Preseason football is still football. As we get ready for the first Saints preseason game of the season, let’s look at a recap of the offseason from their preseason opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, brought to use by our friends over at the Daily Norseman.
Preseason Week 1 - vs the Minnesota Vikings
Notable free agent additions:
G Josh Kline, QB Sean Mannion, DT Shamar Stephen, OL Coach Rick Dennison, offensive “consultant” Gary Kubiak
9 wins -- Over. I’m going to go ahead and play the “over” on this one, largely because this team has too much talent to be as bad as they were in 2018. Mike Zimmer is going to have his team ready to go, and a new offensive scheme that Kirk Cousins is comfortable with will propel this team to 10 wins and a chance at a third NFC North title in five years.
Most exciting rookie:
It might seem kind of strange to put an offensive lineman in this spot, but center Garrett Bradbury has a lot of expectations to live up to. The Vikings’ offensive line has been a disaster the past couple of seasons, and with Rick Dennison and Gary Kubiak bringing a new blocking scheme with them this season, Bradbury appears to be a perfect fit. He’s already getting solid reviews based on how he’s holding up against big Linval Joseph in practice, which is a promising early sign. If Bradbury can step in and be an immediate, solid contributor, it’s going to go a long way towards fixing the offensive line woes.
Position battle to keep an eye on:
It’s probably the fight for the third wide receiver spot. Someone has to benefit from the attention that defenses give to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and it certainly doesn’t look like it’s going to be Laquon Treadwell. Former Broncos receiver Jordan Taylor, second-year man Jeff Badet, and a pair of rookies in Olabisi Johnson and Dillon Mitchell will be among those taking aim at becoming WR3 in what should be a very good offense.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp:
The same question that it’s been for the past few seasons: Have the Vikings done enough to fix the offensive line? Riley Reiff will continue to be the left tackle, and Brian O’Neill showed plenty of promise in his rookie year. Pat Elflein will make the move from center to guard to make room for Bradbury, and Josh Kline will probably have to hold off a challenge from another rookie, fourth-round pick Dru Samia. The Vikings needed a big infusion of talent on the offensive line, and camp is going to give us an opportunity to see if it’s been enough.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into camp:
It might not get as much attention as the battle for the third receiver spot, but the Vikings only have one opening on the starting defense. That’s the three-technique spot on the defensive line, and there will be plenty of guys taking aim at it. The Vikings brought back Shamar Stephen after he spent a year in Seattle, and he appears to be penciled in as the starter early on. However, he’s going to face a challenge from some younger players, notably sixth-round pick Armon Watts, third-year man Jaleel Johnson, and second-year player Jalyn Holmes. Even Hercules Mata’afa has been getting some looks as a (very undersized) three-technique tackle, a position he dominated from in college. One of those guys is going to be the last piece of a very talented defensive front.
Notable injuries heading into training camp:
The big one is cornerback Mike Hughes. Hughes tore his ACL last October, putting an early end to what was turning into a promising rookie campaign. Now, even though he’s been making progress in his rehabilitation, it sounds like he might not be ready for the start of camp, and may have to start on the PUP list. For a team that’s already going to be missing Holton Hill due to a four-game suspension, this could leave the Vikings a bit thin in the secondary.
Obscure player on the 90-man roster that will be a preseason star (and likely later cut):
Davion Davis, an undrafted free agent out of Sam Houston State, has gotten some pretty rave reviews during OTAs and minicamp. The team likes his speed and shiftiness, and he could potentially be a candidate to fill the hole the Vikings have at the punt return spot following the departure of Marcus Sherels. But, he’s going to have a lot of guys to beat out in order to make the roster. He’s got a shot, I suppose, but it’s a long shot.