What: Final preseason game
When: Friday, September 2nd, 6:00 pm (PST)
Where: Qwest Field, Seattle, Washington
TV/Radio: KONG TV and KIRO 710 AM
Vikings Key Players:
QB Dante Culpepper: Had it not been for Colts QB Peyton Manning's record setting year, Culpepper probably would have been the league MVP. Culpepper threw for 4,717 yards, 39 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions and the fact that the Vikings don't run a west coast offense, but a chuck it down the field scheme, makes his 69.2% completion rate that much more amazing. Culpepper has grown-up over the last few seasons and now looks poised to take this team to bigger and better things. He is huge, has a big arm and is very mobile. He will be without former number one receiver Randy Moss, who was traded in the offseason, but this may make Culpepper more dangerous as teams won't know who his go-to receiver is unlike previous seasons.
WR Nate Burleson: With Moss heading to Oakland, Burleson was immediately looked to as the number one receiver on the squad. Burleson, entering his third season, led the team with 68 catches for 1,004 yards and nine touchdowns. He is smooth out of his breaks, has sneaky deep-speed and excellent hands. He is also excellent as an open-field runner and if he can become even more consistent than he already is, Vikings fans could be looking at the next Pro Bowl wideout from the Twin Cities.
DT Kevin Williams: Entering his third season, Williams is near when you're considering defensive tackles. He is an outstanding pass-rusher – registering 22.5 sacks in his first two seasons – and he has improved against the run. He is ultra-intense and has an outstanding first step to go along with a non-stop motor. Williams is the anchor of a very talented defensive line.
CB Antoine Winfield: Winfield came over from the Buffalo Bills last season and did nothing to disappoint. He posted 78 tackles, forced two fumbles and grabbed three interceptions. Teams rarely looked in his direction therefore his passes defensed were very ordinary (8). Winfield isn't a big corner (5'9", 180), but he is a vicious hitter and sure tackler. He is not afraid to sacrifice his body and he has a short memory for bad plays.
Seahawks offensive line vs. Vikings defensive line: The Seahawks offensive line has looked bad in the last two preseason games and the Vikings are very talented up front. Hawks LT Walter Jones will be matched up against Darrion Scott or talented rookie Erasmus James during his time on the field. Another matchup to watch is Seahawks RT Sean Lockler, who is starting in place of injured Floyd Womack, versus DE Kenechi Udeze. On the interior C Robbie Tobeck and guards Steve Hutchinson and Chris Grey will have their hands full with both Kevin and Pat Williams. This will be a fun battle to watch in the first half before the teams pull their starters.
Burleson vs. Seahawks cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Andre Dyson: Dyson has shown well during the preseason and looks to be a nice compliment to Trufant. Trufant has been quiet, but he still is very athletic and a solid cornerback on the other side. Burleson, along with Marcus Robinson – who last burned the Hawks when he was with Baltimore for 7 catches, 131 yards and a career-high 4 TDs in 2003 – and Travis Taylor are a dangerous trio and they will test all of the Hawks DBs.
Seahawks DE Grant Wistrom vs. Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie: Wistrom has been quiet this preseason, but the team is just playing it safe with the seven-year veteran who missed much of last season with injuries – the first missed games of his career. Wistrom isn't the biggest or fastest or even strongest defensive end in the league, but he never stops coming at you and he is very smart. McKinnie just engulfs pass-rushers with his size (6'8", 350) and he is also very adept at run blocking as well. He had been somewhat of a disappointment up until the end of last season, but he seems to have found the requisite intensity and desire to reach his vast potential.
Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck vs. Vikings FS Darren Sharper: Sharper is a ball-hawk who came over from division rival Green Bay. He is also the brother of Seahawks LB Jamie Sharper. He is better in coverage than against the run at this point in his career, but he reads the quarterback's eyes well and is still quick to the ball. Hasselbeck looked very accurate in the Hawks' first two preseason games, but last week he struggled. He missed several open receivers which could have resulted in big gains, but there is no denying that he is the leader of this offense and he knows the playbook backward and forward. He also looks to have improved his deep passing, hitting WR Darrell Jackson with a beautiful rainbow against the Chiefs that resulted in a 36-yard touchdown.
News and Notes: With injuries to starting RB Michael Bennett and backup Mewelde Moore, rookie Ciatrick Fason will get the start and could take over the starting spot if Bennett and Moore don't recover soon; Burleson graduated from Seattle's O'Dea high school and then left the area to attend the University of Nevada; Peter Warrick, recently signed by the Hawks, will see his first action and his presence could mean the end of the road for Jerheme Urban, Bobby Shaw and Jerome Pathon.
Final Prediction: Minnesota 24 – Seattle 20
Scott Eklund writes and reports for Seahawks.NET and Dawgman.com. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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