After opening the preseason with an up-and-down 17-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Vikings continue their exhibition slate tonight with a matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Daniel House previews the game and provides some areas to monitor closely as the Vikings continue preseason action.
Updated: August 17th, 2016 12:20pm
Updated: August 17th, 2016 12:20pm
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
After opening the preseason with an up-and-down 17-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, the Vikings continue their exhibition slate tonight with a matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Last week, the team lacked physicality on the defensive line and the first-team offensive line had some trouble handling the Bengals' pass rush. This week, the emphasis has to be playing with more physicality on both sides of the ball. Additionally, the rotation will continue up front on the offensive line at right tackle. Either T.J. Clemmings or Andre Smith will need to show they are worthy of the starting nod. Seeing some consistent play and cohesiveness among the offensive line would be an important sign of growth leaving this game.
Aside from those main points, there are several areas to evaluate as the Vikings take the field in Seattle. For more, take a dive inside my Vikings vs. Seahawks preview:
Right tackle spot and o-line depth
This week, second-year tackle T.J. Clemmings has been rotating into the starting lineup at right tackle. He has been rotating every other day with Andre Smith and the competition appears to be ongoing for the permanent starting nod. Smith was badly beaten by Carlos Dunlap during the first series of the last preseason game against Cincinnati. With the second-team, Clemmings wasn't perfect either, but didn't allow his opponent to reach the quarterback for a sack. Smith had problems in pass protection during his past stops in the NFL. Nonetheless, he had a relatively solid training camp and concerns never arose as I left Mankato. Clemmings was rather inconsistent in camp and it appears he will need more time to develop. With that being said, it's worth monitoring how both Smith and Clemmings handle the Seahawks front-seven. It is unknown which player will start, but whoever does, will need to take advantage of the opportunity they receive to show they fit within the first-team unit.
This is also another opportunity to watch center Nick Easton and guard Zac Kerin to see if they can build off of their positive performances last week. Additionally, Jeremiah Sirles held up well and needs to be a player the Vikings can count on as a backup swing tackle.
The crowded cornerback room
Cornerback is one of the more interesting position groups to evaluate on the current roster. Second-year cornerback Trae Waynes will likely work with the second-team as veteran Terence Newman returned to practice this week. However, that doesn't mean Waynes couldn't perform well enough to eventually earn the starting job. Waynes performed well in the first preseason game against Cincinnati and added a few passes defensed. Newman had some trouble in camp when receivers beat him with speed off the line of scrimmage. I want to see if this translates to the preseason action before I become concerned. Mackensie Alexander has the chance to gain more experience and show whether he is more comfortable in the system. Marcus Sherels will return after spending time with his brother, Mike, who was in the hospital after multiple surgeries. I want to see where Sherels is placed on the depth chart because he was between second and third team during training camp. Will special teams be enough to keep Sherels on the roster? Finally, Jabari Price had a rough opening preseason game and a bad training camp. He will need to turn things around if he wants to crack the final 53-man roster when the preseason concludes.
Strong safety battle continues
The strong safety battle is one of the lone starting spots on defense that must be decided by the coaching staff. Andrew Sendejo is likely the favorite at this point, but the other candidates haven't received much of a shot with the first-team. Michael Griffin is adjusting to the scheme and as camp progressed, he started to stand out. He hasn't seen any action with the first-team and Mike Zimmer might decide to give him some time tonight. Sendejo still takes some bad angles and throws his body around in the backend. This week, Coach Zimmer had some praise for Jayron Kearse and said he probably looked the best of the younger players in the safety room. He was lost and beaten on the Alex Erickson touchdown catch last week, but did add an interception later in the game. Anthony Harris didn't play last week and he will have the chance to show he is more worthy of a roster spot than a rookie like Kearse. The battle at safety for the final few roster spots is still ongoing and won't be decided until these players see extended action in the preseason. Tonight is the perfect opportunity to evaluate them.
Linebackers battle for final roster spots
Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks will lead the linebacker group and Chad Greenway will be the veteran in the room. The position is solidified at the top, but how will it be shaped beyond that? Emmanuel Lamur led the team in tackles last week and Audie Cole continued to show his skills as a reliable tackler. Those two players appear to be leaders as top depth candidates for the season. Aside from those names, the final spot will likely come down to rookie Kentrell Brothers and Edmond Robinson. Brothers was reacting slow to plays last week, but had a nice 4th-down stop in the red zone. Robinson missed the first preseason game with an injury and needs to perform well to erase any doubt he is on the bubble. Until his injury, Robinson was one of the more impressive second-tier linebackers in training camp. He uses his length and athleticism well in the system and might have higher upside than a player like Brothers. With Brandon Watts still missing time due to an injury, it appears the infamous Mike Zimmer quote, "you can't make the club in the tub" is completely applicable.
Center is still up for grabs
The center job is still a battle between veterans Joe Berger and John Sullivan. Brandon Fusco might not play again, which means Berger will likely see action at right guard and Sullivan will get the starting nod at center. The team hasn't had a chance to evaluate Berger at center with Fusco at guard. Last week, Berger didn't stay in the game at center with the second-team unit and it is unclear whether he will get any reps this week either. Sullivan didn't perform excellent in the first preseason game, but wasn't great either. If Fusco can't play, Berger won't be evaluated at center against Sullivan and that is something that needs to happen soon.
Either way, we will get the chance to see center Nick Easton play with the second and third units. Easton put together a fantastic training camp and an impressive performance in the first preseason game. He is making a strong case to hold a 53-man roster spot when the final cuts roll around in early September. Keep an eye on the young center and the four other under-the-radar players I discussed yesterday.
How to watch?
In the Twin Cities market, the game kicks off at 9:00pm CT on Fox-9 out of Minneapolis, MN. Otherwise, you can tune into the radio for the broadcast on KFAN FM-100.3. If you live out of state, there is a 7-day free trial of NFL Preseason Live available on NFL.com.