Offense Key In Opener

Seeing as everyone else covering the Vikes is suddenly enamored with Larry Ned -- nice work, coach -- VU wants to show we have his photo, too. But, whether Ned has anything to do with it or not, the Vikes offense will be on the hot seat for Saturday's preseason opener.

Saturday's preseason opener vs. Jacksonville was supposed to be a test of the Vikings defense. Instead, the game will be valued by coaches and players for the Vikes offense instead.

With former Viking Jack Del Rio coaching his first NFL game as the Jags head man, he would like to make a statement on both sides of the ball. As a defensive specialist, he, like Tony Dungy, has been defined as a student of defense.

The Jags, however, are supposed to be about offense. After jumping in front of the Vikings to botch a trade that was supposed to send Byron Leftwich to Baltimore, Jacksonville called Leftwich's name as the replacement to Mark Brunell. A problem. Leftwich has held out for a contract calling for starter money. Even if he's in uniform Saturday, there is considerable doubt he will play. Throw in starting RB Fred Taylor nursing an injury -- not Fred? Go figure -- the Jags offense will be at half-speed for a preseason game to start with.

In contrast, the Vikes offense will be ready to make a statement vs. Del Rio's defense. It looks like Del Rio's debut will play to his own strength by force, not choice. Look for Del Rio to keep his defenders in longer than a typical first preseason game. As a new coach, he's trying to sell his team to Jags fans. With a hobbled offense, it will have to be D that carries the day -- making his debut a chance for the modified Vikings offense to make its own statement.

Let the fun begin.

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