EAGAN, MInn. -- Even if Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer won’t divulge how much he plans to play his starters during the preseason opener Friday, Aug. 9, at New Orleans, it sounds as if Kirk Cousins knows the first-team offense only will have one drive to show its stuff.
“This will be a great opportunity,” Cousins said. “I’m sure we’ll have a limited number of snaps with the starting group, so it’s very important for us to start fast. You have games during the season where you start slow and then you pick it up in the second half. In the preseason games, if you start slow, you feel awful. It’s very important to get out to a great start and convert that initial third down and preferably score a touchdown on the first drive.”
In the preseason opener at Denver last year, Cousins and most of the first-team offense played just the first drive. Cousins completed 4 of 4 passes for 42 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown strike on a quick slant to Stefon Diggs.
That said, it’s a new scheme this year with offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski taking the reins and offensive adviser Gary Kubiak helping out.
“It’ll great to see what kind of team we have,” Cousins said. “I don’t really know what kind of team we have. And every game we play, we learn a little bit more.”
As for Zimmer, he seems excited to see what his offense can do against an actual opponent.
“What I want them to do is be efficient,” he said. “Just go out there and do the things we’ve been doing and practicing. They may get some different looks defensively, and that’s just how it goes. It’s all about executing the techniques that we’ve been working on and then being able to adjust during the course of the game.”
Aside from that, Cousins noted how winning the game is also important, even if it might not seem like it on the surface.
“Any time you strap it up, you want to win,” he said. “We talk about how it’s an exhibition game and we’re not going to do too much. Any time I’ve lost a preseason game, the coaches aren’t happy and the players aren’t happy. You’re still trying to win the game.”
Murray's new role
Latavius Murray has gone from backing up Dalvin Cook to playing behind Alvin Kamara.
Murray was a Vikings running back the past the two seasons, and played a lot since Cook missed 17 games because of injury. Murray is now on the Saints with the versatile Kamara, who missed just one game in the past two seasons. But the Saints regularly have used two backs.
“I think one way you can look at it is obviously Dalvin did some things different from me and Alvin does some things different from me,” Murray said. “So us being able to complement each other is what we’re looking forward to this season, and learning from each other, helping each other and making each other better.”
Murray missed some recent practice time with an injury but expects to play Friday.
“I’m definitely excited, more so just to be out there and compete and play against another team,” he said.
Zimmer and Saints coach Sean Payton are close. They first got to know each other when both were assistants in Dallas under Bill Parcells in the past decade.
“Mike and I are close friends,” said Payton who was a Cowboys offensive assistant from 2003-05, when Zimmer was defensive coordinator. “We were together for three years in Dallas. There’s that old saying that misery loves company, and we were both challenged by Parcells to be really good coaches.”
Zimmer and Payton spoke to each other on the phone Wednesday. One part of the conversation involved Payton telling Zimmer that Saints backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is looking good after playing for the Vikings from 2014-17, including suffering a serious knee injury in 2016.
The Vikings have tweaked the color of their helmets to make them better match their purple jerseys, most notably on television.
The new helmet color will debut Friday. It comes after the team had discussions with helmet manufacturer Riddell about “matte purple” helmets, which had been worn along with new jerseys unveiled in 2013.
“In certain lighting situations, particularly on television broadcasts, the color of the helmet did not appear to match the purple jersey,” the team said in a statement. “This offseason the team held discussions with Riddell about how to tweak the color in order to ensure consistency in all situations.”