Arizona Cardinals vs. Minnesota Vikings: Vikings Week 2 Game Preview
Minnesota's starters will probably see a little more action this weekend after playing just a couple of series against the Raiders.
Quarterback Matt Cassel, who led the Vikings to a touchdown in his only drive last week, might play the entire first half against the Cardinals before giving way to rookie Teddy Bridgewater, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Star Tribune.
Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press quoted offensive coordinator Norv Turner as saying, "Matt got 10 plays, he's going to get more than that this week. How much? That is something we will determine as the week goes on."
The Vikings' first-team defense should get a much tougher test against the Cardinals after holding the Raiders to just five net yards in their first two drives. The Cardinals rolled up more than 400 yards of offense against the Texans and had three touchdowns through the air.
Obviously, preseason games don't matter much, but playing well in them is much better than playing poorly. Teams like both the Vikings and the Cardinals can build positive momentum by winning preseason games.
The Vikings had a bit of a scare this week when defensive tackle Linval Joseph was hit in the calf with a stray bullet at a Minneapolis club Saturday night. Minnesota says Joseph should be good to go for the season opener in September, and, as reported in the Pioneer Press, Zimmer says Joseph could see some more game action in the preseason.
"I think he probably needs to play. So when he's ready, we'll play him. If it's the last preseason game or if it's sooner than that, we'll see," Zimmer told a press gathering Monday night.
For those assured of roster spots, Saturday's game is another tuneup as the regular season inches closer. For those battling for spots on the roster, it's another golden opportunity to impress the coaching staff.
Vikings Week 1 Recap
Game 1 of the Mike Zimmer era went pretty much exactly according to plan last Friday night in a 10-6 victory over the Oakland Raiders. Well, at least the first quarter did anyway.
Starting quarterback Matt Cassel looked sharp, leading Minnesota to a touchdown during his only series of the game.
First-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater entered the game after that, and, while he committed a few rookie mistakes, he also made some nice plays and looked as good as advertised.
Probably most important for Vikings fans was that the first-team defense looked very good in shutting down the Raiders' sputtering offense. Oakland managed just five net yards and seven offensive plays during its first two possessions last week.
According to Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, Zimmer liked what he saw from his defense against the Raiders:
It was a little bit like I envisioned this football team to look like. We didn’t make many mistakes on defense until later on in the ball game. We competed very well; we got up in people’s face on defense," Zimmer said. "I think that we are starting to develop a physical mindset with this football team. I like how we practice and the way we practice is showing up when the lights come on and we get ready to go play. We need to continue to practice at the same tempo, we need to continue to improve on the mistakes and we've still got a long way to go."
The Vikings' first-team offense certainly clicked as well, piling up 120 yards on 20 plays during their first two possessions, which led to a touchdown and a field goal.
There's still plenty to work on, however, as the Vikings didn't have much luck moving the ball after their starters were done for the night. Minnesota finished with just 109 passing yards and 236 total yards and didn't score again the rest of the way.
The Vikings' offensive linemen had a less than stellar night, giving up six sacks to the Raiders and not providing a ton of running room for the backs.
All in all, it was a successful night for Minnesota, though. And its starters looked plenty good during their short night of work.
News and Notes
The Quarterback Competition Continues
Quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater will split time once again in the Vikings' second preseason game against the Cardinals, according to Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press.
Both quarterbacks got 10 plays with the first unit in last week's win over the Raiders, with Bridgewater then getting plenty of time with the second unit.
Cassel told Mark Craig of the Star Tribune that he expects to play more against the Cardinals, saying, "It's a new system. The more reps I get, the more comfortable I'll be when the season starts."
Cassel remains the presumptive starter heading toward the regular season, but it appears that the quarterback race is an ongoing battle that might not be decided until deep into August. Cassel is getting closer to locking up the starting job, but things could change over the next three weeks.
Special Teams Coach Brought on to Fill the Gap
The Vikings hired longtime NFL special teams coach Joe Marciano this past week to fill in the gap while Minnesota special teams coach Mike Priefer serves his three-game suspension to start the regular season, reports Dave Campbell of the Associated Press.
Priefer was suspended for an anti-gay comment that prompted complaints from former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe.
Marciano will fill in for Priefer until his suspension is over, probably on September 22. He's been an NFL special teams coach for 28 years and Campbell quotes Zimmer as saying the following:
We felt like, in our thinking, that it'd be good to get someone in here, go through these next three weeks of camp, get a feel of exactly how we're doing things where we can continue to speak the same language but have some veteran experience for these first couple ball games," Zimmer said. "Especially with me being a new head coach, and I think the experience factor has been good.
Marciano will work with Vikings assistant special teams coach Ryan Ficken.
Notre Dame Reunion Saturday Night
There will be no shortage of former Notre Dame football players at TCF Bank Field Saturday night. Both the Vikings and Cardinals have four former Fighting Irish on their roster. Minnesota has tight end Kyle Rudolph, safeties Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton and center John Sullivan. (Blanton won't dress Saturday because of an injury.)
The Cardinals have a pair of Notre Dame tight ends in rookie Troy Nicklas and John Carlson as well as wide receiver Michael Floyd and fullback Robert Hughes. Both Carlson and Floyd grew up in Minnesota; Carlson attending Litchfield high school and Floyd Cretin-Derham Hall.
Player Position Injury Status
Robert Blanton S Out
Josh Robinson CB Doubtful
Linval Joseph DT Out
Chase Ford TE Out
Dom DeCicco LB Out
Robert Blanton remains out after suffering a hamstring injury on July 28. He'd been running with the first-team defense up until he got hurt, but his lengthy absence has opened up the door for the myriad of other players vying to start next to Harrison Smith.
Look for veteran safety Chris Crocker to perhaps start Saturday or at least get plenty of playing time. Kurt Coleman, Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo will all get time as well, as the Vikings try to find a starter to open up alongside Harrison Smith.
Josh Robinson missed most of Wednesday's practice with a nagging hamstring and probably won't play Saturday, according to Master Tesfatsion of the Star Tribune. Robinson's absence opens up the third corner spot after Xavier Rhodes and Captain Munnerlyn.
Linval Joseph, as mentioned earlier, suffered minor injuries after catching a stray bullet Saturday night at a club in downtown Minneapolis. He's been ruled out for Saturday's game, but he is expected to return before the start of the regular season.
Joseph, as reported by Ben Goessling of ESPN.com, issued a statement through the Vikings Sunday that read as follows:
I appreciate everyone's thoughts and concerns over the past 24 hours. I am extremely thankful that this was a minor injury for me. As the team has communicated, this was an unfortunate situation where I, along with several others, was an innocent bystander to a senseless act. My thoughts are with all of the victims at this time. I am looking forward to getting back onto the field with my teammates in the near future.
Joseph's injury probably means that Fred Evans will get the start Saturday. Expect rookie Shamar Stephen, who played well last Friday and led the team in tackles, to get extended playing time as well.
Chase Ford has missed all of training camp after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot. According to Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune, Ford is out of his walking boot and Zimmer expects him to be back soon.
With Ford out and rookie A.C. Leonard being released, expect Mike Higgins and the newly signed Kory Sperry to see action Saturday.
Linebacker Dom DeCicco will be out indefinitely after undergoing hip surgery Thursday, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. DeCicco was a long shot to make the Vikings roster, and his future will be determined after the surgery.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Patrick Peterson
Two of the most exciting young players in the NFL should square off, albeit briefly, Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium.
Everyone in Minnesota is expecting a breakout season from second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who has a rare combination of speed and running ability. Patterson is already among the best runners after the catch in the league, and if he can refine his route running in Season 2, the sky is the limit.
He should be locking horns with Patrick Peterson Saturday night, and it will be one of the very few times he's matching up against his athletic equal. Peterson, who's made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons, signed a five-year, $70 million extension on July 29, according to KCRA.com.
Xavier Rhodes vs. John Brown
The Cardinals are convinced they found a diamond in the rough when they drafted small-college receiver John Brown, out of Pittsburg State University, in the third round of May's draft.
Brown has been the talk of Arizona's training camp, according to Robert Mays of Grantland. And he followed that up with a stellar performance in the Cardinals romp over the Texans by catching five passes for 87 yards.
Cardinals GM Steve Keim raved about Brown to Mays, saying:
I haven’t seen a rookie come in and do what he’s done — and it’s early still — since Anquan Boldin. This guy came through the first day, and being from Pittsburg State, has uncanny instincts, unbelievable understanding of route concepts, leverage, being in the right spot at the right time. On top of great ball skills, he has unusual speed and explosiveness. You add all that in combination, and it’s amazing this guy who came from Pittsburg State can do this. Through this part of camp, I haven’t seen any of our players cover him, and I think you’d probably be able to put on the Texans tape and realize they didn’t have anybody to cover him.
Brown sounds like he'll be an excellent third receiver to match up with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in Arizona. With Floyd out for Saturday's game, Brown will probably match up against Rhodes early on Saturday.
The Vikings, in turn, are expecting big things from Rhodes in his second season. FOXNorth.com reporter Brian Hall reports that both Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray have been giving a lot of attention to Rhodes during training camp.
Vikings Secondary vs. Logan Thomas
While Brown looks like an excellent find by the Cardinals, it's their fourth-round pick, quarterback Logan Thomas, who might end up being the steal of the draft.
Thomas, who tested out off the charts at the combine, was quite the tantalizing prospect before the draft, but his spotty play in college scared off plenty of teams.
At 6'6", 250 pounds with a rocket arm, Thomas was seen as a raw prospect who clearly had the athletic ability to play in the NFL, even if it meant switching to tight end.
Through training camp and one preseason game, there clearly will be no position switch for Thomas, who finished 11-of-12 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown against the Texans.
Marc Sessler of NFL.com reports that ESPN's Ron Jaworski said Thomas was the best rookie quarterback he saw during Week 1 and that he has the look of an All-Pro.
That's effusive praise after just one game, but Thomas should provide an interesting test for the slew of Vikings defensive backs who are battling for starting spots and slots on the roster.
Safety Kurt Coleman had a nice game against the Raiders, coming up with an interception, and veteran Chris Crocker will get his first playing time as a Viking.
Vikings' X-Factor of the Week: Adam Thielen
The wide receiver out of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, had an excellent first game of the preseason against the Raiders. Adam Thielen returned three punts for 53 yards, including a 26-yard return, caught a 15-yard pass and made an excellent special teams play: a tackle on punt coverage.
Thielen has impressed Vikings coaches all through training camp and another good preseason game could all but cement his spot on the final roster, after spending the 2013 season on the practice squad. Thielen signed with the Vikings after going undrafted out of Minnesota State, Mankato.
In a story on Thielen in the Star Tribune, Megan Ryan quotes Cordarrelle Patterson as saying the following about Thielen:
I know he’s going to make the team. I don’t care what anybody else says, he’s a part of this team. … Talent like that, you cannot hide. I have defensive guys, you know, veterans, who’re saying Adam should have been a part of this team last year, and I feel that, too.
At this point, barring an injury, Thielen has probably locked up a roster spot. But another good showing in game conditions could boost his confidence and get him more reps down the line.
The Vikings were very impressive for the first quarter in their win over the Raiders last weekend. They spent the next three quarters struggling to find any rhythm on offense.
The Cardinals, on the other hand, were perhaps the most impressive team in the league in their preseason Week 1 rout of the Texans.
Arizona's quarterbacks were phenomenal: The trio of Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton and Logan Thomas combined for 27-of-34 passing for 326 yards and three touchdowns.
Of course, it's only preseason, and all the odometers go back to zero for this week.
Expect Matt Cassel to get more playing time this week as he needs to get more game reps under his belt. Teddy Bridgewater will come into the game next and will probably play for an extended period as well, as the Vikings coaches look to see Bridgewater play more relaxed in his second outing.
The offensive line didn't have a great game against the Raiders, so pay close attention to how that group is handled in Week 2. It seems like the starters will all be returning from last year, but back-to-back poor games might change that thinking.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings will face an offense that is light-years ahead of what they saw last week against the Raiders.
The Vikings secondary will be tested by the Cardinals quarterbacks, including Ryan Lindley, a big-armed thrower who didn't play last week but is expected to play most of the second half this week. For the Vikings secondary, it will be a giant opportunity for guys to step up and make plays on the ball.
Playing Arizona should also provide the Vikings pass-rushers plenty of chances to pin their ears back and get after the quarterback. The starting group should play for perhaps a series or two more than it did last week.
Again, look for rookie first-round draft pick Anthony Barr to move around to different positions on the field and be used in a variety of different ways. He needs reps to start figuring out the nuances of the position and will probably be on the field with both the first and second units.
If nothing else, expect a lot more points to be put on the board than last week's 16-point affair.
Vikings 24 Cardinals 21