The all-important third pre-season game has arrived, and following this game the starting line-ups should be pretty much decided. Depth spots may still be up-for-grabs, but all the starting jobs should be determined for the most part based on what has been on display from the start of OTAs until tonight.
There are really only a few starting spots that are not already in the bag, but for those few that are still in contention, I hope the Vikings are not shy in giving the younger guys a shot to win a starting job.
Here’s who I’d like to see get at least a quarter of playing time with the first team, and against the 9ers first team.
I don’t want to see Tom Johnson start at 3-technique. We know who he is- a situational pass rusher who started last year after Shariff Floyd went down.
We need to see more of Jaleel Johnson. He is a legitimate starter at 3-technique, and could prove a big upgrade there over last year’s tandem of TJ and Shamar Stephen. Jaleel has made great progress in practice since being drafted, and that has shown up on the field, particularly when given reps at 3-technique.
Let’s get an extended look at him there.
Yes, Datone Jones needs reps, but let’s focus on Jaleel Johnson to see if he can outright win the starting job. Who gets the backup job will be a battle too, but Jaleel Johnson is going to make the roster, and so far has shown the best of all players at 3-technique. Give him the reps.
Nick Easton and Pat Elflein
I want to see both of these guys with the 1s, with Easton playing left guard and Elflein center. Alex Boone can have half the 1st team reps for comparison, with Easton at center. But there is a legitimate question on whether Easton is a better guard than Boone at this point, while Elflein looks about as good at center. That combination needs to be seen and evaluated tonight, as it could be the best one.
I’m not ready to hand Willie Beavers the starting right-tackle spot, but I want to see more of him against first-team competition. I don’t think there’s much question Mike Remmers will be a liability in pass protection, while at least above average in run blocking. Let’s see how Beavers does. Give him maybe a third of the first-team reps. If Remmers goes down, Beavers looks to be the backup and giving him some action now will be beneficial no matter what happens. But if he does really well, that will be something to think about as well.
But if you have a guy that is a known liability in pass protection, why not give the backup a decent shot to see what he can do? Having Beavers push Remmers is no bad thing.
Ben Gedeon and Edmond Robinson
I’d like to see these two guys split first team reps at WLB. They look to be the leading contenders, so let’s focus on those two, eliminating Emmanuel Lamur from the competition. Gedeon may have a slight edge on Robinson, but Robinson knows the system better and is more athletic. Let’s see ‘em both and decide who’s better.
Kearse has an outside shot at Sendejo’s starting job, but he needs to earn it. Let’s give him an extended look tonight. Sendejo has been good as a run defender, but not as good in coverage. Let’s see how Kearse fares. Kearse has been gradually improving since he was drafted last year, and my guess is he will see more reps in rotation this year than last, so let’s get him out there with the 1s.
Alexander sucked last week, to put it frankly. We need to see him play with the first-team. If he looks bad after a few series, put in Terence Newman to give him some time in the slot- and make him the starter there.
Alexander needs to have a very good game tonight. If he sucks again, he can play again in the 2nd half with the 2s, and split time with Antone Exum. But this game should go a long way in determining how much playing time, if any, Alexander gets this year.
Waynes looks to be the other starting CB opposite Xavier Rhodes, but he could use as much playing time as possible to get him where he needs to be. I’d give him the time with the first-team tonight, and give Terence Newman some time with the 2s, just to help get him ready. But Waynes should play the whole first half.
I’d like to see him have a few reps with the first team. See how he does. He’s not gonna be the starter, but as a potential situational/rotational TE, give him some actions against the level of competition he’ll face in the regular season. It would be nice to see him out there with the 1s for one drive, and with the 2s in the second half.
Update: Kyle Rudolph won’t play tonight, so let’s give half the first-team reps to Hodges!
We’ve only seen Treadwell in practice, so this is a big game for him. He needs to go out and show on the field what he’s shown in practice. I’m hoping he’ll be better than Michael Floyd. But he needs extended time with the first team to not only show what he’s got, but get some valuable reps. I’d play him the whole game, or close to it.
Murray, also having been injured, needs to get the rust off and show how many reps he’s worthy of in a regular season game. Cook should be the starter, but Murray could also see a lot of action, depending on how good he looks. Important for him to get reps as a runner, pass receiver, and pass blocker tonight. I’d still give Cook more of the first team reps, but have Murray play the whole second half.
The last of the injured contingent, Reiff also needs to get out there and get the rust off- and get used to playing left tackle in game situations again. I’d give Reiff the whole first half to help him get back into the swing of things again.
I think these guys are the main potential upgrades at starting jobs (or significant contributors) that either need to earn that job, or get the reps they need to be more ready for the opener against the Saints.
It will be interesting to see how the playing time is distributed, but I’m hoping for more time for these guys to show what they got.