The Minnesota Vikings have joined a growing trend in the NFL — resting primary starters for the entirety of the preseason.
Last year, the Los Angeles Rams — the team that employed current Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell — rested starters during the preseason. Sean McVay preferred it that way to avoid injuries, and the Rams won a Super Bowl about six months later.
O’Connell, a lieutenant to McVay for two years, is emulating the same preseason technique. The Vikings skipper seemed to indicate on Thursday that most of Minnesota’s starters will again rest this weekend, according to the Star Tribune.
In that regard, this grand Vikings experiment — retaining the core roster personnel while merely switching coaching staffs — will “go live” against the Packers in Week 1 with no preseason buffer. It’s all on the line on September 11th, essentially for the first time outside Eagan, Minnesota.
Under Mike Zimmer, Vikings starters usually played at least two drives in a single preseason game to experience some live action. But O’Connell seemingly doesn’t care about the walkthrough preseason provides, laying it all on the line when it matters the most.
To O’Connell’s credit, his previous employer’s strategy worked — emphatically — in 2021. In the first year with a new quarterback, one that has a similar statistical history to Kirk Cousins, Los Angeles navigated the regular season just fine and ultimately won a championship.
O’Connell watched it happen in the flesh.
The only “trade-off” is potential rust. It will be obligate for Minnesota to be ready for its most daunting foe at its house with a new head coach. That’s quite the trio of stipulations for a franchise yearning to escape a two-years-long bout with mediocrity. But O’Connell has chosen good health over a dry run.
Recently in the NFL, resting starting QBs in August is not strange. In fact, it’s becoming the norm.
And aside from a few missing names, those quarterbacks nearly formulate the top half of the league’s QB power rankings. The league is changing.
Overall, the Vikings have several mysteries:
- Will Cousins be “unlocked” with an offense-first head coach?
- Does Irv Smith effectuate a long-awaited “breakout season?”
- Can Garrett Bradbury be “fixed” by a new coaching staff?
- Is the twosome of Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith as spooky as advertised?
- Does the offensive line finally protect Kirk Cousins?
None of these queries will be answered in the preseason. It’s all on-the-job mystery solving against the Packers.
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).