Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Things to Watch for against the Cardinals

The Vikings will continue the preseason tomorrow evening with a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. What areas will Daniel House be watching during the game? 

Updated: August 15th, 2014 8:12pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings will continue their preseason slate tomorrow night against the Arizona Cardinals and are looking to build upon a successful training camp. Head Coach Mike Zimmer is looking to improve upon the first preseason game and has had time to correct mistakes during the week of practice at training camp. The main focus appears to be on the defensive line and Zimmer placed a heavy emphasis on pressuring the quarterback this week at camp. With all of that said, the offense will have their biggest test this preseason and will be matching up with a Cardinals defense that finished in the top-five of six different defensive categories last year. Matt Cassel may play the entire first half and he will be tested against a solid defense for the first time. The Vikings roster will continue to take shape following this game and the coaching staff will continue to shuffle players, in an effort to find the right mix.

Cassel will see extended action

According to Mike Zimmer, Matt Cassel may play the entire first half of tomorrow's game. This will be the first extended amount of playing time Cassel has seen within the new offensive scheme. During practice, Cassel has made the throws necessary to be successful, but now the biggest challenge will be how he performs in extended action against a productive defense. The Cardinals will actually be a great test and their defensive quietly performed very well last season. Arizona finished in the top-five of six different defensive categories last year and continued this trend into the 2014 preseason, shutting out the Houston Texans 32-0 last week. Cassel will witness plenty of snaps and this will be a time to see how he handles more pressure, along with a deep playbook that will be thrown his way. It is tough to monitor how the offense will be ran during the preseason, but Cassel still needs to show he can control the team and make the necessary throws to be successful.

Defensive Line pass rushing adjustments

Mike Zimmer spent this week at training camp attempting to improve the pass rush on the defensive line. Zimmer felt the team could have done a better job forcing pressure in a variety of ways. He spent the week adding more blitzes and different defensive looks that will help provide more pass rush. Anthony Barr spent much of the week working on the edge in the 'nine-techinque' and it appears this may be a method to utilize Barr's athletic skill-set. In addition, the linebackers will filling the gaps and attempting to provide more lanes for the defensive lineman to get after the quarterback. The Vikings won't show much of their defensive philosophy during the preseason and will develop more exotic looks as the regular season begins in St. Louis on September 7th.

Safeties shuffling with the first-team 

The big question on the defense right now will be how the safeties are aligned and shuffled during the game against Arizona. Mike Zimmer indicated he wants to see more action from Chris Crocker, Kurt Coleman, Jamarca Sanford, and Antone Exum, before he declares the starter alongside Harrison Smith. Coleman started the first preseason game and notched three tackles, along with an interception later in the game. Zimmer hasn't found a perfect mix yet and will insert veteran free-agent signing Chris Crocker into the safety spot tomorrow night. Crocker was signed at the midway point of training camp and didn't play in the preseason game against Oakland because he needed to get up to speed with the Vikings. Sanford and Exum both have rotated at safety, but it seems as if the real competition will take place amongst Kurt Coleman and Chris Crocker.

Who stands out as backups on the offensive line?

The Vikings second and third tier group of offensive lineman disappointed in the first preseason game and the coaching staff is still trying to pinpoint which players can provide depth this season. Antonio 'Tiny' Richardson has shown some growing pains and Jeff Baca has failed to distinguish himself from veteran Vlad Ducasse. Mike Zimmer mentioned last week that Austin Wentworth has impressed early in training camp and during the preseason. The final two backup spots on the offensive line are wide-open and the players who perform at a high level during the preseason will survive the roster cuts.

The second look at Teddy Bridgewater

The fans want to see Teddy Bridgewater, but they will have to wait until the second half to watch him play on the field. Bridgewater made his NFL debut in the first preseason game and he seemed to need more time to adjust to the pace of NFL football. He finished 6-for-13 for 49 yards and the Vikings offense stalled during certain moments he was in the game. Every rookie quarterback needs time to grow as a player and his growth will be evaluated at the end of the preseason slate. Teddy will step onto the field for his second career NFL game and it will be intriguing to see how he handles himself. Can he make the throws necessary in the scheme and will he be a little more comfortable in his second outing? You can't expect results this early in his career, but his performance tomorrow night will provide an interesting barometer to evaluate his growth as a quarterback.

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