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The Skinny Post: Vikings Return Home to U.S. Bank Stadium

EAGAN, Minn. — Home sweet home.

The Vikings will play their first home game of the 2018 preseason schedule on Saturday when they host the Jaguars at noon (CT).

Minnesota and Jacksonville have seen plenty of each other of late, as the Vikings hosted the Jaguars for joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Both teams advanced to their respective conference championship games in 2017.

The Vikings won their preseason opener in Denver, and the Jaguars fell to New Orleans.

Here are three areas to watch in Saturday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

A bigger sample size | By **@EricLSmith**

The first-team offense couldn't have looked any better in Denver as they opened the game with an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Kirk Cousins completed all four passes for 42 yards, including a 1-yard score to Stefon Diggs. Latavius Murray had back-to-back 20-plus yard runs to ignite the offense.

But how will the unit fare with extra work, especially against a strong defense such as Jacksonville? Saturday provides a great test for Cousins and the offense to build on their opening performance.

Minnesota's defense hardly broke a sweat against the Broncos as the starters forced a quick three-and-out and allowed just eight yards. The Vikings could be tested by running back Leonard Fournette and Jacksonville's power ground game on Saturday.

The starters on both sides of the ball will get more work in the second preseason game than the first, but the hope is that the progression continues with the 2018 season opener just over three weeks away.

Special teams | By **@LindseyMNSports**

There will be plenty to keep an eye on surrounding the Vikings special teams on Saturday.

The unit had some "wins" at Denver last Saturday, including rookie kicker Daniel Carlson going 2-of-2 on field goals from 39 and 57 yards out. Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer assigned kickoffs to Kai Forbath and field goals to Carlson in Minnesota's first preseason game, so it will be interesting to see how the responsibilities are handled at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Jaguars.

Another aspect of special teams to watch is punt and kick returner as well as coverage teams.

Against the Broncos, Marcus Sherels fielded two punt returns but wasn't able to gain any yardage. Rookie Mike Hughes returned two punts for a total of 11 yards and recorded a 16-yard kickoff return. Craig James and Cayleb Jones returned a punt and a kickoff, respectively.

The Vikings allowed a significant number of return yards against them, however. Isaiah McKenzie returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown, and the Broncos had a pair of kickoffs returned for 34 and 29 yards.

Battle for third running back spot continues | By **@pcraigers**

Murray's back-to-back gains of 20 in the Mile High City were impressive and erased a second-and-14. He had two other carries during Minnesota's opening possession that netted 2 yards on first- and second-and-goal plays.

Dalvin Cook reiterated this week that he is ready for regular-season action but did not play in Denver. It remains to be seen if Cook hits the field Saturday.

Another factor of interest that continues to develop is the competition for the Vikings third running back spot.

Mike Boone rushed 12 times for 22 yards, Mack Brown had 11 carries for 34 yards and Roc Thomas rushed eight times for 29 yards. All three had receptions. Thomas led Minnesota with 102 yards and two touchdowns on three catches.

Substantial Stats

— This game could feature 10 total defensive players who were Pro Bowlers in 2017. Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes earned those honors for Minnesota, while Calais Campbell, Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson, Telvin Smith and A.J. Bouye were Pro Bowlers for the Jaguars.

— The Vikings and Jaguars combined for 23 victories in 2017 and were two of 10 teams that won double-digit games. Minnesota went 13-3 and won the NFC North, while Jacksonville won the AFC South with a 10-6 mark, the Jaguars first season with 10 or more wins since 2007.

— Saturday marks 216 days since the last Vikings game at U.S Bank Stadium. We all know how **that one ended**, as wide receiver Stefon Diggs helped deliver an unforgettable ending in "Minneapolis Miracle."


"Both teams were very respectful of one another – there was really no fighting or anything like that. Really no trash talking. It went really smooth."

— Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer on joint practices with Jacksonville