Vikings could approach Saturday differently

With an extra preseason game, the Minnesota Vikings could present “a little different thing” this weekend.

Having five preseason games could alter the Minnesota Vikings’ approach in the NFL’s Week 3 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Most NFL teams play their starters into the third quarter in the third week of the preseason, but the Vikings playing in the Hall of Fame Game means they have five preseason contests rather than four, along with their earlier start to training camp.

“I was trying to count up the number of plays that we’ve had in the preseason with most of the guys, so we’ve had some good work,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I think it’s important that we go out and still get some good work, but everybody wants to game plan. We’ve never game-planned for a preseason.

“We’re just going to go out and play until I feel comfortable with how things are. I’m not approaching this one any different than last week.”

Except that all the starters might not play as long as they normally would in the third week of the preseason if Zimmer is counting snaps and comparing them to previous preseasons. In fact, he has admitted that not all starters need the same amount of time to tune up for the regular season and he says he takes into account the injury risk to front-line players in the preseason.

“Definitely,” he said when asked if injuries are a factor in his preseason decision-making. “Some of the guys may not need as many reps as other guys to get game ready. I think you’ll see a little different thing that we do this week probably.”

If practices later in the week are any indication, he could be mixing and matching who is with the first-team units, especially on defense, after the first few series.

Adrian Peterson isn’t expected to play at all this preseason – he hasn’t played in the preseason since 2011 – and long-time veterans like Brian Robison, Chad Greenway and Terence Newman could be sidelined in the second quarter.

In addition to Peterson, center John Sullivan isn’t likely to play after missing practices since Aug. 19 and last weekend’s game with back spasms. Zimmer said the Vikings are “just being cautious” with Sullivan.

After facing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ backups, rookie Jameis Winston and second-year quarterback Derek Carr in their first three preseason games, Saturday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys at least presents a more formidable offense for the Vikings defense with Tony Romo and several big receiving threats.

“There is no doubt. More experienced quarterbacks are going to look off the timing of plays, the timing of routes, they’re going to have better timing, those type of deals,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “From that aspect of it, for us it is more concentrated on what it is that we’ve got to go out and get done each week.”

The Vikings haven’t game-planned heavily for the Cowboys, but they hope to keep improving on defense.

“The biggest thing right now we’re still battling is just consistency, and the more experience they get we think the better they’ll get,” Edwards said. “These game situations are good for them. We try to put them in all of those situations here in practice, but actually getting in the game and going through the situations are the biggest things. A lot of them (this) is the first time going through some of those situations and having them make decisions and how they’re going to react to things … we’ve still got a ways to go.”
And that, too, could lead to younger starters playing longer than the experienced ones.

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