One of if not THE most important position vs. position match-ups in Monday Night's season-opening contest will feature the Saints running attack of RB's Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson against the Vikings linebackers, which includes the All-Pro tandem of Eric Kendricks and Anthony Carr.
While Carr is more prone to attack the QB and rush off the outside edge, it's Kendricks who likely will do most of the "cleaning-up" on the inside against the Saints 'power' running game against Ingram and Peterson.
And it also means that on passing downs, Vikings rookie linebacker Ben Gedeon (making his first-ever NFL start) will draw coverage against Saints dynamic rookie star RB Alvin Kamara --- which makes it our Saints vs. Vikings Week #1 Match-Up of the Week.
There were a handful of match-ups worthy of selection for the most favored match-up of this opening game for New Orleans including Saints LDE Cam Jordan vs. Vikings RT Mike Remmers.
But Kamara's match-up for most of the night against Gedeon figures to possibly have a much bigger impact; when considering the variety of ways that the Saints offense as a whole will likely have to rely on performances from a handful of key contributors, in order to win this game against a very tough (ranked #2 in 2016) Minnesota defense.
One thing that jumps out right away is the fact that on paper, this looks like a potential mismatch.
While Gedeon has been impressive enough for the Vikings to earn his way alongside Carr and Kendricks as a new member of the Minnesota LB corps, he will be forced to stay with the speedy Kamara coming out of the backfield in passing situations --- a match-up you had best believe that the Saints, QB Drew Brees, and head coach Sean Payton will look to exploit all night long.
Before joining the Vikings this off-season, Gedeon was part of the University of Michigan’s dominant 2016 defense, where he put up 94 tackles (15 for a loss) and 4.5 sacks during his senior season. He was one of 11 Wolverines selected in the 2017 NFL Draft when he was picked in the 4th Round (120th overall).
Gedeon stood out for the Vikings during their Training Camp and the preseason. He had 12 tackles (8 solo) in all 4 Pre-Season games to earn his way into the starting lineup.
Additionally, Gedeon will be one of three rookie starters for the Vikings in Monday Night's game, alongside running back Dalvin Cook and Gedeon’s college arch-rival, former Ohio State center Pat Elflein.
And he also is the third rookie to start the season opener for a Mike Zimmer-coached defense since 2009, joining the Bengals’ Rey Maualuga and the Vikings’ Anthony Barr.
But being tasked to "hang with" Kamara this Monday Night, will probably be the toughest assignment that he's had to deal with thus far.
As New Orleans Advocate beat writer Nick Underhill noted in his brilliant article on Kamara just yesterday (click HERE to read), the Saints had a vision for Kamara after drafting him, to hold a similar role in the offense to former player and now Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles.
Underhill says that the "scat back" (or the satellite back as it's also referred to ) has been a key element of the Saints offense for 11 years, starting with Reggie Bush, then Sproles and onto its current form, Travaris Cadet. It’s a role that, at its best, creates mismatches all over the field.
Underhill observes that if Kamara can continue to develop as a receiver, he could create the same mismatch issues that Sproles did.
With Cadet, defenses have a much easier time of keying on pass or run. Underhill added that it was a "guessing game" with Sproles, and the Saints believe Kamara can create the same issue.
And --- Kamara's whereabouts are likely to become a "guessing game" for Gedeon and the rest of the Minnesota defense on Monday Night.
Gedeon was name the starter at weak side linebacker just this week, although Zimmer told Minneapolis Star-Tribune writer Andrew Krammer that he sees Gedeon — carrying a compacted 245 pounds at 6-foot-2 — as more of a middle linebacker down the road, but playing him on the outside has given the Vikings a chance to see him more.
“He is probably a Mike [middle] linebacker,” Zimmer told Krammer.
“But you know, we’re just trying to get the guys in there that can play. I figure if we’re playing 30 percent base, you know it’s a chance to get him in the game more. He’s done a good job in there. Like all rookies, he made some mistakes, so we’re trying to clean those up. But he’s pretty conscientious about all that.”
Zimmer added: “The thing I like most about him is he’s an old-school kind of guy. He’s tough, finds the football, gets off blocks well.”
While Gedeon's fundamental ball skills aren't in question, his capability to cover Kamara in coverage on Monday Night would appear to be shaky at best, and that's a very generous observation to say the least.
Gedeon doesn't seem to be fast enough though to cover running backs out of the backfield, slot receivers in the middle of the field, or big speedy tight ends downfield.
So for him to then now have to cover Kamara seems like a HUGE challenge with a great degree of difficulty.
Some Vikings observers feel that the team is taking a bit of a risk by starting Gedeon, who some see as a financially "cheaper version" of former Vikings LB Chad Greenway. Greenway retired back in early March, after 11 NFL seasons in Minnesota.
They note that late in his career, teams often targeted Greenway (as in, quite a lot) so they could take advantage of his below average pass defending skills. But, part of the reason was because Greenway was old.
Gedeon on the other hand -- who turns 23 next month -- has no excuse. He's simply just not fast enough to stay up with Kamara.
It's important to note: Zimmer and the Vikings will likely counter / help compensate for Gedeon's probable disadvantage by cheating up strong safety Andrew Sendejo closer to the line of scrimmage and roll the corner deeper into the defensive backfield (essentially another safety).
Additionally, free safety Harrison Smith will likely provide more help on the weaker side of the field in Gedeon's area of responsibility, and will shade (or slightly cheat) to that side of the field.
But the player primarily accountable for Kamara's actions Monday Night is Gedeon; and if the Saints and Sean Payton (and Drew Brees as well) are as smart as we think we are, then's it something that you'd have to imagine they'll explore time and time again.
It's also exactly the reason why that Saints RB Alvin Kamara has the Week #1 Saints vs. Vikings Match-Up Advantage of the Week.....