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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad’s 3-and-out: Cook, Iloka and Sloter all provide positives for Vikings

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings are two weeks away from playing host to the San Francisco in their regular-season opener and at this point the concerns for Mike Zimmer’s team are obvious. We’ve written plenty about the offensive line and kicking situation.

But there are plenty of positives for a franchise coming off a 13-3 season and a berth in the NFC title game. Here are three of them coming out of the Vikings’ preseason victory over Seattle on Friday night at U.S. Bank Stadium

The return of Dalvin

Dalvin Cook was in for only four snaps on Friday, but the fact the Vikings felt comfortable putting the second-year running back on the field was a significant step in his recovery from the torn left ACL he suffered on Oct. 1 of last season against Detroit.

Cook figures to be a significant part of new coordinator John DeFilippo’s offense and his versatility is going to be key. On the Vikings’ first offensive play Friday, Cook lined up in the slot before carrying the ball for no gain, getting 1-yard and a first down on third-and-1 and finally being the target of a Kirk Cousins incompletion.

Cook appeared to be a steal for the Vikings as a second-round pick in 2017 and his rookie season was off to an outstanding start before he suffered his knee injury at U.S. Bank Stadium. His 288 rushing yards were the most by any Vikings rookie running back through three games, passing Adrian Peterson’s 271 in 2017 and Chuck Foreman’s 231 in 1973. Cook also had 11 receptions for 90 yards.

He brings the exact type of all-around game that the Vikings would have liked to have seen from Peterson. He is a legitimate threat as a receiver and also is solid in pass protection. Cook is able to play without a brace and appears to be in outstanding shape.

He figures to sit out the Vikings’ preseason finale on Thursday at Tennessee — all the starter are likely to sit — but definitely will be in line for extensive action against the 49ers. Don’t be surprised if he makes an immediate impact.

By George, I think he’ll have an impact

It didn’t take safety George Iloka long to make a play for the Vikings.

The veteran, who was released by the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend and signed a one-year contract for only $790,000 with Minnesota on Wednesday, tipped a pass in the fourth quarter that was picked off by teammate Anthony Harris. Zimmer was Iloka’s defensive coordinator for his first two seasons with the Bengals and knows exactly what he’s getting.

What makes Iloka’s signing so interesting is that we don’t know how Zimmer plans to use him in his defense. The initial reaction of many was that Iloka would replace Andrew Sendejo at safety but that likely won’t be the case.

What Iloka’s presence will do is enable Zimmer to employ a defensive package with three safeties and turn Harrison Smith loose to basically be a safety, cornerback and linebacker. Smith is one of the NFL’s best and smartest safeties and could cause nightmares for opposing teams that aren’t going to know what to expect from him if Iloka and Sendejo also are on the field.

Now imagine a look that enables Smith and linebacker Anthony Barr the freedom to lineup at different spots. The Vikings defense already was one of the best in the NFL — if not the best — before Iloka signed. Zimmer now has another chess piece to mess with opposing offenses.

Another positive impression

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Kyle Sloter this preseason but it’s hard not to be impressed by the Vikings’ third quarterback. The latest example came Friday as he rallied Minnesota to a 21-20 victory by throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chad Beebe with 54 seconds left in the fourth quarter and then completed a 2-point conversion pass to Jake Wieneke for the win.

The Vikings outbid several teams to sign Sloter to their practice squad when Denver let him go in its final cuts last year and it’s looking more and more as if he will make Minnesota’s 53-man roster. Sloter was impressive in the Vikings’ preseason opener this year, completing 9-of-11 passes for 69 yards with a touchdown and also running for a 14-yard touchdown against the Broncos.

On Friday, he completed 11 of 15 passes for 85 yards and had a passer rating of 126.4. That came after backup quarterback Trevor Siemian completed 4-of-8 passes for only 3 yards. Sloter is far from perfect but he has shown an ability to make plays and that’s a good start. He also comes off as a very confident, but not overly cocky, player.

“He’s (made plays) a couple of games this year,” Zimmer said. “So that’s been good to see. He moves in the pocket well, he needs to speed up his rhythm a little bit. He’s made some plays. The touchdown was a big play.”

The post Zulgad’s 3-and-out: Cook, Iloka and Sloter all provide positives for Vikings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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