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Zulgad: Five things to keep an eye on as Vikings open U.S. Bank Stadium

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings will play host to their first-ever game in U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, facing the San Diego Chargers in the exhibition that traditionally serves as the dress rehearsal for the regular season.

The Vikings will close the preseason on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams, but the exhibition finale is usually reserved for the coaching staff to take a look at guys on the roster bubble or backups who need more work.

The Vikings will have to cut their roster to 75 by 3 p.m. on Thursday, a few hours before the Rams game, and to the regular-season limit of 53 players by 3 p.m. on Sept. 5.

With this in mind, here are five things to keep an eye on as you watch Sunday’s game.

The return of Teddy

Teddy Bridgewater did not play in the Vikings’ second preseason game in Seattle because coach Mike Zimmer, and the athletic training staff, decided to hold him out due to soreness in the quarterback’s shoulder.

Bridgewater did not throw a pass for four days before beginning to ease back into some passing work on Tuesday. Ordinarily, the expectation would be that Bridgewater would play the entire first half, and perhaps a series in the second, against the Chargers but it remains to be seen how much Zimmer uses his starting QB.

Bridgewater’s preseason workload consists of two series in the opener at Cincinnati – he threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson – so Zimmer certainly would like to get Bridgewater some more work.

However, the Vikings aren’t about to take any chances with their third-year quarterback. If Bridgewater does play, it won’t be surprising if his playing time ends up being reduced from the norm.

Center of attention

Joe Berger and John Sullivan have both spent training camp taking reps at center with the first-team offense and Sunday’s game should help determine which veteran opens the season snapping the ball to Bridgewater.

Berger started last season after Sullivan was forced to sit out because of two back surgeries. One would have to think the Vikings entered camp hoping Sullivan could return to his starting job because Berger’s greatest attribute might be the versatility he brings to the line.

Berger started both preseason games at right guard in place of the injured Brandon Fusco, but Fusco has returned enabling Berger to shift back to center for now.

Sullivan, 31, is due to make a base salary of $5.4 million this season; Berger, 34, is due to make a base salary of $985,000. That makes Sullivan an expensive backup, if he fails to beat out Berger for the job. Nick Easton is the Vikings’ third-team center and could be second on the depth chart if Berger is named the starter and Sullivan is let go.

New look at left tackle

Matt Kalil left the Vikings’ practice last Sunday because of an apparent leg injury and did limited or now work in practices for the remainder of the week.

While the Vikings haven’t disclosed what’s wrong with Kalil and aren’t committed to until the first injury report of the season is issues in Week 1, it won’t be surprising if Kalil does not play against the Chargers.

That could mean an opportunity for 2015 starting right tackle T.J. Clemmings to get some first-team work at left tackle. Clemmings was put in a very difficult spot last season when Phil Loadholt ruptured his Achilles’ early in the preseason and the rookie fourth-round pick had to take over as the starter.

Clemmings was competing with veteran free-agent pickup Andre Smith for the right tackle spot before Kalil was injured. Kalil has been looking to rebound from three average to subpar seasons since putting together a strong rookie campaign in 2012.

The Vikings hope has been that Kalil, who is due to make a base salary of $11.1 million in the final season of his contract, will rebound and prove he can be an elite left tackle.

But what happens if Kalil doesn’t rebound, or if injury keeps him out for an extended period? The Vikings might begin to get the answer to that question, if Clemmings starts on Sunday.

Cornering the market

Xavier Rhodes did not practice after injuring his hamstring against Seattle and it seems almost certain he won’t play Sunday.

This should mean second-year cornerback Trae Waynes, the Vikings’ first-round pick in 2015, will get the start opposite veteran Terence Newman at the right corner spot.

What will be interesting to see is what type of look 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander will receive. The 5-foot-10 Alexander has been considered to be the guy who eventually will take over for Captain Munnerlyn as the Vikings’ nickel back, but it’s clear Alexander’s confidence and play-making ability has caught the eye of Zimmer in training camp.

“He has still got a long ways to go, but he has got great quickness,” Zimmer said of Alexander. “He has got great confidence. He has got great competitiveness. He’s very, very quick and he wants to challenge receivers. … I think his technique is getting better.”

Zimmer has like what he has seen enough from Alexander that he has given him reps at an outside corner.

It seemed like a long shot entering camp, but you have to wonder if Alexander could have a chance to move past Waynes on the depth chart.

Home-field advantage

After two seasons of playing home games in TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus, the Vikings will play their first game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The stadium, which seats 66,200 and sits on the site where the Metrodome once stood, will give the Vikings the type of money-making venue that former owner Red McCombs tried to get built for several years and the type of building that current owner Zygi Wilf attempted to get from the day he bought the franchise in 2005.

The Metrodome didn’t have much going for it, other than the fact that the stadium’s noise level (some of it real and perhaps some of it piped in) caused a major problem for opposing offenses.

U.S. Bank Stadium won’t have an ugly dome holding in the noise, but it is an indoor facility and the Vikings hope is that fans will create enough noise that Aaron Rodgers and other opposing quarterbacks won’t be able to think straight when it matters.

The Vikings practiced for the first time at U.S. Bank Stadium on Friday, and will start to get a real feel for the place on Sunday.

The post Zulgad: Five things to keep an eye on as Vikings open U.S. Bank Stadium appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Deadspin was unbelievably harsh to the Vikings and Adrian Peterson

By Derek Wetmore

If you’re a fan of an NFL team, from time to time you probably get annoyed with that team.

This column from Deadspin takes that to an extreme.

As part of the “Why Your Team Sucks” series, Deadspin lampooned the Vikings, kicker Blair Walsh, Minnesotans and Adrian Peterson.

Here’s a link to the full article, which doesn’t exactly use family-friendly language. In a lot of cases the piece goes over the top for humor.

Here are a few excerpts from the scathing review:

Teddy has the arm strength of a wingless seagull. Every pass downfield looks like it’s on replay. Faced with a mild pass rush, Teddy looks like the town bully just told him to meet him behind school at three o’clock.

Or how about this one?

On the field, GM Rick Spielman made only a token effort to revamp what was the worst line in team history. You’d have a harder time knocking down a row of dominoes.

Oh, and don’t forget this.

Also, Norv is still the OC. If Norv Turner were a doctor he’d leave a scalpel inside you by accident. Watch any game called by Norv and you will witness at least one drive, perhaps more, that seems to have been deliberately sabotaged.

Check out the full thing at Deadspin – as long as you’re not on a work computer or anything.

The post Deadspin was unbelievably harsh to the Vikings and Adrian Peterson appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

Vikings-Chargers Game Elements

By Craig Peters The Vikings will host the Chargers at noon (CT) Sunday in the first football game inside U.S. Bank Stadium. Here’s a rundown of the in-game elements, as well as festivities before the game. Gates …

Source:: Minnesota Vikings: News

Winning Formula: Impact Of The Move Inside

The voice of the Vikings, Paul Allen, and vikings.com’s Mike Wobschall look at the on-the-field impact of the team moving back inside to U.S. Bank Stadium this season, as well as what to watch for when the Vikings battle the Chargers on Sunday.

Source:: Minnesota Vikings: Videos

Vikings Voyage Fan Space Honors Heritage, Embarks into Future

By Craig Peters MINNEAPOLIS — Generations of Vikings fans are about to embark on a bold and fantastic voyage. The team unveiled the “Vikings Voyage,” a 10,000-square-foot interactive and historic space on Friday …

Source:: Minnesota Vikings: News

The Skinny Post: Vikings Ready to Debut U.S. Bank Stadium

By Eric Smith It’s time to Open The Gates. The Vikings will play their first-ever football game inside U.S. Bank Stadium at noon (CT) Sunday when they host the San Diego Chargers. Minnesota is 2-0 in the presea…

Source:: Minnesota Vikings: News

T.J. Clemmings Tackling a Multiple Positions

By Eric Smith EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — It’s best to keep a keen eye on T.J. Clemmings during Vikings practices or games. The second-year offensive tackle has lined up on the right side with the first team on some …

Source:: Minnesota Vikings: News

Longtime Fan ‘Joe Viking’ Celebrates 90th Birthday with Opening of U.S. Bank Stadium

By Lindsey Young EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Joe Sokierka barely makes it through the stadium parking lot before a fan stops him and asks to take a photo with the infamous “Joe Viking,” his moniker of choice. Joe pauses…

Source:: Minnesota Vikings: News

Ep. 30: Playing with Herschel Walker

By Emmanuel Hill

This week on the Star Power Podcast, the Superstar Mike Morris shares a few stories about playing with Herschel Walker after the running back came to Minnesota in the infamous trade. Star also gives his impressions of Dallas Cowboys rookie back Ezekiel Elliott, and of course how the Vikings have looked in the first two preseason games.

The post Ep. 30: Playing with Herschel Walker appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

New 360-Degree Images as U.S. Bank Stadium Opens the Gates

By Vikings PR Get a unique 360-degree look at U.S. Bank Stadium as the gates were opened prior to the Vikings practice on Friday. Open the Gates #1 Open the Gates #2 Open the Gates #3 Open the Gates #…

Source:: Minnesota Vikings: News