Today’s post marks the start of a season-long series of articles, where I’ll highlight specific players to watch during the Vikings’ weekly games. Tune in every Friday for new additions throughout the season!
This week, the Minnesota Vikings take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the game won’t take place at Heinz Field. No, the teams will grace Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s annual game and celebration of the NFL’s most prestigious players.
While players like Adrian Peterson and Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown will skip the exhibition, a few key starters may see extended playing time, per Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer:
“We want to be crisp, we want to look sharp and I want to see the things we’ve been practicing being taken to the game field,” Zimmer said. “Whether it’s techniques or alignments, certain things against people you really haven’t prepared for. And, how they react to certain things they’re not prepared for. And, obviously, evaluation of a lot of different players.”
While the coaches will be evaluating every player, from rookie cornerback Trae Waynes to strong safety Robert Blanton, I’ll be keeping my eye on one of the team’s most critical positional groups — the offensive line. Left tackle Matt Kalil is entering a make-or-break season, and Phil Loadholt returns from a torn pectoral muscle suffered in 2014. In the interior, former right guard Brandon Fusco has flopped to the left side of the line, and the team’s best lineman, John Sullivan, anchors the unit at center.
If there’s one position surrounded by questions — other than left tackle — it’s right guard, where a number of players are competing to start. But when the Vikings take the field on Sunday evening, one veteran will have a chance to solidify his hold between Sullivan and Loadholt: