Next week, the Jaguars will travel to Minnesota for two joint practices with the Vikings before the two teams face off in their second preseason game at noon (CT) on Aug. 18.
The matchup should be a good one, featuring two of the league's top secondaries. In a recent roundtable-style article on Vikings.com, four NFL Media members voted on the NFL's best unit – two chose the Vikings, and two chose the Jaguars.
Former NFL quarterback David Carr said it was "close between the Ravens and Vikings" but said, "I have to go with Minnesota." Carr wrote:
Xavier Rhodes can shut down an entire side of the field by himself, and Harrison Smith is so versatile that, as a quarterback, you can't anticipate what Mike Zimmer's defense is going to do because Smith can do it all.
Shaun O'Hara also tabbed the Vikings, saying their defensive backs "will be game-wreckers." He wrote:
Mike Zimmer has the NFL's best defense right now. Harrison Smith is the top safety in the league, in my opinion. Xavier Rhodes shuts down top wideouts by making physical plays. Trae Waynes needs to display more consistency, but the 2015 first-rounder has steadily improved. Mackensie Alexander is embracing his role as the team's nickel corner, while first-round draft pick Mike Hughes and veteran Terence Newman add serious depth to this unit. The Vikings defensive line is athletic and applies a ton of pressure. Plus, that SKOL crowd is a huge benefit.
Reggie Bush and Brian Baldinger picked Jacksonville's secondary as the most talented.
Smith discusses NFL's new tackling rule changes
There has been lots of buzz around the league about the NFL's new rule changes heading into the 2018 season and how players will adapt to them.
Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune recently caught up with Vikings safety Harrison Smith to talk about perhaps the most talked-about rule, which pertains to tackling. Goessling wrote:
The league's latest iteration of rules changes penalizes players for lowering the helmet to strike an opponent on any part of his body and provides greater protections for quarterbacks after they've thrown a pass. It drew an exasperated response from players on social media last week after NFL referees visited training camps to debut the changes, and then put them into practice with a round of dubious flags during Thursday night's Hall of Fame Game.
Even if they don't agree with all of the new standards, the Vikings are already at work to play within them. Smith said defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has instructing the team's secondary on techniques to deal with the change cover and tackle within the NFL's stricter emphasis on use-of-helmet and illegal contact rules.
"One thing that [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer] really impresses upon us is, each year, there's going to be rule changes," Smith told Goessling. "We can complain about them all we want; that's not going to help us on game day. It's going to be a penalty, it's going to help the other team out.
"So, whether we like it or not, try to learn to play within them. At the same time, the way that it is right now, I don't think it's clear enough," Smith added. "It would be nice if there were some actual clear-cut rules, and we could start to apply them to the game."