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5 questions for the Vikings' season opener at Cincinnati

The Vikings will look to start 2021 with a victory on Sunday.
Kirk Cousins

The Minnesota Vikings will open the 2021 season when they travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals. The Vikings are coming off their first winless preseason since 1979 but with several key players returning, Sunday's game will be a more accurate representation of what this team could be.

Still, there are several questions surrounding the matchup with the Bengals. With the big reveal on the way, here's a look at what could determine if Minnesota can get off to a fast start.

How will the offense look with their starters?

The first-string offense didn't have a touchdown during the preseason but that's misleading. With Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen resting, Kirk Cousins had to rely on his secondary options leading to no touchdowns from the first-team offense.

The return of Cousins' top weapons should improve the offense but there are still questions about how it will look under Klint Kubiak. The preseason didn't offer many hints but the hope is he'll run a more aggressive version than his father, Gary did.

If the Vikings come out with a modern offense, it could help them remain explosive this season. If they opt to run it more than average, it could slow them down.

Can Nick Vigil replace Anthony Barr?

The Vikings didn't come out of the preseason unscathed as Anthony Barr was ruled out with a knee injury. Barr's long-term status is concerning but for now, the spotlight turns to Vigil.

Head coach Mike Zimmer had some positive comments about Vigil on Friday, citing his experience in the scheme and comparing him to Chad Greenway. But the coaching staff has consistently preached the value that Barr brings outside of the stat sheet.

Vigil will call the defense on Sunday and if he's able to keep things organized, it should help against Joe Mixon.

Will the defensive line be improved from last season?

A big reason why the defense struggled last season was their defensive line. The Vikings recorded a franchise-low 23 sacks last season Their leader in that stat was Yannick Ngakoue, who played just six games before being traded to Baltimore.

That triggered a spending spree on defense including the addition of Dalvin Tomlinson. With Michael Pierce returning after opting out last season and Danielle Hunter returning from a neck injury, the defensive line should be a terror for opposing team.

Enter the Bengals, who dumped four starters from last year's offensive line. With Joe Burrow having Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Ja'Marr Chase at his disposal, getting to him will be a priority.

Will the offensive line miss Christian Darrisaw?

The offensive line appeared to be fixed when Christian Darrisaw was selected in the first round of the draft but he'll miss Sunday's game with a groin injury.

In his place will be Rashod Hill, who allowed one sack on 30 pass-blocking snaps this preseason. A career swing tackle, Hill will have his hands full against Trey Hendrickson, who notched 14.5 sacks with the New Orleans Saints last season.

With Oli Udoh settling into right guard and Ezra Cleveland moving to the left side, there has been plenty of shuffling this offseason. If they can mesh with Garrett Bradbury and Brian O'Neill, they should be able to kick-start the offense.

Can the Vikings get a win in Cincinnati?

It's been a long offseason. From a free agent spending spree to vaccination rates to a rough preseason, a lot of questions will be answered on Sunday.

If the Vikings starters can execute and stay healthy, they should contend for a playoff spot. If not, it could be the start of an even longer season that ends in a new regime.

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