Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD writer and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.
For preseason game number 2, the Vikings got in some decent preparation beforehand. They face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday, Aug. 18 at 12 noon at U.S. Bank Stadium, but they practiced twice with the Jaguars at TCO Performance Center earlier in the week. That should ratchet up interest in the actual game.
It has been a couple years since the Vikings held a joint practice with a team, and both head coaches set up some guidelines before these practices took place. They didn’t want to see any fighting like we all saw happen in the Washington/New York Jets practice. So, Mike Zimmer met with Jags coach Doug Marrone and then with his players to hash some stuff out beforehand.
“I have a group of guys that I typically meet with and yesterday we just happened to meet and one of them suggested it,” Zimmer said. “I thought it was a good idea. We talked to their guys and they are going to get their guys together. Jacksonville, Coach [Doug] Marrone and myself and the rest of our team, we really don’t want to end up on TV like some of these other things that have been going on. We just want to get out here and get some work done and try to get each of us better.”
The practices weren’t without some highlights, as the Jaguars offense faced the Vikings defense and vice versa in one-on-one, seven-on-seven and full-team drills that included red zone reps. And both teams had a pep in their step since it allowed them to forgo hitting members of their own team.
“Yes, it’s kind of like when you go against your defense for so many times, you have to change things up,” Vikings wideout Adam Thielen said. “You might beat them one time with a certain move or certain way you ran a route. Then they go watch film with their coach, and say, ‘Okay, this is what you need to do better,’ then they usually cover it pretty well the second time. You definitely have to switch things up. It’s just like in a game though. It’s so game-like. There are times in a game you’re going to run the same route and if you won the first time, you’re going to have to switch it up a little bit. Otherwise, he’s going to be all over it. It’s very game-like situation to have to switch up your routes and switch up the way you win.”
Come Saturday, the practices will be behind the two teams and they play a practice game. The Vikings starters, including Thielen, are sure to play a little longer than last week against the Denver Broncos, when they only got one series (albeit a very successful one). The starters should play the bulk of the first quarter and we will begin to see what the team will look like when they play for real in September.
As each coach and every player loudly proclaims, this game “will be a good test” for the Purple. The Jags, like the Vikings, made it to their respective conference championship game last season, yet neither made it to the big game (which was held in the place where they will play on Saturday). The Jags had the number two defense behind the Vikings number one unit in 2017, so it will be a good gauge of where the teams are at (last week, the Broncos, who have a good defense, kept some of their players such as Von Miller on the sidelines, so this week things will be more competitive). Vikings QB Kirk Cousins will get a good look at some of the Jacksonville defensive line.
“Well, I obviously didn’t have to block them,” Cousins said when asked of his thoughts on the line. “You saw a couple bull rushes [Wednesday], they did a good job coming after us. They’ve got names, they’ve got experience, and they’ve got production. Certainly that’s where a lot of great defenses are founded, is on the defensive line. I have a lot of respect for their group up front.”
The problem for the Jags, however, is that they are leaving two players at home—cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr., who were suspended for violating teams rules relayed to a post-practice altercation. Ramsey then made some more news for himself in a recent GC magazine article in which he criticized several quarterbacks throughout the league. Interestingly enough, Ramsey had good things to say about Cousins and his ability to use play action—but Cousins wasn’t biting.
“I didn’t see what he said specifically about me,” he said. “I had heard a little bit about what he had said about the quarterbacks in general, but as it pertains to me I didn’t see. Little bit that I know about him, I haven’t played him in my career, but seems like a great corner and I was wanting him to be out here this week so we could get challenged by him, unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
It will be a good test for the Vikings nonetheless. And on defense, at least at the first joint practice, the Vikings were causing a lot of trouble for the Jags. Terence Newman intercepted one pass and Harrison Smith had his hands on two more that he said should be been picks (he had to do pushups for dropping them). When Jags running back Leonard Fournette walked past Smith’s post-practice interview scrum, he reminded Smith that he dropped a ball.
“Yeah, I uh, dropped two,” Smith reiterated to Fournette.
So, there wasn’t any trash talking allowed during practice, but the players were able to dig each other a bit with friendly gibes afterward.
On Saturday, the two teams will meet in what some have speculated could be a forerunner to the Super Bowl, since both squads lost their respective conference championships last season. Since the starting units will play sparingly and neither team will have its full complement on the field (Everson Griffen is likely going to sit out with a cut on his leg that became infected, among other missing Vikings) it will have little bearing on such a matchup were it to materialize later in the season.
But we can imagine in the meantime. The first quarter will feature the new-fangled Vikings offense against a very good Jacksonville defense. It’s a preseason game, but after the two teams banging with each other for two days, we might seem some fireworks at U.S. Bank Stadium.