LAS VEGAS — The Vikings opted to sit out many of their big-name offensive and defensive players in their first preseason game, fielding 13 players against the Raiders on Sunday.
Justin Jefferson, Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen did not play Sunday, while the Vikings held five key players on defense: cornerback Patrick Petersonsecurity Harrison Smithhalf-back Eric Kendricks and edges Daniel Hunter and Za’Darius Smith.
The Vikings were already planning to be without defensive end Kirk Cousins due to COVID-19 and tight end Irv Smith Jr. after surgery on the right thumb. Guardian Chris Reidwide receiver Thomas Hennigan and defensive end Julian Taylor also occurred due to injury.
They decided to play all of their starting offensive and defensive lines, with a new group on the defensive front and Jesse Davis in the middle of a right back battle with a rookie Ed Ingram.
“We wanted to bring those groups together: get off the ball, communicate up front, different front structures than we see, different running game than we sometimes present to our defense,” the coach. Kevin O’Connell said “It was a really good chance to get some shots on those guys, but still be smart.”
Will the Vikings field more starters in their only home preseason game against the 49ers on Saturday night?
“We will see how these practices develop [on Wednesday and Thursday] against the Nine,” O’Connell said. “We’ve got two really good days of work against a really good football team. We’re going to go about our business to give those guys good plans. And then whoever plays or doesn’t play, regardless we’re going to go out and try to win those football games games”.
Chandler is a “real bright spot” in the debut
Fifth round pick Ty Chandler continued to build off his strong start to training camp on Sunday, rushing for 50 yards on five carries and returning his only kick for 56 yards after returning a fumble at the Vikings’ 19.
“I thought Ty was pretty decisive in the passing game,” O’Connell said. “And then, obviously, that punt return really set us up on that drive that ended with a touchdown … He ran with a physical type that you don’t see in practice sometimes. You know this is there, you know this vision is there. He was a real bright spot for me today.”
The second team of “Vikings” — take a breath on the left tackle, Austin Schlottman in center, Ingram is right guard and Blake Brandel at right tackle with a rotation at left guard — that opened up plenty of space for Chandler in the second quarter, but the North Carolina product was robbed of his ability to keep his balance after contact for extra yards.
Sophomore Kene Nwangwu added seven carries for 41 yards after Chandler and he transferred Alexander Mattison.
“We have a lot of great guys in the gym,” Chandler said. “I just love being out there and being able to learn from those guys.”
Chisena has a leg injury
Wide receiver Dan Chisenawho was dealing with a shin injury before the start of the Vikings’ preseason game, suffered a similar injury Sunday, O’Connell said.
Chisena appeared to favor his right leg after a 22-yard catch on fourth down in the third quarter, calling for a substitution after he went backwards after a catch along the Vikings’ sideline.
O’Connell will make his debut against his former coach
When O’Connell was a rookie with the Patriots in 2008, his first coach was Josh McDanielsin his final year as New England’s offensive coordinator and defensive backs coach before he became the head coach of the Broncos.
McDaniels began his second head coaching stint with the Raiders on Sunday; for O’Connell, the match was a reunion.
“It was exciting for me,” O’Connell said. “Obviously, Josh McDaniels is on the other side [is] my mentor Catching up with him after the game was special. Obviously we’d like to win the game and give it to him, but for this opportunity and many more that will come this year, I never take it for granted.”