While it doesn’t carry with it the same excitement as the draft, the schedule release or the first day of training camp, the Minnesota Vikings’ offseason hit another milestone Friday afternoon when the team released its preseason schedule. It won’t be long until the spring/summer sports abyss begins, and the way the Minnesota Twins have started their season, thinking of preseason football can be a welcome diversion – even though it’s still over four months out.
Here’s a look at the preseason schedule, with both road games still lacking an unofficial date.
Preseason Week 1 (Aug. 12-14): @ Cincinnati Bengals
Preseason Week 2 (Aug. 19-21): @ Seattle Seahawks
Preseason Week 3 (Aug. 28): vs. San Diego Chargers
Preseason Week 4 (Sept. 1): vs. Los Angeles Rams
Let’s be real, none of this stuff truly matters. The Vikings ran the table in the preseason two years ago and finished 7-9. Cordarrelle Patterson looked good in the preseason each of the last two years and fell flat on his face in the regular season. Teddy Bridgewater connected with Mike Wallace on a deep ball last preseason in Dallas, which turned out to be a tantalizing little four-leaf clover that never showed up when it mattered.
Let’s be real, none of this stuff truly matters.
But it’s fun to pretend like the games mean something. After all, sportswriters need a tune-up as well. How else do you get prepared to hype a full slate of 16 regular season games?
Frankly, there are some nice storylines in this four-game slate that will keep things interesting as the Vikings march toward Week 1. Let’s take a closer look.
Week 1 @ Cincinnati: It has yet to happen in the regular season, and it won’t until 2017, but Mike Zimmer will finally get to coach against the team he spent six years with. If you remember back in Week 12 when the Vikings beat the Atlanta Falcons – a place where Zimmer spent one year as defensive coordinator – the head coach told the team in the locker room how much the game meant to him, presumably because of his Atlanta ties. As emotional as it might be for Zimmer to play the Bengals, he obviously won’t be too worried about the outcome in the opening preseason game.
Of course, this game will also be the unveiling of Minnesota’s rookie class.
While Bengals fans probably won’t see too much of their former cornerback Terence Newman, they may get a long glimpse of four-year Bengal Emmanuel Lamur, who will be looking to earn playing time in Minnesota as a weakside linebacker or in the nickel defense. Lamur had his best season in 2014 when he started 13 games in Cincinnati, made two interceptions and recorded 59 tackles.
Of course, this game will also be the unveiling of Minnesota’s rookie class. Last year, it was a brutal debut for first-round pick Trae Waynes, who seemed overwhelmed trying to cover Pittsburgh receivers in the Hall of Fame Game, while receivers MyCole Pruitt and Stefon Diggs looked composed and competent. This season the Vikings will be debuting in the state of Ohio once again and perhaps getting their first look at a top receiving prospect or maybe a highly-touted offensive lineman. The Vikings have great depth at a number of positions – primarily O-line, D-line, tight end and receiver – so it will noteworthy to see how the coaching staff divvies up reps.
Week 2 @ Seattle: It’s a preseason grudge match for the ages. Well, not really. Minnesota could win this game 99-0 and still not get over the sting of losing to Seattle in last year’s Wild Card game. Back in January, it was minus-6 degrees. This coming August, it may be 90 degrees warmer. And nothing will be at stake. More realistically, this game will trigger lots of painful replays of Blair Walsh’s missed kick and a healthy dose of what-could-have-been reminiscence.
Speaking of Walsh, his play throughout the preseason will be a big talker.
Speaking of Walsh, his play throughout the preseason will be a big talker. Last year he missed six kicks in an elongated five-game preseason, and even though he mostly righted the ship and made the most field goals of any NFL kicker in the regular season, the stigma of the preseason seemed to follow him around for the whole year. Like a struggling hockey goalie, Seattle fans will probably be telling Walsh he’s a “Sieve!” Can he shut out the noise and begin the slow process of reversing the karma and rebuilding his once-strong reputation?
Week 3 vs San Diego: The Vikings have very few connections with San Diego, other than they crushed them at TCF Bank Stadium last year, but that’s OK because the story of this game will be US Bank Stadium. Minnesota christens the new field with a noon kickoff on Sunday, Aug. 28 – an odd time for a preseason game but critical to the breaking-in of the new facility as they’ll be able to simulate traffic flow and parking patterns.
Fans will get to see the lighting through the glass doors and roof as it will be during most regular season games, and if the Vikings make some big plays early, they’ll get to experience the gaudy decibel figures the new stadium will supposedly pump out.
It’s a nice touch that the first football game at the new palace will be the game where Minnesota plays its starters the longest.
It’s a nice touch that the first football game at the new palace will be the game where Minnesota plays its starters the longest. Teddy Bridgewater will probably play into the third quarter, as will most other starters. It’s worth wondering if Adrian Peterson will be suited up after he skipped the preseason last year and looked haggard in Week 1. At age 31, however, it’s still more likely we don’t see A.P. until the regular season opener.
Week 4 vs Los Angeles: In another rematch of a regular season game from last year, the Vikings play the no-longer-St. Louis Rams. The franchise will be starting fresh on the west coast after Stan Kroenke moved them out of a bad stadium situation and into a major market that hasn’t had pro football in decades. Like the Vikings did the past two years, Los Angeles will play in a temporary stadium while their new home is built.
Of course, the most exciting part of preseason game no. 4 is that the regular season is on the horizon.
There may still be some bitterness between these two clubs, as well. In Week 9 of last season, Lamarcus Joyner crushed a sliding Teddy Bridgewater and concussed the young quarterback, which led to some national talk of head coach Jeff Fisher and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams promoting dirty football. Mike Zimmer said after the game that he and Fisher might have fought if they’d been on the street. It could be a curt postgame handshake between the two less than a year after Fisher’s player endangered Bridgewater’s health.
Of course, the most exciting part of preseason game no. 4 is that the regular season is on the horizon. The real schedule should be released sometime in the next month – another welcome distraction if the Twins keep free-falling into oblivion.