By: Aj Mansour |

New Options Jump Into the Strong Safety Battle
The vacancy at strong safety has long been one of the position battles to watch during Vikings Training Camp this year, but tonight’s against the Cardinals it gets a little more interesting. After missing last week’s first preseason game, Jamarca Sanford and Chris Crocker will both suit up and jump into the fold tonight for the first time. Sanford, who was held out for injury precautions last week, was last year’s starter at the position but injuries sidelined him and opened the door for others to be noticed. Crocker signed with the team two weeks ago and was not up to speed to play last week. Both bring veteran leadership to the table but Crocker comes in with previous knowledge of Zimmer’s defense. In all likelihood, only one of these veteran safeties will make the team.

The Competition for Punt Returner Heats Up
Last week, cornerback and punt returner Marcus Sherels sat out with a tight back and his absence opened the door for Adam Thielen to fill in and return punts. By all accounts, Thielen wowed the coaching staff and raised some pretty real questions about finding value in the player named to be starting punt returner. Tonight, Sherels is expected to return to the field and hopes to defend his position, one that landed him as the second-best punt returner in the league last season. This battle will likely function similarly to the quarterbacks tonight with one player fielding punts in the first half and the other in the second half. At the end of the preseason, coaches will have a decision to make in regards to the overall value of these two players.

All Quiet On the Defensive Front…
Not much was heard from the starting defensive front last week. On one hand, that’s a good thing but on the other it’s disappointing. Zimmer’s defenses don’t raise a lot of havoc on the front lines but then again they did just pay Everson Griffen and Brian Robison big bucks over the past year or so and production would be nice out of the outside. Up the middle, the Vikings will obviously be without Linval Joseph who was injured in a nightclub shooting last week. Sharrif Floyd will need to carry the load for both players. It would be nice to feel the presence of the defensive line tonight. Their unit didn’t yield any points last week, but nobody on the front made a big impact either.

Oh Punter my Punter…
Funny, Chris Kluwe is back in the news again, but that’s not the punter we’re referring to today.  Jeff Locke, Kluwe’s replacement last year, notes a specific game last year where his mindset changed and he began to better collect himself and play better football. Statistically speaking, that didn’t carry over to last week against the Raiders. With only 2 of 8 punts inside the twenty yard line last week, Locke will look to have a bounce back night tonight as he continues to work towards consistency and directional punting at his new outdoor stadium home.

Quarterbacks building confidence…
I saved this one until last since almost everybody is set on Matt Cassel being this team’s starter for week number one. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Cassel is expected to get most of the first half while Bridgewater is expected finish out the second half tonight. Stemming off of last week’s performances, I want to see two completely different things from these QBS. I want consistency from Cassel and bounce-back from Teddy. Matt had a great first drive last week but never got an opportunity to follow-up and do it again. Look for him to put together multiple long drives tonight and command the Vikings offense over a longer period of time. For Teddy, you want to see him come out tonight and shake out the butterflies early. We certainly are hoping for a bit of an improved performance, but after a rough week of practice, it’s time to see Teddy find a bit of a groove and start building his confidence on the field.