Early Look: Vikings at Saints

EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings football is back.

Minnesota kicks off its preseason schedule on the road Friday night when the Vikings will face the Saints in New Orleans. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT).

This is the first of four preseason games for Minnesota. The Vikings will host Seattle on Aug. 18 and Arizona on Aug. 24 at U.S. Bank Stadium before wrapping up the preseason slate at Buffalo on Aug. 29.

The Saints went 13-3 and won the NFC South in 2018, but they lost at home to the Rams in the NFC title game.

Here’s a look at Minnesota’s preseason opener against New Orleans:

Passing: There are plenty of familiar faces in this one, whether it’s a future Hall of Fame quarterback or a signal caller well-known in Minnesota.

The Saints are led by Drew Brees, who is currently the NFL’s all-time passing leader with 74,437 yards and ranks second in league history with 520 career passing touchdowns. (Brees can pass Peyton Manning’s mark of 539 touchdowns with 20 passing scores in 2019).

A fan favorite in New Orleans, the 40-year-old Brees set an NFL single-season record in 2018 by completing 74.4 percent of his passes.

While it remains to be seen how long Brees will play Friday night, the Vikings could see one of their former first-round picks in action.

Teddy Bridgewater is in his second season as the backup in New Orleans. He started for the Saints in Week 17 in 2018, completing 14 of 22 passes for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a loss.

The Vikings also will need to keep an eye on Taysom Hill, a jack-of-all-trades player who plays quarterback, tight end, wide receiver and special teams.

Rushing: This position is similar to the quarterbacks, as the Saints have one of the league’s best players at this spot … and a former Viking on the roster.

Alvin Kamara has 3,146 yards from scrimmage in his first two seasons in the league. He also has scored 32 total touchdowns, which ranks second among all players in that span.

Former Minnesota running back Latavius Murray signed with New Orleans in the offseason after spending the past two seasons with the Vikings.

Murray has 899 carries for 3,698 yards and 34 touchdowns as he enters his sixth season. He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders but was injured for all of his 2013 rookie campaign.

New Orleans also has running backs Matt Dayes, Devine Ozigbo, Jacquizz Rodgers and Dwayne Washington on its roster, as well as former Viking Zach Line and Michael Burton at fullback.

Receiving: Surprise, surprise … the Saints have one of the NFL’s top pass-catchers, too.

Michael Thomas just signed a contract extension with the Saints, and he has the most catches in NFL history in a player's first three seasons with 321. Thomas also has 3,787 career receiving yards and 23 touchdowns since 2016.

Veterans Ted Ginn, Jr., and Rishard Matthews are also on the Saints roster, as are Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood and Tre’Quan Smith. Less-experience receivers include Emmanuel Butler, Simmie Cobbs, Travin Dural, Cyril Grayson, Jr., Deonte Harris and Lil’Jordan Humphrey.

Defense: These aren’t your older brother’s Saints, especially on defense.

New Orleans finished 27th or worst in yards allowed from 2014-2016, but has climbed to the middle of the pack in the past two seasons. The Saints finished 14th in both yards allowed (349.1) and points against (22.1) per game in 2018.

The recent improvements have helped take pressure off Brees and the offense.

There are plenty of playmakers on that side of the ball, including defensive end Cameron Jordan, the son of 2019 Vikings Ring of Honor inductee Steve Jordan with 71.5 career sacks. Defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, the 12th overall pick in 2016, had 8.0 sacks last season.

Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is one of the league’s best young players in the secondary. He has seven interceptions and five forced fumbles in his first two seasons in the league.

Safety Marcus Williams has six interceptions since being a second-round pick in 2017.

Special teams: Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but a former Viking is now with New Orleans.

Marcus Sherels signed with the Saints this offseason after nine seasons in Purple. He is Minnesota’s franchise leader in punt returns (231), punt return yards (2,447) and punt returns for scores (five).

Recent Trend

The Saints know a thing or two about tough playoff losses.

New Orleans was on the wrong end of the “Minneapolis Miracle” in January of 2018, when Case Keenum connected with Stefon Diggs for a 61-yard, walk-off winner as time expired.

Then, in January of 2019, the Saints were a win away from Super Bowl LIII but lost at home after a controversial no-call of pass interference with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

New Orleans lost 26-23 in overtime. Brees was intercepted on the Saints opening drive before the Rams won it on a 57-yard field goal.

The league implemented new rules for the 2019 season, as pass interference can now be challenged by coaches and is reviewable.

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