Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.
Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.
Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.
We’re tracking all things Purple, starting with what’s already happened and projecting what needs to happen as the Vikings work their way through free agency and the rest of the offseason.
The Vikings will travel to Kansas City for their first preseason road game against the Chiefs on Saturday. It’s their third preseason game and a time when most NFL teams would like to have a resolution to any remaining training camp competitions.
Head coach Mike Zimmer, on the other hand, has hinted that some position battles could stretch into the fourth preseason game. He’s already bucked the exhibition trend by leaving his starters in for the entire first half in the second preseason game against the Cardinals. It’ll be interesting to see if Zimmer does anything different from last week as the Vikings ramp up for the regular season in two weeks. Here’s three things to watch:
1. WHO WILL BE THE STARTING QUARTERBACK? The Vikings will look to finalize the ongoing competition at quarterback, though Zimmer hasn’t publicly announced when he plans to make a decision. With the Jaguars selecting Chad Henne over Blake Bortles as their starting quarterback on Friday, the Vikings are the only team without a quarterback decision. While Matt Cassel Cassel hasn’t done anything worthy of a demotion, Teddy Bridgewater’s fourth quarter performance against the Cardinals last week kept him in the running. Zimmer hinted we could see Bridgewater with the first team against the Chiefs, although Cassel will start again and possibly play the entire first half again.
2. WHICH MLB AND SS WILL GAIN SEPARATION? It’s a close battle at middle linebacker and strong safety for the final two starting spots on defense. Head coach Mike Zimmer said linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole have been fairly even and plans to rotate them in every two series, similar to his plan against the Cardinals. Strong safety Robert Blanton will play his first preseason game after returning this week from a hamstring injury. He started training camp receiving first team reps but missed three weeks with the injury. Blanton must fight to start against Chris Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo.
3. CAN MAUTI GAIN GROUND? Linebacker Michael Mauti received the second fewest snaps against the Cardinals, six, on defense. That should change against the Chiefs with rookie Brandon Watts and Gerald Hodges sidelined throughout the week with injuries. Mauti has gained first team reps at times in preparation for the Chiefs and should see more than six snaps. This will be a good chance to prove his worth with the increased workload.
|Boston - LP: C. Buchholz||2||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran||4|
|Seattle - LP: J. Paxton||1||FINAL|
|Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura||5|
|(15) North Carolina||65||FINAL|
|(3) South Carolina||67|
|(9) Arizona State||65||FINAL|
|(7) Florida State||66|
|(2) Notre Dame||81|