The San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings last met on September 27th of last year. Minnesota dominated the game running all over the Chargers to a final score of 31-14. Adrian Peterson’s coming out party, as the all-pro running back rushed for 126 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns in just three quarters. AP never looked back as he led the league in rushing last and led the Vikings to an NFC North Division title.
The only highlight for the Bolts in that game was an outstanding performance by Keenan Allen catching 12 balls for 132 yards and two touchdowns. The defense could not stop the rush, and the offensive line had three starters leave with injuries (Watt, Franklin, and Dunlap). This trend continued for the Chargers the rest of the year.
A lot has changed in a year with both these teams; I will be breaking down the third preseason game: key matchups and players to watch based off how the Vikings finished last year.
Minnesota Vikings 2015 season stats: (via ESPN Stats and Info):
Offensive Rankings- Total Yards- 5139, NFL rank 29th/ Yards per game- 321.2, NFL rank 29th/ Pass- 2928, NFL rank 31/ Pass per game- 183.0, NFL rank 31st/ Rush-2211, NFL rank 4th/ Rush per game 138.2, rank 4th/ Points 365, NFL rank 16th/ Points per game 22.8, NFL rank 16.
Defensive Rankings- Total Yards- 5507, NFL rank 13th/ Yards per game- 344.2, NFL rank 13th/ Pass- 3759, NFL rank 12th/ Pass per game- 234.9, NFL rank 12th/ Rush- 1748, NFL rank 17th/ Rush per game- 109.3, NFL rank 17th/ Points- 302, NFL rank 5th/ Points per game 18.9, NFL rank 5th.
ESPN top 100 Players- Adrian Peterson 12, Harrison Smith 41, Anthony Barr 93/
2015 Pro Bowlers: RB Adrian Peterson, DL Everson Griffen, QB Teddy Bridgewater, FS Harrison Smith, and LB Anthony Barr.
Match Ups to Watch:
Chargers Oline vs. Minnesota Front 7:
Minnesota has a young upcoming front seven. This is led by Pro Bowl defensive end Everson Griffen. They have two sound defensive tackles in Sheriff Floyd and Linval Joseph. The Vikings defensive line is mentally tough, and very rarely misses a gap responsibility. The line is complemented well by the Vikings two budding young linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks. Barr is physical and sheds blocks well. He is great at blitzing from either depth or the line of scrimmage and is a turnover threat on every play. Kendricks led the team in tackles last season. He is more elusive and usually plays as the Vikings free man in their man coverage schemes. He does a great job anticipating underneath routes and is a for sure tackler. Chad Greenway has lost a step but is still a strong veteran presence.
I will be watching to see if the Oline can create some lanes for RB Melvin Gordon against this tough, sound front seven. I also will see if FB Derek Watt can reach the second level and seal blocks against the Vikings talented linebackers.
Chargers Receivers vs. Vikings Defensive Backs:
Minnesota has a mix of young secondary players and older veterans past their prime. This group includes veterans Michael Griffin at strong safety and Terrance Newman at corner. The unit is led by Pro Bowl free safety Harrison Smith, who is arguably the most complete safety in the league. The youngsters of this group include Tre Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. These two are young, exciting players but seem to be a year or two away. Tre Waynes is currently second on the depth chart behind Xavier Rhodes at corner, and Mackensie Alexander is behind Captain Munnerlyn at nickel. Look for these two to play a bulk of the snaps Sunday. This group plays sound as well and rarely blow coverages.
I look forward to seeing if the Chargers receivers can create separation form this group. Last year Keenan Allen went off against this group, I don’t see them having an answer for him this time around either.
Chargers D-line vs. Vikings Oline:
The Vikings come into this season with an improved Oline on paper. The addition of Alex Boone and Andre Smith provide the unit with toughness and stability. Boone and the return of John Sullivan at center provides the Vikings with two experience interior lineman. Both have the ability to pull and make blocks in space. The week spot on the line is on the left side with starting tackle Matt Kalil. He is too inconsistent and struggles with speed rushes.
I will be zoned in on Melvin Ingram to see if he can take advantage with his speed rush off the edge. I also will see if the defensive line can control the line of scrimmage and maintain their gap control. Brandon Mebane is a player to watch going up against the Vikings much improved interior offensive line.
It will be interesting to see if the Chargers can match the physicality of the Vikings on both sides of the ball. Both Vikings lines boost above average players that take advantages of mistakes.
Chargers Secondary vs. Vikings Receivers:
This is the one position match up I believe the Bolts have the clearest advantage. The Vikings boost a receiving core led by second-year man Stefon Diggs and rookie Laquan Treadwell. Both have good quickness but lack the top speed to get open over the top of the secondary and down field. The Vikings will try to take advantage of their receivers skill sets with quick passes and screens.
I like the Chargers match-ups with Verrett, Flowers, and Hayward.
The starters will see heavy action in this third preseason game playing at least one half. The Vikings are a good opponent that is a real playoff threat in the NFC. This is a good game to get on tape to evaluate players and to narrow down the roster.