The Minnesota Vikings travel to Las Vegas for a date with the Raiders on Sunday, the NFL’s final preseason game of the first-week docket. If it matters — it doesn’t — the Raiders are favored by 2.5 points to win the contest.
These are five things to monitor from a Vikings perspective in the matchup.
1. Do Greg Joseph’s camp theatrics transfer to game-style situations?
Joseph has looked like a summer mercenary. But here’s the deal — none of that matters if he misses game-winning 37-yarders when it counts the most.
In Joseph’s defense, he only failed on one devastating kick in 2021. Yet, it was enough for Vikings fans’ taste buds to sour. So far in training camp, Joseph has drilled kicks from 55+ and 60+ yards — with room to spare.
While the game in Las Vegas won’t define his 2022 outlook, it would be nice if he had a perfect evening. Because, you know the drill, if he misses his first field-goal attempt, it will feel like Mike Zimmer never left at all.
2. Kellen Mond’s QB2 Performance
This should be the primary reason to flip on the television for the preseason bout.
Suddenly, “who will be the QB2” has become the most prominent topic at Vikings training camp. Neither Mond nor Mannion is performing stellar, so some have speculated the franchise should sign Blake Bortles, Cam Newton, or Kyle Sloter to compete for QB2.
For men like Mond, the preseason actually matters. And if he looks silly or inept against the Raiders, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah might have to call Bortles, Sloter, or Newton.
3. Lewis Cine — a Game-Ready 1st-Rounder?
Cine hasn’t conducted a memorable camp, but such is life for some NFL rookies. He also hasn’t played poorly. His rookie showing at training camp is a fat meh. He even appeared to acknowledge it a little over a week ago.
Per the Vikings first unofficial depth chart, Cine is not a preordained starter, so the Raiders game should allot the Georgia alumnus some playing time. Watch and see if Cine “looks the part” for a 1st-Rounder.
4. The Energy from Kevin O’Connell, in General
O’Connell, so far, is the anti-Zimmer. Happy, young, energetic, and infectious. While the Vikings ripped and roared — particularly on defense — with Zimmer for arguably six years, the enterprise became stale in 2020 and 2021.
The enterprise was fuggy in the last two seasons. Admit it. But it doesn’t have to be that anymore. So, yes, this is simply to state: monitor the vibe from the Vikings preseason game. Does it feel different? A continuation of the upbeat training camp?
It should be. The Vikings hired Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell for a total change of pace.
5. Who Doesn’t Play?
Do some process of elimination on your couch.
In all likelihood, starters won’t play much on Sunday. Ergo, you can tell who is classified as a starter by who isn’t playing. For example, if Jesse Davis is plopped on the bench, that should indicate a frontrunner status for the ex-Miami Dolphin at right guard.
Too, Kirk Cousins is out due to COVID. That will probably set the tone for starters resting on the whole.
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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).