*EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — *Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said there’s plenty to look forward to when Minnesota opens its season in just under a week.
The Vikings and Saints will kick off at 6:10 p.m. (CT) at U.S. Bank Stadium as part of a *Monday Night Football *doubleheader.
“It will be good to get back in our stadium with our fans. Nice and loud,” Zimmer told Twin Cities media members on Tuesday. “They’ve got an excellent offensive football team and a good defensive team, so I think we’ll be excited to play Monday night.”
After a lengthy preseason of Minnesota’s first-team offense practicing against its first-team defense, and so on, there’s a different mentality for both coaches and players starting this week.
“We’re not competing against each other now; we’re getting ready to compete against another team. So when [Stefon] Diggs is going against Xavier [Rhodes], that’s all over with,” Zimmer said. “So now it’s about understanding the other player that we’re getting ready to play – studying his skill set, studying the things he has to do. And then the same thing with the team – it’s more about schemes than it ever was in the preseason.”
Here are four other topics Zimmer addressed during his podium session:
Look back on images from past games between the Vikings and the Saints.
1. Prepping for an ‘excellent’ Saints offense
New Orleans traded leading receiver Brandin Cooks and signed former Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson this offseason. But while there have been a few roster changes on that side of the ball, Zimmer said he doesn’t expect to see the Saints stray too much from their typical offense.
“I mean, they’ve been running the same offense for a long time,” Zimmer said. “They get in the I [formation], they get in base personnel and run the ball and play action, and they spread the offense.”
Added Zimmer: “They’re not going to change too much; they’re pretty darn good.”
The head coach added that the focus of Monday’s game is not solely on one player, nor should it be.
When asked how the Vikings will prepare for Peterson, Zimmer said, “This game [is] about the Vikings and the Saints. They’ve got a lot of great offensive weapons, and he’s a great player. But this game isn’t about Adrian Peterson.”
2. New Orleans’ new-look defense
The Saints offense hasn’t changed drastically, but their defense is a different story.
New Orleans has changed up its defensive roster significantly since last season and features a number of talented names, including returning defensive end Cameron Jordan, the son of former Vikings tight end Steve Jordan who has led the Saints in sacks the past two seasons.
“He’s a great player,” Zimmer said of Jordan. “And they’ve added eight new guys defensively. So it will be a completely different defense for them. The two guys on the outside (Jordan and Kasim Edebali) are very good players, and they’ve added some youth inside. So I think it’s going to be a good test.”
*3. Adding new faces *
The Vikings announced over the weekend the signing of five new players: CB Tramaine Brock and TE Blake Bell to the active roster and QB Kyle Sloter, C Cornelius Edison and T Cedrick Lang to the practice squad.
Zimmer said he liked the skill set of Brock, whom the Vikings acquired from Seattle via trade.
“I thought his cover skills were good, and the things that he had done in the last year, and his ability to do the things that we do defensively,” Zimmer said, adding that Brock has played both in the slot and on the outside.
Zimmer said he likes what Bell brings to the table, and it was beneficial that Vikings offensive line coach Tony Sparano coached Bell in San Francisco and knows him as a player.
“He’s a good combination guy. He blocks pretty good, he runs good routes, he catches the ball well,” said Zimmer, who added that Bell looked good when the Vikings played the 49ers on Aug. 27. “He’s more of an all-around guy. I think he’ll help us in all phases – he played some special teams [too].”
The Vikings signed Sloter to their practice squad. Sam Bradford and Case Keenum are Minnesota’s two quarterbacks on the active roster, and Teddy Bridgewater will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
“We needed a third quarterback,” Zimmer said. “But I thought he had a good preseason; he’s an athletic guy, [has] a strong arm.”
*4. Seizing an opportunity *
Laquon Treadwell is entering his second NFL season after recording just one catch as a rookie last year.
When asked if Treadwell is presented with an opportunity against the Saints, Zimmer said that the start of the 2017 season is a chance for everyone on the team, not just one player.
“This is an opportunity for Treadwell, it’s an opportunity for Mackensie Alexander, it’s an opportunity for Trae Waynes, Kyle Rudolph. It’s an opportunity for everybody,” Zimmer said. “When we win games around here we’re going to win them as a team and lose them as a team. So we’re going to continue to try to get everybody better and try to work together.”