The ever-important third week of the preseason has arrived. Even those who loathe the preseason know the third exhibition game is treated as the most important. It's often referred to as the "dress rehearsal" for the regular season. It stands to reason, then, that the storylines associated with the third preseason game are also important.
Here are five storylines to watch as the Vikings third preseason game rapidly approaches.
1. Will Zimmer name a starting quarterback after the game?Matt Cassel remains atop the depth chart, as it was entering training camp as well as entering each of the first two preseason games. Will another solid performance from Cassel on Saturday night in Kansas City set the stage for Zimmer to declare him the starter?
2. Starting jobs on defense still up for grabsTwo big training camp starting position battles to watch were that of middle linebacker and that of the safety spot next to Harrison Smith. With camp in the rear view mirror and the preseason more than half over, those two jobs are still up for grabs. Jasper Brinkley entered camp as the leading candidate at middle linebacker, and while he's still the starter there it doesn't appear as if he's locked up the job. Is this the week Audie Cole takes a big step forward? Or will Brinkley put his stamp on the job with an impressive performance against the Chiefs? Robert Blanton appeared to have the starting job at safety in his grasp until a hamstring injury. Now he along with a handful of others are battling it out.
3. Blair Walsh is ready to put your mind at easeMissed field goals from 51 and 53 yards, along with a missed extra point, have caused consternation within the Vikings fan base about Blair Walsh' 2014 season. But the Vikings don't appear to be worried. Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer said on Thursday that Walsh is 47 of 50 on field goals during team periods of practice, and Walsh's record through two full NFL seasons is nearly impeccable. A couple of intermediate-to-long distance makes on Saturday night in Arrowhead Stadium, and outdoor venue, would go a long way toward easing the fan base's minds.
4. Will Norv Turner open up the offense?Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner is one of the longest-tenured and most creative playcallers in the NFL. The Vikings opened up their offense a little more in the second preseason game than they did in the first. Will the third game see even more Turner aggressiveness? Tight end Kyle Rudolph has looked reinvigorated in Turner's scheme, coming off an injury, and second-year pro Cordarrelle Patterson appears to be taking an increased role in the offense. Will these trends continue against the Chiefs on Saturday?
5. Zimmer and staff's first road testThe 2013 Vikings were 0-7-1 on the road. You can be sure Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and his staff are determined to fix this team's road woes in 2014. This will be Zimmer's first road test with the Vikings, and it'll be interested to see A) what changes he makes to the team's road routine and B) how the team adjusts to those changes.