The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up training camp in Mankato on Tuesday and packed up to head to Buffalo for the first preseason game of the year. Here are the five most compelling things to watch in the preseason opener:
How many carries will the Vikings give Dalvin Cook?
The team and fans will get their first look at No. 33 in a “real” game. Throughout camp, Cook has drawn rave reviews, taking a large portion of the first-team reps with Latavius Murray on the shelf as he recovers from ankle surgery. The Vikings’ second-round pick has a versitle skill set, showing the ability to catch passes in the screen game and occasionally from a receiver spot. Will he play the first quarter? First half? Will he stand out as much as he has in camp?
Which second-team wide receiver will make a splash?
Mike Zimmer said last week that Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley are in the lead for depth wide receiver spots, but undrafted receivers Isaac Fruechte and Cayleb Jones have shown some flashes during camp and will be looking for an opportunity to make the team. Adams has quickness and playmaking ability, but Coley is faster and more experienced in route running. With Michael Floyd suspended for the first four games, they both have a chance to make the team out of camp. Either Fruechte or Jones would have to have great preseasons to rise above the two draft picks.
Part 2: How much Jarius Wright plays will be worth watching. He’s been running with the first team since Laquon Treadwell suffered a leg injury and has been solid in practice.
Which kick returner will stand out?
The Vikings are looking for a replacement for Cordarrelle Patterson, who was the top kick returner in the league three of the four years he was in the league. Will it be veteran Marcus Sherels, the veteran punt returner? Or will one of the rookies like Adams or Coley, who were good returners in college? Could an unexpected contender rise above the rest?
Who will take the most backup quarterback snaps?
Neither Taylor Heinicke or Case Keenum has stood out in practice as they battle for the backup quarterback job. Presumably the veteran Keenum will run the second team and Heinicke will play the remainder of the game. Both will get plenty of reps since the Vikings elected to release their fourth quarterback Wes Lunt.
Heinicke has been on the practice squad for the last two years and is not eligible to be placed there again, so he will presumably either win the backup job or be let go. Keenum started last season for the Los Angeles Rams, but only has a career 78.4 quarterback rating.
Will the backup tackles hold up?
Vikings fans held their collective breath when Rashod Hill went down at practice on Saturday night. His name was trending on Twitter. That’s how concerned fans are after watching the offensive line fall apart last season. Hill was back in practice on Monday, so it’s likely that he will play against Buffalo and will get to face Buffalo’s first-team pass rushers – most likely former first-round pick Shaq Lawson. It will be a good test for the inexperienced tackle. Behind him, Jeremiah Sirles may see time and Aviante Collins, an undrated rookie, will play on the left side. On the right, Willie Beavers will have a chance to prove that he’s grown since last year. Any signs of progress would be welcomed.