Former Vikings coach Dennis Green always like to have a complete and updated forecast for road games. The Vikings' current coaching staff is the same way, and it is looking forward to a warm evening in Houston for tonight's game to measure the conditioning of the players.
Starters typically get their most extensive action of the preseason in the third game, and that will be the case tonight when they are expected to play at least the first half and likely a series in the third quarter. It will be a good gauge of the team's physical conditioning.
"You kind of need that heat, so it will probably help us from a conditioning standpoint to go down there and play our third preseason game where our starters get their most extensive work. It should work out in our favor," said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
The Houston forecast calls for a high in the 90s and still being 86 degrees at the scheduled 7 p.m. kickoff. Temperatures are expected to remain in the 80s for the duration of the game, according to weather.com.
Considering the Vikings had unusually mild weather during training camp in Mankato this summer, and had only two weeks of dormitory life, the Houston heat will be quite a change, although it is uncertain if the roof of Reliant Stadium will be open or not.
Look for conditioning to have the biggest impact on big nose tackle Pat Williams, all 300-plus pounds of him. Williams hasn't played yet this preseason and typically only gets about 50 percent of the snaps anyways.
"We're looking forward to getting him out there and he's looking forward to it," Frazier said. "Pat has played many, many preseason games. It's not as important for him as it is some of our younger guys. The third preseason game is the one he'll play in. Nothing to do with him physically (not playing previously)."
Frazier said the game will allow coaches to "kind of get a barometer conditioning-wise."
The Vikings didn't put in a full game plan as they would have for a regular-season game, but the preparation for the Texans is about as extensive as it gets for the preseason.
"We'll do some things. Not to a great extent. Just to get the players and the coaches in the mood of preparing for a regular-season game. As far as scheme is concerned, you don't do a lot of things schematically," Frazier said.
Of course, most Vikings fans will be viewing to see Brett Favre's most extensive action of the preseason. Favre is expected to play at least the first half after playing for only two series against the Kansas City Chiefs almost a week-and-a-half ago in the second preseason game. That came after just 2 ½ days of preparation for Favre, who connected on only 1 of 4 passes but was still pleased with his performance.
Favre said he was happy to get the plays called correctly, get the cadence down and work the timing with the running backs. Tonight, more will be expected after almost two weeks of practice.
On defense, Frazier is also looking forward to making a further determination about his nickel cornerback spot. Benny Sapp, who mostly manned the position last year after Charles Gordon was placed on injured reserve, appears to be the early leader for that spot. But this game is important in determining the pecking order there, with rookie Asher Allen, free-agent signee Karl Paymah and third-year pro Marcus McCauley, who is returning from injury, all looking to garner Frazier's confidence and thereby playing time.
"(Tonight) is going to have a lot to determining where we are in that regard. We'll kind of wait and see how this game plays out because Sapp will get some work, Asher will get some work, Paymah will get some work. Marcus is back now after coming off an injury," Frazier said. "This game will probably give us an indication of what direction to go."
With Matt Schaub quarterbacking the Texans and WR Andre Johnson returning as a favorite target, Houston is expected to present a strong test in the passing game. Frazier called Johnson "one of the premier receivers in our league."
Helping the Vikings' pass defense is the fact that Jared Allen will return to action after taking the second preseason game off because of an ankle injury.
"It will be good to get everyone together," Frazier said. "This will be our first time to get all 11 together in a game, so it will good."
Vikings anticipate the heat of Houston
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