The Minnesota Vikings will take on the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, in their third preseason game that will serve as a “dress rehearsal” ahead of the Sept. 8 season opener on the road against the Detroit Lions.
Here’s my look at what to watch for from the Vikings during Sunday night’s game.
Quarterback Christian Ponder and the first-team offense struggled in the first two preseason games, though an interception limited them to just two snaps in the first game. A lack of rhythm in the passing game and lackluster offensive line play contributed to a struggle to sustain drives against the Buffalo Bills last Friday night.
Facing the 49ers’ defense will present a great challenge, and the preseason debut of running back Adrian Peterson should only help the offense perform better, even if the reigning league MVP sees limited action. Showing some sign of progress offensively is critical for the Vikings, and performing well against one of the league’s best defenses would be a particularly good sign.
Battles for starting jobs and roster spots will surely take the spotlight on the defensive side of the ball for Minnesota during Sunday night’s game. Linebacker Desmond Bishop saw extensive action in his preseason debut against Buffalo, and he should see plenty of action against San Francisco as he attempts to usurp Marvin Mitchell for the starting job on the weak side and hang onto a roster spot.
Cornerback Bobby Felder has grabbed the attention of the Vikings’ coaches to this point in the preseason, with both defensive coordinator Alan Williams and head coach Leslie Frazier citing how instinctive he is, as he continues to compete with Marcus Sherels to be the Vikings’ primary punt returner. He had an excellent performance on special teams against the Bills, including downing two punts inside the five-yard line along with a pair of nice punt returns for a combined 58 yards, so I think Sherels has to clearly outshine Felder against the 49ers to keep his roster spot.
It’s important not to get caught up in the final score of any preseason game, even one with the perceived importance of the third game, but there are a few key things for Vikings’ fans to watch for on Sunday night that could have a lasting impact into the regular season.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.