NFL Preseason Preview - Oakland (0-0) at Minnesota (0-0)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - A new coach and a new temporary home will be unveiled to the Minnesota Vikings' faithful on Friday.
Head coach Mike Zimmer will make his debut with the Vikings as they open the 2014 NFL preseason against the visiting Oakland Raiders. The contest also marks the first game of the Vikings' two-year stay on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
The Vikings will play the 2014 and 2015 seasons at TCF Bank Stadium while the team's new stadium is being built downtown at the same site as its previous home, Mall of America Field.
Minnesota, which finished 5-10-1 in 2013, figures to finally sport a 21st- century defense now that Zimmer has taken over the head-coaching duties from Tampa-2 acolyte Leslie Frazier. The real issue with the Vikings, however, remains the game's most important position.
The franchise was set back years by 2011 draft bust Christian Ponder. For now, veteran Matt Cassel is the placeholder for rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, an intriguing prospect who struggled in the pre-draft process but has drawn rave reviews from Minny offensive coordinator Norv Turner during training camp.
Bridgewater, who was once considered a top-five-level prospect, was taken with the 32nd overall pick, a prudent gamble. The Louisville product is the most polished and NFL-ready signal caller from this year's draft class.
"There is no pressure on this kid to come in and play," general manger Rick Spielman said. "We're very comfortable with Matt Cassel right now. He'll come in and compete and then the coaches will determine if he's even ready to play this year."
On defense Minnesota re-built the front four (re-signing promising pass rusher Everson Griffen and inking ascending nose tackle Linval Joseph, along with underrated swingman Corey Wootton), and addressed cornerback as well (snaring slot star Captain Munnerlyn and the lengthy Derek Cox) in free agency.
Perhaps no team upgraded its overall talent level more than the Raiders, who finished 4-12 in 2013, in the offseason.
General manger Reggie McKenzie had a ton of money to spend and he brought in a host of veterans who figure to help, headlined by quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, wide receiver James Jones and O- linemen Austin Howard and Kevin Boothe on offense, and defensive linemen Justin Tuck, Antonio Smith and Lamarr Woodley as well as cornerback Carlos Rogers on defense.
Add potential rookie linebacking star Khalil Mack to that mix and you can see Oakland is among the most-improved teams in football, at least on paper.
The wheels came off on Schaub during his final season in Houston and it's conceivable the 33-year-old QB's days as a productive starter at this level are over. The Raiders, though, are obviously hoping that last season was the anomaly and that Schaub will return to being the 4,000-yard passer he was in 2012 when the Texans were making a postseason run.
"I think every man on the team is counting on him being the guy," veteran safety Charles Woodson told Sirius XM NFL Radio when discussing Schaub. "You know, you bring him over from Houston, and it's been duly noted about the struggles that he had last year. But you can't discount the year that he had before last year so we're looking at last year as being an anomaly and that not being the true Matt Schaub."
This will be the fifth time the Vikings have met the Raiders in the preseason with Minnesota holding a 3-1 advantage in the series.
08/06 13:11:54 ET