After sputtering out during the first preseason game, the Vikings' offense will look to redeem themselves as they travel to Seattle for an exhibition matchup. Daniel House previews the game and provides five key storylines to monitor.
Updated: August 18, 2017, 11:35 a.m.
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
After sputtering out during the first preseason game, the Vikings' offense will look to redeem themselves as they travel to Seattle for an exhibition matchup. The roster battles on defense will also start to intensify as the group is tested by a Seahawks offense that features elusive quarterbacks and playmakers. More importantly, Seattle's defense will provide a progress report for where the offense currently stands.
Putting together a strong first-team drive
The Vikings’ offense lacked identity in the first preseason game vs. Buffalo. They tallied just 24 yards and one first down in three series of action. There is a small amount of preparation that occurs for these games, but it is still important to see the offense in rhythm. Getting the offense going by completing short-to-intermediate throws and setting up play action looks for Dalvin Cook would be nice to see. In addition, the pocket must be clean for quarterback Sam Bradford to take more risks up the field. This is something Bradford must be willing to do during regular season. Preseason games are the perfect opportunity to take risks. Seattle has one of the top defensive units in the league, so it will be a solid progress report for where this offense stands. More importantly, it will be an opportunity to evaluate many young players against quality competition. It will be worth seeing how centers Nick Easton and Pat Elflein perform, along with wide receivers Stacy Coley and Rodney Adams. If the offense moves the ball better, everyone can take a deep breath.
Seeing improvement on the offensive line
Many people had a panic attack when they watched the first preseason game and seen two sacks allowed by the first-team offense. Of course, it was a small sample size of preseason action, but pass protection was a major emphasis entering this season. The offensive line will be tested by a quality defensive front that notched the third-most sacks last year. One of the key components needed to throw vertically down the field is solid protection. Quarterback Sam Bradford must have time to stand in the pocket and use his overall arm talent down the field. The run blocking up front has looked much better, but still shows signs of inconsistency. As an overall unit, the goal should be to improve every week. Those who believed two signings would magically repair this unit aren’t thinking logically. Friday night will be a great test for the tackles and should provide more clarity regarding the center battle, too. Left tackle Riley Reiff has been easing back into participation, but it would be surprising to see him play. It means we will get another long look at Rashod Hill, who is developing every week with more playing time.
Continuing the defensive line battle
The battle for the fourth defensive end spot will continue after Tashawn Bower put together a fantastic performance last week. Bower had numerous pressures, a sack and a pass breakup. However, his competitor at the position has been showing growth, too. Not only has Stephen Weatherly been progressing as a pass rusher, but he’s reliable on special teams. It makes the battle on the edge even more intriguing.
In addition, I discussed how the interior of the defensive line struggled to hold up against the run last week. Will the Vikings make personnel changes or refine their approach for this game? Perhaps Datone Jones will see a rise up the depth chart or Jaleel Johnson will slide into the rotation more. The way the team starts mixing the interior of the defensive line will provide insight into how the depth chart will be structured at the position. The team will have major decisions to make up front and they will dictate how the entire roster is constructed.
The starting weakside linebacker rotation
After watching every rep in training camp, none of the linebackers really stood out in the competition at weakside linebacker. The first preseason game yielded a similar opinion. Edmond Robinson has been performing decent in coverage, but really struggled against the run. Veteran Emmanuel Lamur has yet to make a splash either. Ben Gedeon has continued to rotate into the first-team defense and could make a strong push for the starting job if neither Robinson or Lamur separate themselves. Gedeon was fantastic against the run, but struggled against the pass on a few occasions. Each of these players have strengths and weaknesses, but Friday night’s game will be an opportunity to see if any player finally takes the opportunity and runs with it. The Vikings aren’t in the base defense all that much, but they must find a stable option on the weakside. Teams often exploited this area and forced the Vikings to play base at the end of 2016.
A great test for the Vikings’ defense
The defensive line will be tested against elusive quarterbacks in this game. Both Russell Wilson and Trevone Boykin can escape the pocket and create plays up the field with their legs. It will test the discipline of the Vikings’ front-seven. The defensive ends have to establish contain and the linebackers must stay aligned.
In addition, Seattle’s offense scored 48 points last week against the Chargers, including 458 total yards. The Vikings will be tested against both the run and pass. Last week, Minnesota struggled to stop the run and it was the result of alignment issues and difficulties inside. It will be interesting to see if there are any personnel changes within the interior of the defensive line. Not to mention, the Seahawks passed for over 338 yards, including a significant amount later in the game. The Seattle passing attack will test cornerbacks like Terrell Sinkfield and Antone Exum Jr., along with players in the backend like Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris.