Vikings-Packers: 5 things to watch

NEWCOMERS UP FRONT

Alex Boone, the Vikings’ new left guard, was a starter on San Francisco’s outstanding offensive line that usually played well when the 49ers went 4-0 against the Packers in 2012-’13. “He’s got a little bit of an ugly body with thin lower legs and he’s knock-kneed,” an AFC personnel man said. “He’s all upper-body strength. If he latches on he’s pretty good.” The new right tackle is Andre Smith, a six-year starter in Cincinnati. Retired Phil Loadholt manned that position in Minnesota from 2009-’14. “Loadholt was a big, massive individual,” the scout said. “I liked him (over Smith) running the ball but Loadholt didn’t give you a whole lot in pass protection. Andre gives you a little bit more but he can be lazy. That’s the thing. You just don’t know what you’re going to get with Andre. None of their O-linemen give you great movement. They’re going to have to beat you at the line.”

KENOSHA KID

With RC Xavier Rhodes (knee) out, Kenosha Bradford’s Trae Waynes will make his second straight start. “He was up and down (against Tennessee),” an NFL scout said. “He got better as it went along. He wasn’t real aggressive early. He was really close but he just couldn’t finish. Toward the end he played pretty good. He’s probably a better natural cover guy than Rhodes but just not nearly as strong.” An AFC scout said Waynes still was better playing press, which was his specialty at Michigan State. “They (the Titans) caught some balls on him but every one of them was contested,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We’ve just got to get some of those balls out.”

ON GUARD

Cornerbacks Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter gave up long pass plays on stop-and-go type routes in Jacksonville, and Sam Shields looked vulnerable on some as well. Now Joe Whitt, who coaches the position, expects Vikings coordinator Norv Turner to follow a similar strategy. “You put bad things on film, you’re going to see them,” said Whitt. “They know they get singled-up coverage a lot on the outside because of (Adrian) Peterson. If we play the techniques the proper way and leverage routes … we should have a 50-50 chance at the ball. We have to understand that we can’t give up vertical control.”

ON THE RISE

Defensive end Danielle Hunter, a third-round draft choice, will replace Brian Robison at left end on most passing downs and work across from RT Bryan Bulaga. Robison then moves inside, frequently in a two-point stance. In Tennessee, Hunter had one sack, three tackles and a 24-yard fumble return for a touchdown. “He’s just going to keep getting better,” one scout said. “He’s got natural strength, lower arms, he’s 6-5. He’s developing a pass-rush (repertoire), which he didn’t have. He’s got power, speed to power, a counter game. He’s starting to lower his pads a little bit in the run game, too.”

RECEIVING CORPS

The Vikings used the 23rd pick in the first round on Laquon Treadwell hoping he could provide impact as a rookie. He was in uniform against the Titans but didn’t play. “He’s not going to run away from people,” an AFC scout said. “He can beat you on hooks and curls and outs and things like that, but he’s just not going to threaten you. He’s not going to scare a lot of corners in this league.” As he was last year, Stefon Diggs remains the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. “I like that (Diggs) wants to be great,” Zimmer said. “He lines up in a lot of different places, and he’s tough. He’s tough after the catch. He’s hard to get down.”


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