On Sunday afternoon at 3:25 central time, the wait for live Minnesota Vikings football is over.
The 2022 preseason will kick off for the Vikings as they face the 1-0 Las Vegas Raiders on NFL Network. Along with the start of the 62nd season in franchise history, it also officially dawns a new era of Vikings football with the debuts of head coach Kevin O’Connell and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
As we look forward to the game itself, here are five things to watch for during Sunday’s matchup.
Offensive Scheme Changes
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Over the past few years, the Vikings have been focusing primarily on running 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends, two receivers) and 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end, two receivers). The usage of fullback CJ Ham was varied from play to play, as he sometimes lined up as a tight end. The Vikings ran 348 snaps (34%) last season out of those formations.
This season, 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) will be the focus. The Vikings used that formation on 451 snaps (44%) of the time. Last season, with O’Connell as the offensive coordinator for the Rams, they were the top team in using 11 personnel on 830 snaps (84%). The Vikings are going to transition to utilizing more 11 personnel, but Ham will still be featured in this offense.
New Defensive Scheme
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On top of the offensive scheme evolving, the defensive one is completely changing.
For the first time, the Vikings are moving to a 3-4 base. While the catalyst of Ed Donatell’s scheme revolves around Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith, they won’t be playing this Sunday, when the scheme will be debuting in its entirety. DJ Wonnum and Patrick Jones II will be getting the early reps with the ability to separate themselves from the rest of the position group.
Battle For WR4
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The first three wide receiver spots are set in stone. The fourth, fifth and sixth spots are up for grabs.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette is in a prime position to win the fourth wide receiver spot. Bisi Johnson and sixth-round pick Jalen Nailor have the inside track for those spots, but special teams ace Dan Chisena could end up getting that sixth spot. Also in contention are Thomas Hennigan, Albert Wilson, Myron Mitchell, Trishton Jackson and Blake Proehl (currently on the PUP list).
Offensive Line Hierarchy
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With the issues the Vikings have had on the offensive line over the last few years, having three stalwarts to great starters is a welcomed change. Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland and Brian O’Neill are all set to play a big role for the Vikings.
The right guard and center positions are up for grabs. Jesse Davis has the inside track for the right guard spot with second-round pick Ed Ingram, Oli Udoh and Chris Reed all trying to win the job.
Reed is an interesting one. With Garrett Bradbury’s struggles at center, there have been rumors swirling about the Vikings potentially acquiring a center if those struggles continue. Reed has been taking snaps at the position for that reason. Second-string center Austin Schlottman has an opportunity to win the job as well.
Are the Vikings Kicker Woes Over?
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The Vikings have had massive issues at the kicker position for about 10 years. They panicked on then-rookie Daniel Carlson and released him after just two games, and he was the best kicker since Blair Walsh lost his confidence.
Reports on Joseph have been tremendous. He has been lights out thus far at camp. It is still a question as to whether he can see that translate to gameday, as he has missed as many extra points as field goals (8).