The Vikings tonight will open a season at home for the first time since 2012.
Minnesota and New Orleans will face off on the stage of Monday Night Football, and Matthew Coller of 1500ESPN.com broke down the teams' positional matchups. He opined which team holds the upper hand per position, identifying the running back, offensive line and coaching categories as a draw.
Across the board on defense, Coller gave the advantage to Minnesota. He wrote the following of the defensive line battle:
The Vikings were fifth in sacks last year, New Orleans was 27th, but Saints' DE Cameron Jordan has 17.5 sacks over the last two years.
The Vikings have a case for being the NFL's best defensive line. Danielle Hunter ranked third in the NFL in sacks last season. He joins two Pro Bowlers in Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen. The three technique position may have some questions against the run, but Tom Johnson is a strong pass rusher, and the Vikings will mix and match with Brian Robison.
Mackensie Alexander changing mindset for second season
As Mackensie Alexander enters his second NFL season, his mindset is different than that of last year.
The second-round draft pick recently spoke with Star Tribune writer Ben Goessling about his experience as a rookie and how he's approaching year two. Goessling wrote:
Since Mackensie Alexander was in high school, he'd always loved the stage on which the cornerback position put him: split wide from the defensive formation, away from the din of clashing bodies, locked in a balletic duel with an opponent's best receiver.
What the Vikings had in mind when they took the cornerback in the second round of the 2016 draft, though, was not the role he'd always cherished.
Alexander has been asked to play nickel cornerback, a position previously manned by Captain Munnerlyn, who returned to Carolina in free agency this spring. According to Goessling, Alexander's interest in the new position was nil.
"It was a different role for me, and I didn't want to take the role," Alexander told Goessling. "I didn't appreciate it. I didn't want to play it. I didn't want nothing to do with it."
After a year in the league — and some hard conversations with Vikings coaches — Alexander says he has a new outlook. And if the Vikings stick with their initial plan to play the second-year corner in the nickel, he'll still have plenty of attention coming his way at what's become one of the most important spots in an NFL defense.
The nickel cornerback has become an increasingly significant position in today's NFL as the league has seen an uptick of three-receiver (or more) sets.
The Vikings trade for Tramaine Brock gave them some insurance at the nickel, if not an alternative to Alexander. But if the 23-year-old is on the field against Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and the other veterans he'll face early this year, he knows he'll be tested.
"When you're a young guy, they're going to try to attack you, see if you can play and stuff like that," Alexander told Goessling. "I'm looking to make an impact there."