Let the Games Begin!
The Minnesota Vikings are set to compete in their first matchup of the NFL preseason tonight against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.
Quarterback Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs and Co. are scheduled to go head-to-head with an imposing Buffalo defense led by nose tackle Marcell Dareus, one-time bust defensive end Jerry Hughes and former Florida State cornerback and 2015 second-round pick Ronald Darby following a much-anticipated coin toss set to take place at 6 p.m. Central/7 p.m. Eastern.
Following — what certainly appeared to be — a very successful final training camp in Mankato, Mike Zimmer and his staff will continue their positional evaluations tonight. Plenty of impact roles remain up-for-grabs, as Minnesota has the luxury of rostering 90 players up until the beginning of the 2017 season following a change made by league office this offseason to eliminate the late-summer 75-man roster cut check point.
As a result, the preseason has never been more important than it is in 2017 — extra days for 15 players should result in more competition, higher intensity and, above all, this change should create a better on-field product during the month of August (while also increasing NFL revenue, shocker).
Minnesota is matched up against Buffalo tonight, on paper, but the preseason uniquely is less about who the opponent is and more about determining how to best prepare the entire 90-man depth chart for September based on what the Bills’ strengths and weaknesses.
Week 1 of the NFL preseason, generally speaking, yields between three and five series for projected starters, roughly two quarters of second- and third-team “bubble” players and, per standard, the final 15 minutes is typically reserved for the players that, in the words of the great Lou Brown (Major League), “Guys that will be bagging groceries in a couple weeks”.
As hysterically blunt as it is, Brown’s point stands true — 47 of these players must go come September. Minnesota’s brain trust has roughly one month to make a handful of decisions regarding which players will take the field against the New Orleans Saints but, more importantly, Zimmer and Co. will need to determine an optimal 53-man depth chart this coming season while still managing to hold onto the surplus of raw talent at the back end of the roster.