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Lunchbreak: Cook’s Added Ingredient? Honesty from Defenses

No. 33 turned 23 today.

Assuming NFL scheduling stays the same, Dalvin Cook’s birthday will continue to align with the first full week of preseason games.

Last year, he made his pro debut in Buffalo on his birthday. This time, he and the Vikings are heading to Denver for Saturday’s game and his second pro season.

The first started impressively before he suffered a torn ACL in Week 4. Cook attacked the rehab and could see the field in a game for the first time since Oct. 1.

While his amount of action against the Broncos remains to be seen, what Cook has shown coaches, teammates and media members so far in Verizon Vikings Training Camp, has impressed. He’s worked from the backfield and lined up at receiver for some plays.

NFL.com’s Jeffri Chadiha visited camp this week and liked what he saw from Cook.

The Vikings even had him running some wide receiver drills during the offseason to gauge the ways he could be used in a game plan.

“He really has a second gear to be a home-run hitter every time he touches the football,” Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo told Chadiha. “We’re going to keep putting him in different spots to just get him the football. He’s going to be an explosive guy anywhere he gets the football, whether that’s running it, catching it, screens, whatever.”

Cook said it’s all about keeping a defense “honest” because it expands what a running back and offense can do.

“We have the weapons outside, threats at tight end and backs that can run,” Cook told Chadiha. “If we keep the defense honest, we’ll be something special to watch.”

Adam Thielen added: “It’s a totally different offense with him back. The guys who filled in last year did a great job — and Latavius [Murray] will play a big role this year — but Dalvin is one of those guys who comes to work and takes care of business. It’s a good thing as a receiver when he’s on the field, because he opens up so much on the outside.”

Not unchartered territory

The Vikings are heading into their first preseason contest with well-documented injuries in the middle of the offensive line.

Pat Elflein is on the Physically Unable to Perform list, recovering from an injury suffered in the NFC Championship Game. Nick Easton had moved from left guard to center to fill in but is now heading to Injured Reserve with a neck injury. Mike Remmers, whom the Vikings moved from right tackle to the right guard spot that opened when Joe Berger retired.

The Vikings have turned to Cornelius Edison, who spent 2017 on Minnesota’s practice squad, at center and flanked him with veteran Tom Compton at left guard and second-year pro Danny Isidora at right guard.

ESPN’s Courtney Cronin wrote that the performance of the offensive line could affect Minnesota’s decisions between now and the start of the season:

How the interior performs against Denver's defensive front might determine whether the Vikings decide to seek a guard from the free-agent market to fill holes. Coach Mike Zimmer said this week that Cousins would be in the game for as long as the first-team offensive line is on the field. Depending on how the first series goes will determine the length of both of their outings.

Cronin noted that new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has had recent experience behind a line with multiple moving parts on the line.

Last season in Washington, he played behind 36 different combinations and was sacked 41 times for a loss of 342 yards.

“It is a challenge,” Cousins said during a media session this week. “I’ve played with a depleted offensive line a little bit last year and it's certainly not preferred. Much of the offensive line play is like quarterback where you have players who down the road you know are going to be good players, but they may not be there yet and so it takes time, it takes reps. It takes these preseason games. We’ve got to throw them in the fire and get them work so that they can take those next steps. I see it as a great challenge for me as a quarterback.”

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