Vikings at Titans: 6 Things To Watch in Vikings' Preseason Week 1 Matchup
After a 132-day lockout, the NFL is back in business, and the regular season's rapidly approaching. Training camps are wrapping up, and Week 1 of the 2011 preseason is upon us.
With a handful of starting positions still up for grabs, the Vikings' coaching staff still has plenty of evaluating to do, and these preseason games provide the perfect opportunity.
Under the guidance of new head coach Leslie Frazier, the Vikings look to start the 2011 season with a clean slate.
Here are six things to watch when the Vikings take on the Titans in their preseason opener.
Bill Musgrave's Ernhardt-Style Offense
With a new coaching staff and new philosophy, the Vikings should get back to the basics of playing smashmouth football this season.
The Vikings' new offensive coordinator, Bill Musgrave, is in the process of implementing an Ernhardt-syle offense custom-tailored to fit his players' abilities. You can read more about the Ernhardt offense here.
Because of the lockout, players have only had 10 full practices in training camp to digest the new offense. This Saturday we will all get a sneak peek of things to come.
Donovan McNabb Makes Vikings Debut
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Although the starters will only play a series or two against the Titans, Donovan McNabb will start his first game as a Minnesota Viking.
After a long, painful season with the Washington Redskins, McNabb will try to hit the ground running in Minnesota, where he will have better talent surrounding him.
The Vikings will use these preseason games to refine the offense and get all of the players on the same page.
Vikings' Offensive Line Play
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In 2010, the Vikings' offensive line just couldn't get healthy. The unit struggled in pass protection and had trouble consistently opening holes for Adrian Peterson.
The Vikings released veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie, who reported to training camp weighing close to 400 pounds and signed Charlie Johnson, who has spent the last two years protecting Peyton Manning's blind side.
Expect to see some growing pains as the offensive linemen continue to learn the blocking schemes put in place by new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson.
Christian Ponder vs. Joe Webb
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With the starters playing only one or two series, Joe Webb and Christian Ponder will both get a decent chunk of playing time against the Titans.
Webb, who will start the preseason as the Vikings second quarterback behind McNabb, will finish out the first half of the game, and Ponder will take over in the third quarter.
The competition between Webb and Ponder will likely continue throughout the season, as the Vikings are still searching for their quarterback of the future.
Competition at Backup WR Positions
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The Vikings will have 11 receivers on the team heading into their first preseason game but only five of them will make the final roster.
Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian and newly-acquired Michael Jenkins are locked in as the top three, leaving eight players to compete for two roster spots. It should be one of the most closely contested position battles.
Here are the remaining receivers on the roster:
- 85 Greg Camarillo
- 11 Jaymar Johnson
- 16 Emmanuel Arceneaux
- 19 Devin Aromashodu
- 86 Stephen Burton
- 17 Juaquin Iglesiasa
- 18 Dominique Johnson
- 15 Andre Holmes
Competition at Free Safety
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After releasing Madieu Williams (and his bloated contract) before the start of training camp, the Vikings have a hole to fill at free safety.
Right now, it is an open competition between Jamarca Sanford, Tyrell Johnson and rookie Mistral Raymond.
All three have looked good in training camp, so this will be something to keep an eye on throughout the preseason.