Kevin O’Connell Broadcasts 2 Reasons to Watch the First Preseason Game

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The first Vikings preseason game of 2023 will kick off on Thursday as the group travels to Seattle to take on the Seahawks. Both teams were booted in the wild-card round in January. But while nobody expected the Seahawks to beat the 49ers, the NFC North champions lost to the New York Giants in a rather disappointing fashion.

Kevin O’Connell Broadcasts 2 Reasons to Watch the First Preseason Game

Preseason contests can be a nightmare to watch for everyone but hardcore fans when the coaches send third and fourth stringers on the field, players that will never touch an NFL field in the regular season, especially nowadays when the top 30 guys won’t even dress to prevent injuries. Even preseason stars like Kyle Sloter just disappear on practice squads and in developmental leagues like the USFL or the XFL.

Broadcasts 2 Reasons to Watch the First Preseason Game
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Thursday’s game will differ; two rookies will be the main attractions. Head coach Kevin O’Connell talked about if his first-round rookie Jordan Addison will participate in the matchup: He will play. We’re still determining what that looks like, the timeline for some guys, but I’m looking forward to seeing him out there.”

While the head coach hasn’t confirmed that the starters will be rested, it is a fair assumption. It would be a shocker if Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson suited up to face the Seahawks. Last year, KOC didn’t play any of his top players, and he stated in the past that the joint practices with the Titans and the Cardinals are the periods to get ready for those guys.

Addison will play, and that should be exciting for Vikings fans. He has been nothing short of great in his first professional football training camp, as he has a natural ability to get open in one-on-one situations. In addition to that, Addison has excellent ball skills and looks like the next man up in Minnesota’s long list of great receivers. But not only his pass-catching abilities have turned heads but also his help in the run game. KOC praised him for his help in that department.

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“I know folks don’t get too fired up like I do about receiver’s roles in the run game, so I try not to get caught up in the weeds with you sometimes, but I do appreciate you asking because that has really been one of the highlights when he didn’t really get to take part in a lot of things in the spring, seeing not only his ownership but also his willingness versus this defense where you gonna sometimes not be always running at the best angles, you gonna have to have receivers willing to dig out. To see him not only be willing to do it but then physically and fundamentally do it has been a real positive.”

Perhaps throwing the ball to him in Seattle will be veteran backup Nick Mullens, although O’Connell looks forward to seeing rookie Jaren Hall in-game action. Hall is currently listed as the third QB on the depth chart, and that is the way it is trending. Mullens should be considered the favorite to be the backup of Kirk Cousins, with Hall as the developmental passer in a redshirt year.

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“As many times as I shout, ‘this is a game rep right here,’ but when it is on the practice field in a controlled environment, that is much different than when you snap the football, got the rock in your hands, and control the fate of that particular play. And I love the opportunities he’s gonna have over the next two, three weeks to really bank a lot of reps. He’s off to a good start in training camp, we’re really happy with where he is coming off the spring into training camp, and now he’ll get some opportunities to hopefully show us that he can take that to the game field and in-game reps to see what it’s like.”

Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond split the preseason reps last season. It remains to be seen if Hall and Mullens will also share the reps or if Hall will get more as the developmental guy compared to the veteran with a ton of experience in the NFL.

Main Reason to Watch
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With Hall expected to play in the game, it will be the first time Vikings fans get a glimpse of Hall in a playing environment. He played his college ball at BYU, not facing the toughest competition. Playing against NFL opponents, even bottom-of-the-roster guys, can be a hard transition at first. There shouldn’t be too much stock into a preseason game, but if Hall is any good, it will show on tape, and he’ll make some plays.

His goal over the next six months will be to show the Vikings enough to be considered a successor to Kirk Cousins if he indeed moves on in free agency. Sam Howell, also a fifth-round selection, is Washington’s starter after one year of mostly backup duties, and a career arc like his should be Hall’s goal.

Besides those two rookies, there should be plenty of run for last year’s first-rounder Lewis Cine and camp sensation Ivan Pace. Running backs are also always interesting to watch. Rookie DeWayne McBride and recent signee Abram Smith might get a bunch of carries.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt