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Vikings at Rams: 4 Things to Keep an Eye On

Tomorrow, the Vikings kick off their 2014 campaign at 12 CT in St. Louis. Here are a few subjects to pay attention to while watching:

Adrian Peterson’s Return to Form

Adrian Peterson hasn’t taken a snap this preseason, and he’s gotten only limited reps on the practice field. Mike Zimmer and the Vikings want to keep their best player healthy for the start of the regular season. Hopefully, All Day can retain his title as the Best Running Back in the NFL. He should be delighted that Norv Turner has retained both fullbacks from last year including Pro Bowler Jerome Felton. It’s unusual for Turner to do that; the past two seasons, Norv has cut the starting fullback from the year before. An older, more experienced offensive line has been together for three years now, and should be one of the best in the league at run blocking. We’ve come to expect great things from AP; hopefully, continue his dominance in 2014.

Defensive Playcalling

Vikings fans became accustomed to rotation on the defensive line while Alan Williams, the previous defensive coordinator, was still employed. Williams had countless different packages, and provided rest for all of the linemen. This made so almost every defensive lineman on the roster played on Sundays. The rotation worked well in 2013, but was less effective last year, which led to Williams’ exit. This season, the Vikings will have better depth on the line, especially at defensive end with the additions of third-round pick Scott Crichton and free agent signee Corey Wootton. Minnesota also added Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen, a seventh-round pick, to back up Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph. In the past, Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards have been known to rotate linemen and have numerous different spots where the tackles line up. Expect to see that this year, except without as many substitutions; Joseph and Floyd are clearly superior to their backups, and should see most do the playing time.

Secondary Improvement

In 2013, the Vikings’ secondary was one of the worst in the league. Chris Cook, A.J. Jefferson and Josh Robinson were flat-out awful. So were Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond. There were some bright signs; toward the end of the season, Xavier Rhodes, Shaun Prater, Robert Blanton and Marcus Sherels all displayed potential. With Blanton moving back to safety, Jefferson getting arrested and subsequently released, and Chris Cook leaving in free agency, the Vikings’ knew they had to make some moves to offset the losses. They did that and more, bringing in Captain Munnerlyn from Carolina, and drafting safety Antone Exum out of Virginia in the sixth round. They also drafted cornerback Jabari Price out of North Carolina in the seventh round. New coach Jerry Gray has brought a rejuvenated, feisty and scrappy mindset to the struggling secondary.

Quarterback Play

Matt Cassel played like a Super Bowl champion. In the preseason. It remains to be seen whether the veteran can carry his play into the regular season. As everyone knows, the Vikings have a competent backup option in rookie Teddy Bridgewater who should come in to start some point in the season (my guess: Week 6). In the meantime, Cassel will be playing for his starting job. If he keeps up his spectacular play, the Vikings might not even want to bring in their rookie quarterback. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cassel did continue to perform well, considering his success both in the preseason and a while ago with New England. Of course, I’m and Vikings fan and remain forever optimistic about this seemingly cursed position, so my opinion is probably irrelevant. Inevitably, both Cassel and Teddy will suck. We know they will. After all, they play quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.

PREDICTION (totally unbiased):

Shaun Hill and the Rams offense don’t have enough weapons to score more than 20 on the Vikings revamped defense. A seemingly better Matt Cassel and receiving weapons Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings should complement Adrian Peterson’s rushing.

Score: Vikings 28, Rams 14


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