Matchup to Watch

The Seattle Seahawks will have backups playing at one of the most important positions on offense, and the Vikings are looking to improve dramatically in the pass rush. That combination sets up a very solid preseason matchup.

Ray Edwards vs. Sean Locklear/Tom Ashworth

In their first two preseason games, the Vikings have created some buzz by showing off their defense. Scoring three defensive touchdowns on national TV against the Jets last weekend got more people talking about the Vikings defense and it is something that has been getting people to start speaking in positive terms about the 2007 Vikings.

With the final chance to get a long look at the starters in preseason, another dominating performance by the Vikings defense could set the tone for much of the season, just as the dominating Bears defense made up for deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. With left tackle Walter Jones sidelined with a bad shoulder, the Seahawks are going with Sean Locklear – a right tackle with knee tendonitis – in Jones' left tackle spot. His battles with power rusher Ray Edwards should be this week's Matchup To Watch.

While the Vikings run defense was the best in the NFL, its pass defense was the worst – tied for last in the league. Much of the reason was that the Vikings' defensive ends didn't create enough pressure to force the quarterback to throw early. Edwards and rookie Brian Robison have been able to get that kind of pressure exerted in the preseason and the result has been turnovers turning into immediate points via defensive touchdowns.

With Jones out, the Vikings can take advantage of mismatches early, keeping fresh ends coming at Locklear or regular backup left tackle Tom Ashworth and putting pressure on the Seattle quarterbacks from the blind side. While the middle of the defensive line has proven its worth, for the Vikings defense to be good enough to put itself in position to contend for the playoffs, production from the end positions will be critical.

While the Seahawks are banged up, that is no reason for the Vikings to take it easy on them. And they won't. When a weakness is exposed, you exploit it. Teams are going to blitz Tarvaris Jackson early and often because they want to force him to scramble and throw ill-advised passes that could result in turnovers. If the Vikings see a glaring weakness, they will attack it the same way.

Aside from quarterback, left tackle is the one position that is most irreplaceable. Seattle has arguably the best left tackle in the game, but he'll be on the sideline Saturday night. It's something Seattle players haven't been used to seeing and it's something the Vikings can, should and will attack – making the Seattle left tackle combo of Locklear and Ashworth vs. Edwards, Robison and the returning Erasmus James the Matchup to Watch this week.

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