By: Aj Mansour |

Minneapolis, MN - The dream begins tonight! The Minnesota Vikings take the field tonight against the Oakland Raiders for the first of four preseason games leading up to the 2014 regular season.

Kicking off their move to TCF Bank Stadium, the Vikings roster is filled with questions marks as the team looks to turn the corner and return to competence in the NFC North. If you plan on kicking your feet up tonight and watching the game, let us help you out a little. Below you will find five position battles that you might find interesting to key in on as you watch the action. 

Matt Cassel vs Teddy Bridgewater (Battle for starting QB)
This first position battle shouldn't be a surprise to anybody who's been paying even the least bit of attention to this team. While Matt Cassel is listed as the current starter on the depth chart, the truth behind the depth chart is that this is an open position at quarterback and the best player will win.

Over the past two week's Teddy Bridgewater has been seeing his "first team" reps increased on a pretty regular basis. After the experiment got off to a rough start, Bridgewater settled in and began to build a rapport with some of the first team receivers. Meanwhile, Matt Cassel has yet to do anything to pull away from the rookie. 

Tonight, Cassel will get the start with the first team crew and is expected to play two series before putting on the ball cap for the rest of the night. Coach Zimmer confirmed earlier this week that Teddy will get a majority of the snaps tonight and a handful of them (one to two series) will take place with the first team offensive line and first team receivers. 

What we want to see...
The most important snaps of the night will be Teddy's overlap snaps with the number ones. What we want to see from the youngster tonight is command of the huddle. The lights are a little brighter at the NFL level, but the moment cannot be too big for Teddy. More important than touchdowns and completion percentages, we need to see Teddy command the huddle tonight, make calls for the offensive line and make proper adjustments where needed.

Matt Asiata vs Jerick McKinnon (Battle for second-string RB)
It's a tough job serving as the backup to the league's best running back, but it's one that both Matt Asiata and rookie Jerick McKinnon are fighting hard for.

Asiata splashed last season with a three touchdown game and another with 100+ yards, but buried third on the depth chart, didn't see much action the rest of the way. Asiata has potential value as a hybrid RB/FB with the Vikings and may find himself serving both roles as the regular season comes around.

One of this year's big preseason talkers has surrounding the offensive role of rookie Jerick McKinnon. Many see the easy comparison between McKinnon and other former shifty Norv Turner running backs like Darren Sproles. Jerick may have value with this team in third down pass protection sets and catching the ball out of the backfield. Like Asiata, McKinnon is looking to make himself useful and will also be fighting for time on special teams with the return games.

What we want to see...
The play here would be to get McKinnon to shine and show glimpses of what's to come. It's a toss up whether or not Adrian Peterson will be on this team looking deep into the future. If AP is dealt or released at any point, McKinnon seems like he would be a good fit for Turner's offensive scheme. Both will make the team, it's just a matter of which position they will fill.

Captain Munnerlyn vs Josh Robinson (Battle for starting CB)
Both Munnerlyn and Robinson have struggled their way through various hamstring issues this preseason but the last few days have seen them both on the field fighting for the starting corner back position opposite Xavier Rhodes. In an interesting move, the Vikings listed both Captain and Josh as the number one CB on the depth chart? Still, Munnerlyn is expected to get the start tonight versus the Raiders.

You may remember Robinson best from his three game stretch where opposing quarterbacks highlighted and picked on the second-year player relentlessly last season. Word is that the new defensive scheme employed by Mike Zimmer fits Josh's skills a little better. Munnerlyn brings in experience after spending six years in Carolina before joining the Vikings. Also, don't forget about Marcus Sherels who has flashed in camp and has been filling in for any and all injured CBs throughout the extent of camp.

Common thought is that whichever player wins the starting job, the other will takeover the nickel corner back position heading into the regular season.

What we want to see...
Ideally, we see both Munnerlyn and Robinson come up big tonight but realistically a successful night for Captain should push him in front heading into the final week of camp. Josh is faster, but Captain has the experience edge. All-in-all, the Vikings may be an overall better team if Robinson wins the base CB job and Munnerlyn handles the nickel responsibility. Realistically, this team will be playing a lot of nickle formation this season.

Jamarca Sanford vs Mistral Raymond/Cris Crocker/Andrew Sendejo (Battle for starting SS)
Robert Blanton is still listed as the team's number one strong safety on the depth chart, but a potential month long injury has opened the door for the four remaining players to showcase what they may be able to offer to the team in terms of depth.

Sanford will get the start tonight and has the most experience outside of Crocker who is unlikely to play tonight after joining the team early this week. No stranger to the underdog position, Jamarca has the added intangible of being a very vocal team leader. Day-by-day he is grasping the defensive set better and day-by-day you can hear his voice getting louder on the field.

Raymond and Sendejo are likely the odd men out of this scenario with the recent acquisition of Crocker leaving the team with three viable options behind the starters.

What we want to see...
Sanford will almost assuredly be one of the backups for this team at safety. Seeing him grasp Zimmer's defensive set will shed some light on his role with this team and likely seal the deal on Sendejo and Raymond.

Marcus Sherels vs Jarius Wright vs Jerick McKinnon (Battle for punt returner)
The trio of players returning punts tonight for the Vikings should treat it as an open competition for the role. Sherels has proven his ability to return punts over the years but with emerging talent like Jarius Wright and now Jerick McKinnon joining the roster, the Vikings are likely to hold an audition in the preseason to see what they might have.

Wright is the current number two, but from Mike Zimmer to Norv Turner to Mike Priefer, the entire coaching staff is trying to figure out what sort of value they got out of third round selection Jerick McKinnon on offense and special teams.

What we want to see...
Ideally, for the long run, fans should want Jerick McKinnon to emerge at this position and at least challenge Sherels for the starting gig. Looking into the future, Sherels time is probably limited as the lone bright spot on his attribute list is in the punt return game. If McKinnon can develop into a decent returner, that gives him twice as much value potentially serving as a backup running back to Peterson and as the team's full-time punt returner.