They will have Latavius Murray in their backfield. They will likely have Riley Reiff joining fellow free-agent addition Mike Remmers on their offensive line. They should have second-year receiver Laquon Treadwell back from a hamstring injury, ready to make his preseason debut after a solid training camp.
The Vikings, it appears, will head into their third preseason game on Sunday night with as full a picture of their revamped offense as they are likely to get before the start of the regular season Sept. 11. A series of nagging injuries has curtailed the team’s ability to put its prospective offensive line together, or see how Murray might fit in a backfield with Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon. But now, before their nationally televised matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings appear ready to take most of their new offensive pieces out for a test drive.
“This is usually the last chance to go out there and get a lot accomplished,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “I think it is important for us to go out there and play well so that we can have something to build off of going forward into Week 1.”
The Vikings likely will rest many of their veterans for their final preseason game against Miami on Thursday night, so especially for their offensive line, the 49ers game represents a valuable opportunity. The Vikings have yet to put their starting line on the field for a preseason game, with a back injury keeping Reiff out for the first two contests and Alex Boone missing last week’s game against Seattle.
But the Vikings had all of their prospective starters in practice Friday, with Reiff and Boone on the left side of a line that could include either Nick Easton or rookie Pat Elflein at center. With Joe Berger at right guard and Mike Remmers at right tackle, the Vikings appear to have most of their group set before the 49ers game.
“The other day at practice the offensive line came off the ball low, physical,” coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday. “I thought they did a good job. It’s seeing the things in practice. We had a red-zone period the other day and they scored a bunch of times in the red zone on different plays. So, we do it on the field, it’s just from what I see in practice.”
Sunday will also be the first game opportunity in a Vikings uniform for Murray, who missed all of the Vikings’ offseason program and most of training camp while recovering from the right ankle surgery he had after the team signed him to a three-year, $15 million deal in March.
Rookie Dalvin Cook has received most of the first-team work in Murray’s absence and could turn out to be the Vikings’ primary back once the season arrives. The Vikings, though, likely will have enough work for each of their three running backs for semantics not to matter much.
“Protect, run, catch, I want to do it all,” Murray said. “I want to try and hopefully get the opportunity to showcase each ability.”
On defense, the Vikings had cornerback Trae Waynes practicing all week after missing the Aug. 18 game at Seattle because of a shoulder injury he suffered Aug. 10 at Buffalo. Safety Andrew Sendejo, too, was back this week after missing the Seahawks game.
Defensive end Brian Robison didn’t practice the final two days of the week, and tight end Kyle Rudolph also might not play after missing Friday’s practice. But overall, the Vikings’ third preseason game finds them ready to put most of their prospective starting lineup on the field.
The Vikings made it clear that improving their 28th-ranked offense was the focus of their offseason, guaranteeing $36.8 million to Reiff and Remmers and bringing in Murray and Cook to help succeed Adrian Peterson. They have had to wait longer than they would have liked to see how their additions will affect a running game that ranked last in the league a year ago, and they certainly won’t have a complete answer to their questions by the end of the 49ers game.
What Sunday night represents, mostly, is a first step.
“It’s a start to going in the direction we want to go,” Murray said. “The more repetitions we get out there together as a group, it only helps.”