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Meet the Vikings (and Matt Cassel): 5 questions with the enemy

With the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings playing at Arrowhead this evening, I spoke with Eric over at SB Nation's Vikings blog, Daily Norseman. Here's what he had to say about the game.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

1. Who is one player on the Vikings offense I don't know but probably should?

Daily Norseman: Third round rookie RB Jerick McKinnon.

With Adrian Peterson sitting out the preseason you should see quite a bit of McKinnon on Saturday. When he was drafted a lot of people thought he could be the "next Darren Sproles" under Norv Turner. I was pretty skeptical since he barely ever caught the ball at Georgia Southern; it turns out that the comparisons might be pretty accurate.

McKinnon is ridiculously quick and agile with the ball in his hands and hasn't had any problem catching the ball out of the backfield at camp. If he can get up to speed on pass protection he'll be a great change-of-pace back to reduce wear and tear on Peterson. You might see McKinnon return a few kicks as well.

2. Who is one player on the Vikings defense I don't know but probably should?

DN: I'd say someone like Xavier Rhodes (who looks like he's going to take a huge step up this year) or Anthony Barr (the first round LB with crazy athleticism that will be lined up in "9-technique" a lot this year) but I'm guessing you might already know them.

So I'll say Robert Blanton, who looks like he'll get the start at strong safety in KC after being hurt most of camp. Harrison Smith is set in stone at the free safety spot but strong safety is still a gigantic question mark for the Vikings. Blanton hasn't been on the field since late July with a hamstring injury, which has caused a revolving door effect on the open spot. Kurt Coleman, Chris Crocker, Mistral Raymond, and Jamarca Sanford have all got looks with the first team but it seems like the coaching staff is still holding out hope that Blanton will be the guy. He'll need to be impressive against the Chiefs in order to quell the concerns a lot of fans currently have.

3. Our old pal Matt Cassel. What are the debates surrounding Matt Cassel right now?

DN: Debates surrounding a Vikings quarterback? I'm not sure I know what you're talking about!

But seriously, of course one of the biggest talking points surrounding the Vikings this year is the battle for starting quarterback between Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater. And to be honest, as of right now, Cassel has definitely earned the starting nod thus far.

There is little doubt among most Vikings fans that Cassel has earned the Week 1 starting job.L

Bridgewater has actually been pretty good in camp. Outside of some rookie mistakes and a few bad reads he has shown a lot of promise (especially that game-winning drive against Arizona last week). But there is little doubt among most Vikings fans that Cassel has earned the Week 1 starting job. He has exceeded expectations in both camp and the first two preseason games. I mean, a 122.3 QB rating and +3.7 PFF grade against the first teams of two defenses that should be pretty good this year? It's a small sample size but we'll take it.

That said, as soon as Cassel throws his first interception of the 2014 season I still expect the "TED-DY! TED-DY! TED-DY!" chants to rain down from the stands.

4. What matchups against the Chiefs are you worried about on offense and / or defense?

DN: Most of my concerns for the Vikings are on the defensive side of the ball. Kansas City isn't necessarily known for their high-flying passing attack but I could see the Chiefs causing matchup problems dumping the ball out to backs and receivers in space. (Especially Jamaal Charles if he's out there.) The linebackers and secondary were absolutely atrocious last year covering the pass. They'll be better in 2014 because they can't get any worse, but exactly how much they improve will go a long way towards determining Minnesota's success this year.

It's also never any fun to face the defensive threats that Kansas City puts on the field in their front seven. It'll be interesting to see how the offensive line handles Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, and Dontari Poe. The starting five offensive lineman for the Vikings are the same as they were in 2013. Hopefully the continuity will make for improved play.

5. If this were a real game, what would your prediction be?

DN: I think the Vikings will have some growing pains to start the 2014 season with all their new parts and brutal early schedule. This team has a potential to be very good but I think Mike Zimmer would be the first to tell you that they aren't there yet.

I'd pick the Chiefs by 7-10 points if this was a regular season game, especially at Arrowhead. But I might have a different answer for you later in the season.

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