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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Vikings-Jaguars: 10 things to watch

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings are set to face off with the Jacksonville Jaguars at US Bank Stadium on Saturday. Here’s what we’ll be focused on during the Vikings’ second preseason game…

How many snaps will Kirk Cousins take?

The Vikings’ starting quarterback opened the preseason with one spectacular drive and then watched the rest of the team’s victory from the sidelines. While you could argue that Cousins shouldn’t play at all considering how much is on the line this season, it’s likely that he and the first-team offense get a couple of looks in front of the US Bank Stadium crowd. The Vikings’ starters have had an up-and-down camp in live reps with some spectacular throws coming from Cousins’ arm, but also some two-minute drill struggles. It’s possible the Vikings’ coaching staff would like to simulate some type of up-tempo situation on Saturday.

Will Dalvin Cook play?

Mike Zimmer remained mum on the status of Dalvin Cook for the Vikings’ matchup with the Jaguars, but there’s nothing to be concerned about if he doesn’t play. Cook appears to be up to speed as he returns from ACL surgery and has split first-team reps with Latavius Murray throughout camp without incident. He is in line to be up to full speed for Week 1 against the 49ers. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he saw action in the third preseason game.

Can Brandon Zylstra win a job?

The former CFL star had a terrific start to camp, but got hurt just before last week’s game against the Broncos. With Stacy Coley on the shelf, he will get plenty of opportunity to rise to the occasion against the Jags. Beyond Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell, the Vikings’ receiver room is yet to be settled. Zylstra is battling with Kendall Wright, Cayleb Jones, Tavarres King, Jeff Badet, Chad Beebe and Jake Wieneke for a spot. Beebe was strong against Denver, which opens the door to more opportunities in preseason Week 2.

The battle for RB3 continues

Roc Thomas was the star of preseason Week 1, catching two touchdown passes and looking strong in the run game, but Mike Boone and Mack Brown shouldn’t be considered out of the race yet. Boone got off to a slow start, though he picked things up in the second half of the Vikings’ preseason opener. Both players have impressed at times during camp, while Brown’s playing time in the fourth quarter in Game 1 may be an indication of where he stands in the race.

Brian O’Neill, starting RT

Rashod Hill tweaked an ankle at practice this week, leaving the door open for Brian O’Neill to make a case for himself as the starting right tackle. Mike Zimmer said this week O’Neill has made huge strides since OTAs. If his trajectory continues, we may see the former Pitt standout starting Week 1.

The Vikings’ O-line will once again be in flux as they look the find Nick Easton’s permanent replacement. Last week Danny Isidora had a strong game at right guard while Tom Compton had some bumps in the road. Zimmer wouldn’t commit to Compton as the starter. Aviante Collins is also in the mix as he played both tackle and guard last week.

How much — and where — will Mike Hughes play?

In the week leading up to the Vikings’ preseason matchup with the Jags, Mike Hughes saw some snaps at nickel corner with the first team. It still appears Mackensie Alexander has the starting job, but he’s hearing footsteps. Zimmer raved about Hughes’ quick growth and understanding of a new position. Combine that with the first-round pick’s athleticism and he’s got a shot to make a case for himself as the starter. If Hughes plays exclusively with the twos and spends some time on the outside, that will be a hint that he’s still the rotational corner at the moment.

The kicking competition continues

Daniel Carlson got off to a lead in the competition by bombing a 57-yard field goal in Denver. Now it’s likely to be Kai Forbath’s turn to get all the kicks. In practice, the two kickers have been neck-and-neck. If Fortbath isn’t perfect, it will be tougher to recover, but not impossible. It appears this thing is going down to the wire.

Defensive line rotation

After a very good game in Denver, Tashawn Bower has missed practice time this week. If he doesn’t play, there will be opportunities for someone to make a case for themselves. Stephen Weatherly also had a solid opening game, which gives him an edge up on a role as a rotational pass rusher. And on the interior, Jaleel Johnson played both nose and three-technique, which may indicate he’ll be a swing man backup for Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson. Nose tackle David Parry is playing for a job and Jalyn Holmes is aiming to prove he can consistently create pressure and stop the run on the inside.

Will Holton Hill make a push?

The Vikings’ undrafted free agent from Texas arrived with an opportunity to win a job, but hasn’t yet made a good enough case to guarantee himself a spot. He had some ups and downs against the Broncos, which could lead the Vikings to keep Marcus Sherels as a depth corner and punt/kick returner rather than giving Hill a job. That is, of course, unless he steps up and forces the Vikings to keep him.

Sloter time again?

While things haven’t always been pretty in camp, third-string quarterback Kyle Sloter was fantastic against his former team. It’s likely that he will get a large number of reps as he attempts to convince the Vikings to keep three quarterbacks. With a strong arm and good athleticism, he’s the type of developmental quarterback who could be a backup for the Vikings down the road.

The post Vikings-Jaguars: 10 things to watch appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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