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Lunch Break, 9/8: Vikings Evaluating MLB Options

The Vikings haven't announced their starter at middle linebacker after taking a look at three players as the starting "Mike" this preseason: Gerald Hodges (the past two preseason outings), Eric Kendricks (one game) and Audie Cole (the first two preseason games).

Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com caught up with Hodges to see how he thinks the recent action at a new spot is going. Krammer wrote:

*Hodges, 24, was purely an outside linebacker before this summer. After being just a special teams contributor as a rookie, he made seven spot starts last season when injuries held Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway out. Last month, he was asked to audition for a hole in the middle of the defense — and Hodges jumped at the chance. He's no stranger to switching positions for playing time. *

Initially a safety at Penn State, Hodges approached then-coach Joe Paterno in 2009 to switch to linebacker when injuries forced NaVorro Bowman and Sean Lee off the field.

Hodges told Krammer "middle linebacker is not an easy position," but added it allows him to incorporate "his type of game."

"Just coming downhill, helmet to helmet combat and being able to be in the thick of things," Hodges told Krammer.

The Vikings open the regular season against the 49ers in the second game of a doubleheader on Monday Night Football.

Versatile addition

The Vikings executed a trade to acquire offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles, and versatility could be a key factor in what he brought from San Diego.

Master Tesfatsion of the *Star Tribune *asked Sirles about the unique way in which he became a Viking.

"It was a scenario I never really had thought through," Sirles told Tesfatsion. "Someone was excited about me and that's all I really wanted was an opportunity. I think I have a great opportunity here to come and play."

Tesfatsion noted:

*Sirles practiced with the Vikings for the first time on Monday. The 2014 undrafted rookie free agent said he played all five spots along the offensive line in training camp with the Chargers and played both tackle positions at Nebraska. Sirles, 24, played in two games last season as a rookie and made his first career start in Week 17 against the Chiefs. He felt the speed of the game was the biggest adjustment he had to make last year. *

"You can't replicate game speed in practice," Sirles said. "You can try as much as you want, but it's really hard. So to get out there and see what the live bullets feel like, I feel gave me a leg up going into this preseason."

A look way ahead

As part of his season preview, Alex Marvez with Fox Sports, cast projections into January for Wild Card weekend, in which he sees a matchup of the Vikings (as a sixth seed) and Cardinals (as a three seed).

Marvez wrote:

*The Vikings and Cardinals will be able to reflect fondly upon their 2015 regular seasons. Minnesota will make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons with Adrian Peterson steamrolling to the NFL's rushing title and promising young players like quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and outside linebacker Anthony Barr continuing to flower. After two straight seasons of double-digit wins without a division title, the Cardinals will finally catch Seattle in the AFC West race. Unfortunately for both squads, the progress made this season will end for one of them after this game. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has yet to win a playoff game since entering the league in 2003. The streak will continue. The Vikings force three Cardinals turnovers and Peterson rushes for 125 yards and two touchdowns as Minnesota wins its first postseason tilt since 2009. *

Final: Minnesota 27, Arizona 17

Pick 'em

In a different set of projections for NFL.com, a panel of writers outlined their picks for MVP, Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and Comeback Player of the Year.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was picked by six of the 13 panelists as their leading candidate for Coach of the Year, and Adrian Peterson was picked by six of the 13 as most likely to be the Offensive Player of the Year. View full results here.

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