On Friday, the Oakland Raiders and Minnesota Vikings will square off at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After a long summer of practice, both teams will have their first opportunity to see what their players have improved on and which areas still could use some work.
Both the Raiders and Vikings had disappointing seasons in 2013, which lead to a number of offseason changes in both organizations. Oakland head coach Dennis Allen is entering his third year of attempting to rebuild the Raiders, while first-time head coach Mike Zimmer, offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and a number of new coaches will enter their first year with Minnesota.
The Raiders spent a lot of money during free agency this offseason, acquiring a long list of veteran players, which includes LaMarr Woodley, Justin Tuck, Carlos Rogers, James Jones and Maurice Jones-Drew. The organization also completed a trade with the Houston Texans to acquire quarterback Matt Schaub. Finally, the Raiders selected impact linebacker Khalil Mack and a future starting quarterback in Derek Carr during the 2014 NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, Minnesota signed cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to help improve a pedestrian defensive secondary, defensive tackle Linval Joseph to solidify a new-look defensive line, and also brought back middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley for a second stint with the Vikings.
After improving through free agency, the Vikings addressed a number of needs with quality talent through the Draft, the most notable being linebacker Anthony Barr and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
For the Raiders, a lot of the focus will be on the offensive line and wide receiver positions. The offensive line has reportedly seen dramatic improvement this offseason, and will have their first opportunity to prove this to be accurate. As for the wide receiver position, there is no clear-cut No. 1 option just yet, but Andre Holmes currently is listed in front of Jones and Denarius Moore on the first unofficial depth chart.
This will also be Raiders fans’ first look at Schaub and Carr. Schaub likely will not be on the field for very long as he has all but solidified himself as the starter, which should mean plenty of action for the talented rookie.
All eyes will be on the quarterback position in Minnesota. Matt Cassel and Bridgewater will spend the majority of the game on the ,field with Christian Ponder likely picking up a few series towards the end of the game. Cassel will enter the game with a narrow lead in the team’s quarterback competition, but Bridgewater will have a great opportunity to close the gap.
Turner has stated that he will be watching to see how well Bridgewater can take care of the football and manage the game, especially in the red zone.
While Turner is keeping track of the Vikings’ offense, Zimmer will be focused on the defense. He will likely use an array of different looks with a number of different players seeing action in multiple roles. Zimmer obviously will not be unveiling his entire bag of tricks during Week 1 of the preseason, but it should be interesting to see how he uses players like Barr and rookie Antone Exum, given their versatility on defense.
Do not expect to see Adrian Peterson on the field for the Vikings, as Zimmer has made it fairly clear that it would be unnecessary to have him play. Electric rookie Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata will take most of the snaps in his place.
The Raiders, on the other hand, likely will be handing the ball off to two former No. 1 running backs for a good portion of the game. Both Jones-Drew and Darren McFadden should see a healthy amount of snaps, given that the two are competing for carries in the Raiders’ offense.
With so many offseason changes in both organizations and multiple polarizing rookies set to make their NFL debuts, this matchup profiles as one of the more intriguing preseason games this season.