The Vikings are midway through the 2019 preseason and just over two weeks away from hosting the season opener at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Fans have gotten looks at a large chunk of Minnesota's roster thus far and will continue to do so over the next two exhibition contests. With preseason in mind and looking ahead to Week 1 and beyond, Chris Wesseling of NFL.com “singled out at least one promising” rookie from each of the 32 teams.
For the Vikings, Wesseling mentioned two offensive players. He wrote:
Hand-picked as the pivot in [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor] Gary Kubiak's outside-zone rushing scheme, first-round center Garrett Bradbury walked in the building as a Day 1 starter. The more intriguing question is what Kubiak and [Offensive Coordinator] Kevin Stefanski will get out of second-round tight end Irv Smith, Jr., who hauled in a touchdown among his five receptions versus the Seahawks last week. Minus an established slot receiver, the Vikings could opt to feature Smith alongside veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph.
Wesseling tabbed quarterback Kyler Murray as the most promising first-year player for the Cardinals, whom the Vikings will host at noon on Saturday. Arizona has not done much offensively in the first two weeks of the preseason, and Wesseling opined rather creatively that there are two possibilities behind that.
The preseason is a pigskin Rorschach test. If you harbor the opinion that No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is bound to take his lumps on a talent-deficient team behind a porous offensive line with a neophyte head coach, the first two weeks of action function as confirmation bias. If you believe, on the other hand, that Murray is a phenom simply biding his time … you take solace in the fact that the Cardinals are keeping their true offense under wraps in August. In fact, Murray told reporters Tuesday that the Cardinals have been running "literally six or seven plays." That's due to change this week against the Vikings.
Vikings predicted to take back NFC North in 2019
It seems the NFC North is always a tight division race, and the upcoming season could be no different.
An Associated Press article, however, that was posted by FOX Sports North Thursday predicted that the Vikings will take back the division title after the Bears were crowned last season.
The article stated that Minnesota will "lean on [Head Coach Mike Zimmer's] proud, seasoned defense" in effort to bounce back from a disappointing 8-7-1 campaign.
Also emphasized was the addition to Kubiak to the offensive coaching staff and the additions of Bradbury and Smith, Jr., to that side of the ball.
The following was written of Green Bay, which was predicted to finish third in the division behind Minnesota and Chicago:
[Aaron] Rodgers has entered his 15thseason and his 12thas the starter in a new system under [Head Coach Matt] LaFleur, who was the offensive coordinator for Tennessee last year. While the once-potent offense in Green Bay has not been nearly as dangerous in recent seasons, the onus falls just as hard on [Defensive Coordinator Mike] Pettine's defense to help the Packers return to the playoffs after a rare two-year absence.
PFF highlights 1 stat for every NFL team
Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently looked at every team's performance through the preseason thus far and highlighted one stat of note.
For the Vikings, PFF's Mark Chichester pointed out second year running back Mike Boone, who signed with Minnesota last spring as an undrafted free agent. According to Chichester, Boone leads all running backs "in breakaway yards (rushing yards from runs of 15 or more yards" at this point with 79.
Interestingly, all the stats he surfaced for NFC North teams were offensive-based. He wrote of the Bears:
Right tackle Rashaad Coward currently ranks first among all tackles in run-blocking grade, with a mark of 90.3. He also leads all 64 offensive tackles who have played 25 or more run-blocking snaps in impact run-block percentage (26.9%).
Chichester also went with offensive line for the Packers, who allowed just six total pressures on 59 passing plays over two their first two games. (Note: the numbers do not take into account Green Bay's Thursday night game in Winnipeg).
He wrote of the Lions:
The Detroit Lions have passed the ball on 64.1 [percent] of their early-down plays (50-of-78) so far this preseason, fifth among offenses. This comes a year after they ranked 16thamong teams in early-down pass-play percentage (55.7 [percent]).
NFL Kickoff | We Ready
The kickoff for #NFL100 is here and we only have two words - WE READY! Don't miss the season opener Green Bay Packers taking on the Chicago Bears on Thursday, September 9th at 7:20 PM CT