For just the second time in his career this week, Kirk Cousins lined up at quarterback on the practice field, staring across the line of scrimmage at players who werent his teammates.
Whats more, the players Cousins saw with a pair of notable exceptions were the starters from the leagues second-ranked defense a year ago. If theres a limit to what a quarterback can gain from practicing for weeks against his own defense even when its ranked No. 1 in the league Cousins got to break the monotony this week with another formidable foe he doesnt see every day.
Its the best possible scout team you could ever have leading into a game, to actually go against the defense, Cousins said. Itll be interesting to see how it feels on Saturday, having already related to these guys for a couple of days. Certainly in the preseason youre normally not very familiar [with your opponent]. So, I think from that standpoint it should be somewhat of a help going into the game.
The Vikings preseason home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday comes on the heels of two practices the teams shared as the Vikings closed their first training camp at their new facility in Eagan. While the stakes of the afternoon game between the two conference championship participants wont rise because of the extra familiarity, players believe theyll benefit from the chance to work a few more tactics into the matchup than they normally would.
You might beat them one time with a certain move or certain way you ran a route. Then they go watch film with their coach, and say, Okay, this is what you need to do better, then they usually cover it pretty well the second time, wide receiver Adam Thielen said. You definitely have to switch things up. Its just like in a game though. Its so game-like. There are times in a game youre going to run the same route and if you won the first time, youre going to have to switch it up a little bit.
From a 30,000-foot level, theres very little about the Vikings approach to their second preseason game that will be significantly different because of the joint practices. They have pulled most of their starters before halftime in their second preseason game the past two years and ordinarily dont spend much time game-planning for specific opponents at this point.
It wont change hardly anything, coach Mike Zimmer said. Itll be like having practiced [before a game] with a normal week of practice; it was just a lot more full-speed.
Players, though, will enter the game with more of a backlog of knowledge about the opponents theyll see on Saturday. Even though the Vikings and Jaguars likely havent spent much time studying film of the other team this week, players naturally come by a knowledge of their opponents tendencies from spending two days working against one another.
It definitely changed a lot for both sides, cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. They know our tendencies. They know what we like to do. They know if I like pressing or playing off well, I guess everybody knows that I like pressing. Little things like that they tend to figure out and know our tendencies during practice, and they know that we are going to take it to the game.
The Vikings practiced against a preseason opponent for the second time in three years this week, after spending two days with the Bengals before their 2016 preseason opener. Zimmer said this week hed consider holding practices with another team again, though he added itd likely need to be a team the Vikings wouldnt see in the regular season (like Jacksonville this year) because you can get a lot of intel.
But the practices provided another litmus test for the Vikings as they reach the halfway point of the preseason.
What Ill do now is Ill kind of watch the film, and sit back and evaluate where we are: how we need to address some things, what was good, Zimmer said. Sometimes, you go against your own guys, you dont know your strengths and weaknesses against everybody until you play against somebody else.
It certainly wont make Saturdays game more meaningful, in the long run. But it might make it more useful.
Theyll know that we like to do certain blitzes, certain passes, stuff like that, Rhodes said. Its going to be a good game.