San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings: Five Things to Keep An Eye On

  • Can the first-team offense build off of their Week 2 success? 

Opening last weeks contest against the Seattle Seahawks with an 11-play, 76 yard drive that resulted in a field goal, the Vikings first-team offense gave fans signs of hope.

QB Sam Bradford was taking risks down the field and the offensive line consistently created running lanes for rookie RB Dalvin Cook.

With so many new parts and additions, this was the offense fans thought they were getting. After the first drive though, the offense sputtered. Their next two drives resulted in punts.

There still seems to be some kinks to be worked out, but seeing that success on the opening drive was promising.

If the offense from the first drive can consistently show up weekly, then the Vikings can be a legit threat in the NFC North.

The biggest aspect now, which has always been one of their biggest weaknesses, is redzone efficiency. If they want to accomplish their goals of scoring at least 21 points a game, then they must start to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals.

  • How will the “starting” offensive line look?

For the first time this pre-season, the first-team offense is expected to take the field with what’s assumed their starting offensive line.

Riley Reiff (left tackle), Alex Boone (left guard), Pat Elflein (center), Joe Berger (right guard), and Mike Remmers (right tackle) are expected to be the five starters up-front.

The prized free agent acquisition, Reiff, will make his Vikings debut. After nursing a back injury all of training camp, all eyes will be on the blindside protector of Bradford.

Boone makes his return after missing last weeks contest to a knee injury.

Taking the field with this starting five is important because it is their first chance to develop chemistry amongst one another in an actual game.

Chemistry and continuity up-front is very important, especially after being one of the leagues worst units a season ago.

  • Will the first-team pass defense improve?

The start to last weeks game against the Seahawks was a nightmare. A holding penalty was called on Terence Newman the first play of the game, all the way to a touchdown reception by Kasen Williams over Marcus Sherels.

The defensive front did a good job of creating pressure up-front, but the defensive backs were unable to hold up on the back-end. It seemed like everyone was running wide open whenever Russell Wilson threw the ball downfield.

Doug Baldwin was the recipient of four passes, accounting for 69 yards. Working primarily from the slot, he made a life hard on second-year corner Mackensie Alexander.

Along with Alexander and Newman’s miscues, the Vikings secondary had a rough start to the game.

The 49ers crop of receivers isn’t as talented as the Seahawks, but it would be nice to see the secondary settle down and have a nice outing Sunday night.

  • Will Jaleel Johnson continue his dominance at three-technique? 

After playing mostly one-technique in training camp, the team decided to transition rookie defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson to three-technique. This allows him freedom from double teams, resulting in more one-on-one matchups with opposing teams offensive guards.

Last week, Johnson did not disappoint as he finished the night with five total stops, including two tackles-for-loss.

Along with Tom Johnson, Will Sutton and Datone Jones, the starting three-technique spot is still up for grabs. Jaleel Johnson made a serious case that he should be starting at that spot after last weeks performance.

Look to see if he gets increased reps with the first-team defense. If he stands out once again, it’s going to be hard to not consider Johnson as a serious candidate for the starting spot.

  • Which fringe roster spot players will step up?

In what seems like a roster full of depth in key spots, the funnest occurrences on rosters around the league are always seeing roster spots 48-53 being filled out. There are always year-to-year fringe roster spots and tough cuts to be made.

Eric Wilson and Datone Jones are two players that are battling for one of those five remaining spots.

Wilson got off to a fast start in his NFL debut against the Buffalo Bills, but took somewhat of a step back against the Seahawks.

Coming over from the rival Green Bay Packers, Jones hasn’t stood out as much as the team imagined when signing him to a one-year/$3.75 million deal this off-season.

With the teams depth on the interior, it is important that Jones has an above average performance or he will be in danger of not making the final cut.

  • Bonus Thoughts

Kyle Rudolph missed all of practice this week. It is fair to say that he will not be playing in tonight’s contest.

After off-season ankle surgery, resulting in him landing on the training camp PUP list, RB Latavius Murray is now ready to make his Vikings debut. Considered a big signing, a lot of focus will be on the former Raiders rusher.

After suffering a hamstring injury, we still have not seen WR Laquon Treadwell make his pre-season debut. With another successful week of practice under his belt, hopefully we see the former first-round pick get his first game action tonight.

Episode 31 of the “Climbing the Pocket” podcast is live.

Topics include:

  • Isaiah Thomas/Kyrie Irving Trade
  • Floyd Mayweather/Connor McGregor Talk
  • Jaleel Johnson Discussion with Charles McDonald (@FourVerts)
  • 49ers/Vikings preview

 

For NFL news and draft analysis, follow J.R. on Twitter @JReidDraftScout.

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