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Lunchbreak: Dalvin Cook Hoping for Birthday TD in Buffalo

Vikings running back Dalvin Cook will celebrate his 22nd birthday on the road and by suiting up for his first NFL preseason game. The Vikings are slated to face the Bills at 6 p.m. (CT) Thursday.

Chris Tomasson of the *Pioneer Press *caught up with Cook after the Vikings Saturday night practice at Blakeslee Stadium. The rookie told Tomasson that he feels good about the game and that "it's a good birthday present."

What would Cook like in addition to just playing in the game?

"Touchdowns,'' he told Tomasson. "A couple of touchdowns.''

Tomasson recapped Cook's evening, highlighting his 2-yard score in a goal-line situation but adding that he had his hands full with the Vikings defense. Tomasson wrote:

Cook didn't mind not exactly putting up gaudy stats.

"I kept pounding away,'' Cook told Tomasson. "I put my team in situations where we could get a first down, getting them four yards, three yards. You're going to have games like that sometimes. Just keep chipping away. I feel like I had a solid performance.''

While Cook hardly was dominant Saturday, [running back Bishop] Sankey noted he was going against perhaps the NFL's best defense.

"That's going to happen against our defense,'' Sankey said. "They're a great defense, so it's a good challenge for us each day to go against them. It's going to make us better for it.''

Increased nickel doesn't decrease importance of 3rd LB spot

In the wake of Chad Greenway's retirement following the 2016 season, the Vikings have a vacant spot at weakside linebacker.

Dave Campbell of the *Associated Press *wrote that while the use of a third linebacker in 4-3 teams has declined tremendously, it doesn't mean the position will be disregarded by Minnesota.

With the nickel package now in majority control of the playbook, thanks to the prevalence of passing attacks dominating the league these days, the third cornerback is more of a starter. The base defense might only be employed 30 or 40 percent of the time.

Campbell spoke with Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, who emphasized the importance of having the right player at weakside when it's called for.

"A lot of teams are still going to keep you in base, and we need a guy who can cover tight ends, a guy who can fit up the run and be good in the zone coverages," Zimmer told Campbell. "So it's an important position, and it's not one that we're going to overlook."

Campbell wrote that it is an "easy decision" to use a nickel cornerback in three-plus-receiver scenarios, but added that "Greenway's replacement isn't as obvious" in the base defense. He commented on Emmanuel Lamur, Edmond Robinson and rookie Ben Gedeon as current options there. Kentrell Brothers was sidelined with an injury on July 28 and hasn't yet returned to practice.

The weak side spot requires plenty of athleticism and instinct, with a keen understanding of blocking schemes, and it allows for more freedom. Zimmer went so far as to declare it easier than the strong side.

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Open competitions for the starting lineup have been rare since Zimmer arrived, with another multiple-player audition ongoing at defensive tackle this year.

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View images from Saturday's Verizon Vikings Training Camp night practice at Minnesota State Mankato.

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Danny Isidora partially credits youth soccer for footwork

Rookie guard Danny Isidora has received some attention from Vikings coaching staff throughout training camp, in part because of solid footwork.

Tim Yotter of *Vikings Update *spoke with Isidora, who told Yotter that his agility could be in part to playing a different sport as a youngster. Yotter wrote:

Isidora came to the Vikings as a fifth-round draft pick from Miami, and Florida is where he got an early start on footwork by playing youth soccer. He only played until about fifth grade, but those early years helped Isidora develop coordinated feet.

"[Offensive line coach Tony] Sparano says I have good feet, so I like to think I have good feet, quick feet and so that helps me out sometimes," Isidora told Yotter. "Sometimes in the pass, when I get caught up and stuff like that, when my technique is poor, my feet bail me out sometimes, even though they shouldn't."

Yotter wrote that Isidora has stood out particularly when sliding over to cut off an edge for a running back. The rookie responded that it's "definitely a strength" but that it's a play expected of all the guards.

"I've just been trying to work with what coach has been telling me every day with my sets and stuff like that with my feet, because I have to get them better," Isidora said.

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