going to dwell on what we can’t control. We’re going to focus on what we have and making the best out of it and I’m excited to build a rapport with Jones and the rest of the O-line so that hopefully we can develop a continuity as the season goes on.’”
Asked if that meant Jones was the center on Sunday, Cousins said, “You’ll have to ask Coach Zimmer. I don’t set the roster, but yeah, he’s the center in the walk-through at 10:20 [on Wednesday morning.]”
Cousins also worked with Jones in individual drills during the Vikings’ Wednesday afternoon practice, while Elflein — who was limited in practice as he continues to work back from offseason ankle and shoulder surgeries — snapped to Trevor Siemian. Isidora worked with third-string quarterback Kyle Sloter.
Jones, who started 12 games at center for the Giants last year, came to the Vikings after working with new coach Pat Shurmur — the former Vikings offensive coordinator whose scheme has remained intact in some capacities in Minnesota. The Vikings, for example, kept much of Shurmur’s run game terminology intact, meaning Jones could step into a system similar to the one he’d seen in New York.
“Just like Brett’s not going to drop back and throw the ball for me, I’m not going to make his calls for him,” Cousins said. “But after the walkthroughs, after the practices, I’m going to say to him, ‘I’d like the call to be different there,’ or, ‘What were you doing there?’ And then, obviously by Sunday, he’ll be very comfortable on making those calls. We’re going to coach him all week and then he’s going to play center in the NFL like he’s done for a lot of games already.”