5 Things to Watch for in Vikings 1st Preseason Game

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The Minnesota Vikings head west Thursday night for a preseason shindig with the Seattle Seahawks, both clubs’ first exhibition game of the season.

The Seahawks are favored by five points, although point spreads in the preseason are a bit silly.

5 Things to Watch for in Vikings 1st Preseason Game

Minnesota has 20 days to shave its roster from 90 players to 53, so the preseason showdown should continue answering some depth chart questions.

These are five items to watch during the game, which airs on NFL Network at 9:00 pm CST. They’re ranked in order of importance (No. 1 = most important).

5. The Jordan Addison Show

Watch for in Vikings 1st
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings 1st-Round pick from April’s draft has scripted a topsy-turvy summer.

He was popped for reckless driving a few weeks ago — 140 MPH in a 55 MPH zone — apologized, and then wowed fans at training camp with his talent. He appears to have put the driving infraction behind him, setting sights on targets immediately in the 2023 offense.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell said this week that Addison would play Thursday night, so, you know — how does he look in a quasi-real game situation?

Minnesota easily could’ve drafted a defensive player in the draft, like CB Deonte Banks, but they invested in offense-first riches. Thursday night is the first tangible look at that draft decision.

4. The Great Ivan Pace

Ivan Pace Jr. of Colerain shows the football after scoring a touchdown against St. X in the OHSAA DI Region 4 Playoffs at Colerain High School, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. © Michael Noyes for The Enquirer.

This undrafted free-agent linebacker has lit up Vikings fan circles, mesmerizing the masses with his undrafted-to-relevance tale.

NFL teams didn’t draft him — evidently because he’s too short at 5’11” — and Pace Jr. has since erupted at Vikings training camp. In the last week or so, he’s experienced run with first-teamers, almost unthinkable for an UDFA linebacker.

He can use the preseason game to show the world he’s the real deal in the NFL — and make 31 general managers wince.

3. Evans, Booth, Williams, Blackmon — the CBs

Could Move Down
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Newcomer free agent Byron Murphy is written in ink as the Vikings CB1 on the depth chart. That’s established.

But after Murphy, utter mystery has shrouded the Vikings plan at CB2 for months. Akayleb Evans seems to be the odds-on favorite for CB2 per the latest depth chart, but what about Andrew Booth, Joejuan Williams, and rookie Mekhi Blackmon? At Seattle should start to explain their possible roles in the new Brian Flores defense.

Also remember — cornerbacks always get hurt, according to ex-Vikings skipper Mike Zimmer. Even if Evans is the CB2, who’s the next man up if he’s concussed once again? Keep an eye on Evans, Booth, Williams, and Blackmon in the Emerald City.

2. The RB2 Situation

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Curiously, Kene Nwangwu was listed as Minnesota’s RB2 on the first depth chart release this week. That’s great — but Nwangwu is hobbled at the moment, and Ty Chandler or DeWayne McBride may be better halfback alternatives than Nwangwu, a kick returner.

Current general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah personally drafted Chandler and McBride; he did not draft Nwangwu. With Alexander Mattison on deck as RB1 — Dalvin Cook doesn’t work here anymore — the Vikings could pivot to an RB committee more so than the Adrian Peterson and Dalvin Cook days.

After Mattison, who receives the most rushing attempts in 2023? The Seattle game will begin to put the answer into focus.

1. Jaren Hall’s Debut

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The Vikings could’ve drafted Will Levis, Hendon Hooker, or Dorian Thompson-Robinson in April. They said nope, and selected Jaren Hall from BYU in Round 5.

Meanwhile, Kirk Cousins enters the final year of his contract this season, and no heir apparent — other than Hall — resides on the depth chart. Either the Vikings have grand plans for Hall, will extend Cousins beyond 2023 sometime in the next eight months, or will draft ‘the next guy’ at QB in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Well, this preseason — the here and now — is a good time for Hall to audition for the QB1 gig. Fifth-rounders becoming QB1s are extreme rarities, but if Hall wants to be the exception, the time is ripe to show off his toolkit.

Hall should look more poised and mature on the field than most — he’s a 25-year-old rookie.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.