Desmond Bishop (Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY)
Many of the Vikings’ starters will play into the third quarter Sunday night, giving defenders like Desmond Bishop and Xavier Rhodes a chance to state their case for a starting role.
The majority of the Vikings’ first-team offense and defense is expected to play into the third quarter of Sunday night’s game against the San Francisco 49ers in the biggest test before the regular season begins.
That extended time with the starters will be especially important for players trying to crack into a starting role for the first time.
Linebacker Desmond Bishop is making the transition from the Green Bay Packers’ 3-4 defensive scheme to the Vikings’ 4-3 alignment, moving from inside linebacker to outside linebacker, and also coming back after a year off because of a preseason hamstring injury in 2012.
“You want to see if a guy can execute with good on good,” defensive coordinator Alan Williams said. “I think that’s one of the things that we’ll try to do this game, is make sure that the guys we’re looking at get good on good. Believe me, the 49ers have enough depth in their roster that we’re going to get good on good with our first group.”
Bishop didn’t play in the preseason opener because of a groin injury sustained in the early stages of training camp, and he didn’t start the second game either. That role has belonged to Marvin Mitchell.
Bishop did play in almost one-third of the defensive snaps in the Vikings’ 20-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills Friday night, a healthy amount of time. He had four tackles, a half sack and a quarterback hit.
“He played well. There were some plays that he played downhill and he had some good tackles and I think if you talk with him, he’ll tell you there are some plays that he left out on the field, which can be expected with the first extensive full action he had,” Williams said. “What we’re looking to see is if he can improve on the things that he didn’t do so well and correct those and get better.”
Williams said he expects the defensive starters to play into the third quarter, so whether Bishop starts or not, he is expected to play with the first-team offense at some point.
The same is true with cornerback Xavier Rhodes. He also missed the preseason opener with injury (in his case, a hamstring), but played extensively, 36 percent of the defensive snaps, in Friday’s game.
He had three tackles and a pass defensed, which resulted in the Vikings’ only interception of the game when safety Jamarca Sanford reacted to the deflected pass and made a diving interception.
“Xavier is coming along, too. That was his first live action,” Williams said. “He would tell you also, like Bishop, there were some plays he wishes he could have back and some plays that he made, which was good. That first interception was a reflection of him getting his hands on the ball and Jamarca and Harrison (Smith) hustling to the football. We saw some good things from him. We just want to see more good things, and consistently.”
Rhodes might not be the starter – so far, that designation belongs to 2012 third-round pick Josh Robinson – but he will play plenty.
“We’ll get enough of him with good on good to see how he functions,” Williams said. “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Later this week, the Vikings will start game-planning more extensively for their opponent for the first time this season. They proved in Friday night’s loss that there are issues to clean up on both sides of the ball, especially on offense.
“I think all of our players understand where we are in the preseason and what we have to get done, and what the process is,” head coach Leslie Frazier said. “You keep trying to show them things to help them improve. I think that tape from that ballgame should be one of those things that will help us to improve.”
It will also be Adrian Peterson’s first preseason experience in nearly two years. He isn’t expected to play into the third quarter, but he could get a few carries “so he can exercise his preseason butterflies,” according to offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave.
Still, they will be somewhat cautious how much they expose last year’s NFL MVP.
“We want to keep him healthy. We want to keep him fresh,” Musgrave said. “He is coming off his hernia surgery this offseason, so there’s some consideration there.”
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.