The Minnesota Vikings had their struggles running the ball in the preseason, averaging only 3.0 yards per rush.
Of course, those five preseason games didn’t include Adrian Peterson in the backfield, as he hasn’t played in a preseason game since 2011. However, even without Peterson for the final 15 games last year, the Vikings averaged a much more palatable 4.4 yards per rush.
For whatever reason, that didn’t translate into the 2015 preseason and it wasn’t just the backups. In fact, Dominique Williams, who ended up on the practice squad, averaged 4.0 yards per rush in the preseason, tying backup Matt Asiata. Jerick McKinnon, who averaged 4.8 yards per rush last year, averaged only 1.6 yards per rush on 25 carries in the preseason.
In addition to not having Peterson, the Vikings were without starting center John Sullivan for the final three preseason games as Sullivan dealt with back spasms. The starting duty fell to veteran Joe Berger, and it remains to be seen if Sullivan will be ready for the regular-season opener next Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers. He hasn’t practiced in three weeks and wasn’t practicing again on Monday.
On defense, the big question mark is who will start at middle linebacker. The first two games of the preseason, it was veteran Audie Cole. Then second-round draft pick Eric Kendricks got a shot to show his stuff. But in the final two preseason games, it was Gerald Hodges starting in the base defense. Hodges started games at both outside linebacker positions as an injury fill-in for Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr last year, but he made the switch to middle linebacker during training camp and was taking reps there again on Monday.
“He continues to do a good job. I think he’s getting more comfortable in there than he was before, as far as his alignments and things like that,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s got some physicality to him, he can run, he’s instinctive, so we’ll just see where that goes.”
Still, Zimmer declined to say if Hodges would start at middle linebacker for the regular-season opener. Either way, expect Kendricks to see plenty of action next to Barr when the opposing offense has three receivers in the game.