Four Vikings' position battles to watch during third preseason game

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2014 - 1:50 PM

Vikings coaches will weigh QB, safety, corner and middle linebacker performances.

hide

Jasper Brinkley (54) and Audie Cole (57) are battling for time at middle linebacker.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Vikings take the stage Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium for their third preseason game, which for NFL teams is typically the one that carries the most weight.

There will be butterflies for some players during this so-called dress rehearsal. But by all accounts, the Vikings don’t plan to treat this performance much differently than their first and second.

Sure, their scout team pulled on yellow jerseys late in the week to simulate such Kansas City Chiefs standouts as Tamba Hali and Eric Berry, but head coach Mike Zimmer said the game-planning was minimal.

The offense and defense have practiced pretty much everything in their playbooks, but that doesn’t mean they plan on putting it all on tape for the St. Louis Rams and the rest of the NFL to see.

And while the starters are expected to play at least one half, that wouldn’t be much of a departure from their game a week ago, when quarterback Matt Cassel and most of the starters got the hook at halftime.

“This is still a lot about us,” Zimmer said. “It’s still about what we do. We’ll have plenty of time to prepare for St. Louis when we get going in there. It’s more about the routine that we are going to do this week, so we get into the in-season schedule routine as opposed to really sitting down and game-planning.”

Still, even if Zimmer says the Vikings are treating Saturday’s exhibition as if it is just another warm-up before the regular season’s opening act, several players will continue to audition for leading roles, starting with the all-important decision at quarterback.

Picking the passer

Yes, Teddy Bridgewater looked good in carving up the Arizona Cardinals’ backups. And of course his preseason stat line would look good for any QB, let alone a rookie.

But barring an injury or a Douglas-vs.-Tyson-type upset, Cassel — whose 122.3 passer rating is even better than Bridgewater’s 106.4 — will be the starter in Week 1. Zimmer just hasn’t announced it yet.

Since the end of spring workouts two months ago, he has had a date in mind for when he would like to name a starter, but he is not sharing that date with anyone.

“At this point, it’s just going to be one of those things where we just wait and see,” Cassel said. “Coach will make that ultimate decision. At the end of the day, I’m going to continue to prepare and do what I need to do to get ready for the season. And then when the time comes and coach tells us, then that’s what we’ll have to deal with.”

The safety dance

If the competition at quarterback is the clearest, the battle at safety is the most confounding. The Vikings have auditioned a handful of safeties next to starter Harrison Smith, who seems poised to take a step forward under Zimmer. But injuries have made it hard for Zimmer to get a clear evaluation of some of them. And the fact that he brought in old buddy Chris Crocker was a sign that the healthy ones have not impressed.

Crocker, Kurt Coleman and Robert Blanton, who returned from a hamstring injury this week, have gotten most of the reps with the first-team defense. Meanwhile, Jamarca Sanford, who was the starter next to Smith in 2012 and 2013, seems to be an afterthought.

“We’re still trying to look at all of them,” Zimmer said. “Blanton will get a lot of time this week, because I haven’t seen him yet. We’ll give him a lot of plays. The rest of them, we are going to try and split up the time the best we can.”

Caught in the middle

Veteran Jasper Brinkley, who is back after a lost year in the desert playing for the Cardinals, has the edge on youngster Audie Cole in the battle to start at middle linebacker between Chad Greenway and rookie Anthony Barr.

“Jasper seems to be a little bit more communicative, and Audie seems to have a little more range,” Zimmer said. “As far as the running game, they are very close and in the passing game, they are similar.”

But the fact that neither is trusted enough to play on passing downs suggests that the Vikings lack an ideal option.

Magic number: 3

One can easily make the case that the competition to be the team’s third cornerback is much more significant than the one at middle linebacker. NFL offenses lined up with three or more wide receivers on more than half of their plays last season, and that figure could surpass 60 percent in 2014.

The Vikings believe they are in good shape with Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn. But they can’t feel all that comfortable with their third cornerback. Josh Robinson has been in and out of practice with a hamstring injury. Rookie Jabari Price is now injured after opening eyes in training camp. And reclamation project Derek Cox hasn’t been able to climb the depth chart.

Robinson, who could make his preseason debut, remains the front-runner, but this competition is far from over.

“We’re going to be competing all of the way through this preseason,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “Especially in some of those positions that we have had a tighter competition and we’ve had some injuries throughout camp, this is a time for those guys to get back out there. We need to see where they are.”

 

  • related content

  • Three things to watch during Chiefs-Vikings

    The Vikings are in Kansas City for the pivotal third preseason game tonight. But head coach Mike Zimmer has hinted that some position battles could stretch into the fourth preseason...

  • Vikings kick in $46M more for new downtown stadium

    The Minnesota Vikings will put an additional $46 million into the new stadium rising in downtown Minneapolis. The addition was announced at Friday morning’s Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority board meeting.

  • Gameday preview: Vikings at Kansas City

    PRESEASON:VIKINGS VS. KANSAS CITY Game 3: 7 p.m. today • ARROWHEAD STADIUMTV: Ch. 11 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)about the vikings (2-0)After home...

  • VIKINGS AT KANSAS CITY

    7 p.m. Saturday • TV: Ch. 11 (100.3-FM, 1130-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Atlanta 6:00 PM
Cleveland
Phoenix 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Detroit
Utah 6:30 PM
Miami
Orlando 6:30 PM
Boston
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Toronto
Memphis 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Portland
Houston 9:30 PM
Denver
Indiana 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 3:00 PM
St Francis-NY
James Madison 6:00 PM
Ball State
SIU Edwardsville 6:00 PM
Campbell
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
Florida State
Catawba 6:00 PM
George Mason
Ferrum 6:00 PM
High Point
Hampton 6:00 PM
Illinois
Gardner-Webb 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
Longwood 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Miss State
Tennessee 6:00 PM
NC State
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Manhattan 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Robert Morris 6:00 PM
Toledo
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Wofford
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Barber-Scotia 6:00 PM
NC Central
Detroit 6:30 PM
UCF
Liberty 6:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
TX A&M-CC 7:00 PM
Denver
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
Houston
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Milligan 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
USC Upstate 7:00 PM
Memphis
Alcorn State 7:00 PM
Murray State
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northwestern
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
TX-Pan American 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
Ill-Chicago 7:00 PM
SMU
Texas State 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
SC State 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Chicago State 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Winthrop 8:00 PM
Auburn
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
Baylor
San Diego St 8:00 PM
Cincinnati
Eastern Mich 8:00 PM
Michigan State
Loyola Marymount 8:00 PM
Stanford
Incarnate Word 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Northeastern 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Central Arkansas 9:00 PM
New Mexico
Howard 9:00 PM
Pepperdine
Portland 9:30 PM
UNLV
CS-Northridge 10:00 PM
Oregon
Grambling St 10:00 PM
Washington
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 39 2nd Half
Campbell 24
Akron 3:30 PM
UCF
Richmond 3:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Montana 4:00 PM
Seattle
(7) Stanford 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Florida A&M 5:30 PM
Southern U
Oklahoma 5:30 PM
(13) Duke
Savannah State 5:30 PM
Auburn
Northern Colorado 6:00 PM
South Florida
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
Siena 6:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Vermont 6:00 PM
St Francis-NY
(1) South Carolina 6:00 PM
Hampton
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Texas Southern 6:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Northwestern 6:00 PM
UNLV
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Appalachian St
NC Central 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Drexel 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Cincinnati 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Alabama State 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Morehead St 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Kent State
American Univ 6:00 PM
Manhattan
UNC Greensboro 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Arkansas-Monticello 6:30 PM
Northwestern St
Prairie View 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
McNeese State 7:00 PM
(3) Texas
Yale 7:00 PM
Wagner
Oakland 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Eastern Kentucky 7:00 PM
Alabama A&M
SIU-Edwardsville 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
McMurry 7:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Portland 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
North Texas 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close