In advance of the Minnesota Vikings, the 49ersHub spoke with Arif Hasan (@ArifHasanNFL) in order to get more insight into the San Francisco 49ers' next opponent.
The 49ers will be taking on the Vikings in the dress-rehearsal third preseason game. It's an important game to evaluate the roster and personnel, but it's good to know your opponent ahead of time.
Arif covers the Vikings for Zone Coverage MN and also writes for Optimum Scouting and SBNation's Daily Norseman.
His most recent article updates fans on one of the complications that may arise if Teddy Bridgewater is healthy enough to play sooner than expected and he will have a preview piece on the 49ers up soon.
1. What's going with QB Sam Bradford and QB Teddy Bridgewater? We've heard that Bridgewater might come back healthy, will there be a reunion with the Vikings or is that door closed? Are they looking at any other long-term QBs?
Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback and will remain so barring an unusual circumstance, like injury or surprisingly poor play. Bridgewater will remain with the Vikings for as long as his contract runs, and the big question is whether or not that will toll into the next year (i.e. extend him for one more year). The Vikings are big fans of Bridgewater and hope to hold on to him for some time, so the real question is whether Bridgewater will hit free agency and if he does, if he wants to return to the Vikings. If the Vikings extend Sam Bradford, there is a good chance that Bridgewater does not come back. The opposite is true as well, so really the Vikings will have to make a choice between the two and stick with it. At the moment they are not making plans as far as I know for a long-term option at quarterback other than normal draft research.
2. What are your thoughts on rookie RB Dalvin Cook? He's not Adrian Peterson, but can he be a dynamic player in the NFL and put his off-the-field issues behind him?
Since the draft process, I never bought the off-field issues with Dalvin Cook as a legitimate concern, so I was happy to see the Vikings draft him; there is a very good piece in Sports Illustrated that delves into it better than I could (https://www.si.com/mmqb/2017/04/25/nfl-draft-dalvin-cook-red-flags-character-concerns-scouts-florida-state-miami-dade). As for his on-field capability, I think he can absolutely be dynamic. He has shiftiness and agility on display and can produce as a pass-catcher, but what makes him unique is that he combines it with surprising power through contact—he's averaging more yards after contact in the preseason than almost any other heavy-usage back and had one of the best yards-after-contact averages in the FBS last year. Cook may not be unstoppable in the way that Peterson was as a complete athletic package, but he can be exciting and impactful.
3. Can this defense and running game carry the Vikings to a playoff spot? It's a tough division and tough NFC, what are the chances it happens?
That's a difficult question to answer because, though the defense has improved every year under head coach Mike Zimmer, I'm not confident there's much more room for improvement without quality in some key spots. There are open questions at slot corner, weakside linebacker and possibly at left corner. Some people are concerned about the safety opposite Harrison Smith, too. On the other hand, it feels as if the defensive line will be greatly improved, so it could all wash out. With that in mind, Vikings fans are expecting an average offense with a great defense and that should be a winning formula, especially with big improvements in the run game. I think the Vikings will be competing for the second spot in their division and that always means a shot at the playoffs.
4. From an outsider's perspective, what do you think of what the 49ers are doing this offseason with John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan?
I am a big fan of Kyle Shanahan, who didn't get enough credit in his first year with the Falcons and earned too much blame for what happened in the Super Bowl. I'm excited to see what works for him as a head coach and what may not. As for John Lynch, I'm not a big fan and I thought that, aside from the initial trade with the Bears, he handled the draft poorly. I'm also not sure I liked the pricing decisions he made in free agency.
5. Are there any 49ers' players that you are looking forward to watching play the Vikings this weekend?
Aside from former Viking Brandon Fusco, I'm interested in players that intrigued me in the draft process. I like undrafted free agent Lorenzo Jerome and am curious about his capability, but I'm also curious about George Kittle and Trent Taylor. I was high on Kittle and low on Taylor but it will be interesting to see how they do. Obviously, I’ll keep an eye on the first-round picks. I am surprised by C.J. Beathard's positive preseason and I didn't like the pick, so I'll be interested to see how he performs against the Vikings.
A big thank you to Arif for taking time to speak with us on the upcoming 49ers-Vikings matchup. Go show him some love on Twitter (@ArifHasanNFL), 49ers' fans!