The San Francisco 49ers are wrapping up their offseason, with training camp set to get going on Thursday, July 27. With the help of SB Nation’s other NFL sites, we have been previewing training camp for the 49ers 13 regular season opponents. You can view all of them here.
Since we still have some time before the preseason gets going, I thought it would be fun to keep going and look at the other 19 NFL teams. The 49ers will play four of them in the preseason, while the remaining 15 will not appear on their schedule outside of a potential playoff appearance. But, it is helpful to continue getting a better handle on the NFL this season.
Today, we move on to the 49ers third preseason opponent, the Minnesota Vikings. Our friends at Daily Norseman put together a look at the various roster changes and storylines to track heading into camp.
The 49ers travel to Minnesota in Week 3 of the preseason for a nationally televised NBC game. By the time this game arrives, we might have an answer to the question posted above. The DN folks expect Teddy Bridgewater to open training camp on the PUP list, but his status is still relatively unknown. He has been throwing and working out with teammates, but nobody knows where he actually stands in his comeback from last year’s brutal injury.
The other interesting storyline is how quickly Dalvin Cook is able to secure the starting running back role following Adrian Peterson’s departure. Latavius Murray will likely be the starter initially, with Jerick McKinnon getting snaps as well, but Cook is the very clear future for the Vikings. Like with all preseason games, the divvying up of snaps will tell its own story.
Notable free agent additions: DT Datone Jones, RB Latavius Murray, OT Riley Reiff, OT Mike Remmers
Notable free agent departures: TE Rhett Ellison, OT Matt Kalil, CB Captain Munnerlyn, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB Adrian Peterson
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
RB Dalvin Cook - In many circles, Cook was regarded as a first-round talent, but some off-field issues caused him to slip into Round 2, where the Vikings quickly traded up to secure his services. Cook might have been the best all-around back in this year’s draft class, thanks to his ability to create yards after contact and serve as a weapon in the passing game. People will immediately tab him as Adrian Peterson’s replacement, but he’s going to be a part of a rotation (at least at first) with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. Everyone expects that Cook will be the featured guy eventually, but it might not come right away.
C/G Pat Elflein - The result of another trade up on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft, Elflein provides both toughness and versatility to a Vikings’ offensive line that needs it. He started at center and both guard spots during his time with the Buckeyes, though the Vikings appear to want him at the center spot. There has been word coming out of the OTAs and mini-camps that Nick Easton was getting the first-team snaps at center (with last year’s starting center, Joe Berger, getting pushed out to right guard), but in my opinion it would be a significant upset if Elflein wasn’t the starter at center in Week 1.
Biggest offseason addition: It has to be the additions of Reiff and Remmers at the tackle positions. In the dumpster fire that was the Vikings’ offensive line last season, the tackle positions were the biggest issue of them all, and Reiff and Remmers should provide an upgrade at those spots over the collective of lukewarm bodies (and T.J. Clemmings) that the Vikings ran out there at those positions last year. Are they superstars? No, not by any stretch. But they’re significant upgrades over what the Vikings had there in 2016, and they should be able to get the offensive line to at least “not completely awful” status.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: The biggest storyline going into camp is the same one that’s been the biggest storyline for Vikings fans for most of the last year: What’s going on with Teddy Bridgewater? It was nearly a year ago that Bridgewater’s leg completely fell apart after a non-contact injury, necessitating the trade for Sam Bradford for a team that expected to contend. Now, we’re seeing videos of Bridgewater throwing, working out with teammates, and making progress. Nobody seems to know exactly how much progress he’s made to this point, as the Vikings have kept that pretty tightly under wraps. Bridgewater is likely going to start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List, but how the Vikings handle things from there is going to be the biggest story. Both Bridgewater and Bradford are in the final year of their contracts, so how Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, and company handle the quarterback situation is going to be an overarching storyline for this team all season long.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: With the departure of Captain Munnerlyn, the big question for the Vikings’ defense is what the team does at the nickel cornerback position. The team appears set on the outside with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, but the nickel/slot corner situation is a bit of a mystery. The team re-signed Terence Newman, but who knows if this is the year that Father Time eventually catches up to him. They also have last year’s second-round pick, Mackensie Alexander, but he saw limited time in his rookie season and got roughed up a bit when he was on the field. With teams playing so much nickel defense in the NFL today, the third cornerback position is the primary question mark for a Minnesota defense that doesn’t have a whole lot of questions that need answering.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Outside of Bridgewater, there really aren’t any significant injuries for the Vikings at this point in time.