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Positional Preview for Vikings-Jaguars Joint Practices

EAGAN, Minn. — A pair the NFL's most promising teams are set to mix and mingle Wednesday and Thursday, as the Vikings will host the Jaguars for joint practices each day at Twin Cities Orthopedics Center.

But Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer wants to get one thing straight. These practices are about competition and improvement, not about antics or theatrics after the whistle.

"The biggest thing is that we want to get work done against a good team," Zimmer said. "It's important that our guys know that we're not going to put up with any trash talking, we're not going to put up with any fighting.  We're not here for that, we're here to get better.

"Hopefully our guys will know that, and they'll have the same thing. [Jaguars Head Coach Doug] Marrone and I have talked about it," Zimmer added. "We're really all about getting work done. We don't want to get in any kind of conflicts."

Both teams are coming off highly successful seasons. Both Minnesota and Jacksonville each reached their respective conference championship game.

Jacksonville will be without All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Dante Fowler. The players are suspended for the week and aren't making the trip to Minnesota.

"They're a good football team, went to the AFC Championship game last year," Zimmer said. "Whoever they bring, they bring, and whoever they don't, they don't. We're just going to go out and try to improve.

"Their defense is very similar to a lot of defenses that we're going to face this year schematically, so I think that that will be good, especially for our offense," Zimmer added. "They're a downhill, power running football team, which is going to be good for our defense."

Practice on Wednesday and Thursday is expected to run from 2:45-5 p.m.

Here are three matchups to watch as the Jaguars come to town:

Running Backs vs. Linebackers | By @Eric_L_Smith

When the Vikings are on offense …

Dalvin Cook did not play in Minnesota's preseason opener, but fellow running back Latavius Murray picked up the slack with four carries for 43 yards. The Vikings top backs will get a stern test against one of the league's top defenses, a unit that features the likes of linebackers Myles Jack and Telvin Smith. Jacksonville ranked 21st against the run in 2017 by allowing more than 116 yards per game, but Jack and Smith are rangy athletes who can get from sideline to sideline in a hurry. In addition to trying to maneuver past the duo, Cook and Murray could also go against them in the passing game. Finally, the joint practices are another opportunity for Roc Thomas, Mike Boone and Mack Brown to prove themselves against a talented unit.

When the Vikings are on defense …

Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks crashing through the line to try and bring down Leonard Fournette? Sign us up for that immediately. While there won't be live tackling, Barr and Kendricks will go toe-to-toe against one of the league's top power backs in Fournette, who had 1,040 rushing yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie in 2017. Jaguars backup T.J. Yeldon is a dual-purpose threat. The joint practices could also give the Vikings a chance to get a closer look at their linebacker depth, a group that includes Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson, Devante Downs, Antwione Williams and Reshard Cliett.

Offensive lines vs. defensive lines | By @LindseyMNSports

*_When the Vikings are on offense …_ *

The Vikings offensive line held up well against the Broncos Saturday night during Preseason 1, despite players being sidelined due to injury. Center Pat Elflein remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list, while Nick Easton – who had been filling in for Elflein – was added to Injured Reserve last week. Mike Remmers, who suffered an injury July 31, returned to practice this week after missing time. At Denver, Minnesota used the following starting five: LT Riley Reiff, LG Tom Compton, C Cornelius Edison, RG Danny Isidora and RT Rashod Hill.

The Vikings will go up against a talented pair of defensive ends in Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell, who combined for 26.5 sacks last season, but Minnesota's current combination on the interior of the line might be more compelling to see. Malik Jackson is the Jaguars' starting 3-technique and hasn't missed a game since 2014. At nose tackle, the Jaguars list Marcell Dareus and Abry Jones as co-starters.

Jacksonville's defensive in 2017 ranked No. 2 overall behind Minnesota, restricting opposing teams to an average of 286.1 yards per game. In the rushing game, however, the Jaguars ranked 21st in the NFL in allowing 116.3 yards per game on the ground. It will be interesting to see how the two teams' fronts do against each other.

When the Vikings are on defense …

The Jaguars also have an effective offensive line, a unit that helped the team rank No. 1 overall in 2017 with 141.4 rushing yards per game. Jacksonville is returning four of its starting five, including second-year left tackle Cam Robinson, who started all 15 games he played last season. Robinson and Everson Griffen should be an especially fun matchup to watch during joint practices at TCO Performance Center on Wednesday and Thursday. Andrew Norwell is listed as the Jaguars left guard after spending the past four seasons with Carolina, A.J. Cann is returning at right guard, and Jermey Parnell is entering his fourth season as Jacksonville's right tackle. At center, Brandon Linder will have his hands full going against Vikings Pro Bowler Linval Joseph.

The Vikings defense has jelled together for consecutive seasons under Head Coach Mike Zimmer, and it will be interesting to see how the unit plays off a fresh offense in practice this week.

Wide Receivers and tight ends vs. defensive backs | By @pcraigers

When the Vikings are on offense …

The last time that the Vikings held joint practices with a team was against the Bengals in Cincinnati in 2016. Bengals DBs dissed the Vikings receivers with trash talk. Adam Jones proclaimed, "No dogs," and Dre Kirkpatrick wouldn't line up against Adam Thielen.

It is highly likely that Thielen will garner more respect after one of the best seasons in franchise history and a Second-Team All-Pro selection. Thielen, Stefon Diggs and other receiving targets should be able to get some quality work in against a secondary that helped the Jaguars lead the NFL with (169.9) passing yards allowed per game last season.

Even with Jalen Ramsey suspended this week, Jacksonville's secondary includes multiple veterans, including cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and D.J. Hayden, as well as safeties Tashaun Gipson and Barry Church, who might get matched up against the Vikings tight ends led by Kyle Rudolph, who has 322 career catches for 3,153 yards and 37 touchdowns since 2011.

The 1-on-1 drills could provide plenty of quality reps for Vikings quarterbacks and receivers and tight ends to work against experienced defenders.

When the Vikings are on defense …

Keelan Cole (6-1, 194) led the Jaguars with 748 yards on 42 receptions (17.8 yards per catch) in 2017. Marqise Lee (6-0, 196) followed closely behind with 702.

The Vikings have no shortage of cornerbacks to counter Jacksonville's receivers. Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman and Mike Hughes are all first-round picks. Hughes, the most recent, should get some great learning opportunities.

At tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins arrived in Jacksonville this offseason after spending a season-and-a-half with the Jets. He began his career in Tampa Bay in 2014. That fall, fellow rookie Anthony Barr forced a fumble by Seferian-Jenkins and returned it for a walk-off touchdown in overtime. Seferian-Jenkins has 105 career receptions for 1,070 yards and 10 scores. Niles Paul, an offseason signee, teamed with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins in Washington from 2012-17.

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