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Last year's fourth-ranked Vikings offense has been put on notice by head coach Mike Zimmer, who wants to see different results from what's expected to be a similar lineup to last week during Friday's preseason finale in Kansas City.

Aside from some valuable exceptions, most Vikings starters are expected to play at Arrowhead Stadium in the team's only road test before the Sept. 12 opener in Cincinnati. Zimmer has a long list of improvements he seeks, but perhaps atop them all are more points after the offense failed to produce a first down during over half of its drives against Indianapolis.

"I'd like to see touchdowns, to be honest with you," Zimmer said this week. "We need to have some success. I think they're confident, but you know, confidence comes when you play well, and you show it. I really don't want to go into the first ballgame and we haven't looked crisp or sharp.

"We ran the ball pretty good," he added. "We didn't get the ball down the field vertically hardly any. If you're going to throw 5-yard check-downs all day long, it takes 20 of them, so we'd like to get the ball down the field a little bit more."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins agreed Wednesday, saying "you have to have explosive plays" after the starting offense punted twice, gained 10 yards on its biggest play and missed a 51-yard field goal in the preseason debut. That was without running back Dalvin Cook and receiver Justin Jefferson, and they likely will be absent again Friday.

"It's a good challenge, right?" Cousins said. "We view it as, 'Hey, let's see what we can do without them.' Try to take pride in that challenge. The challenge, too, is it's always a small sample size."

Here are five story lines ahead of the Vikings' preseason finale.

Will the quarterback play improve?

The starting offense sputtered last weekend because of the quarterbacks. Jake Browning and rookie Kellen Mond continued to struggle with inaccuracy, pocket presence and decision-making, which has made backup quarterback a concern. Browning hasn't translated well-reviewed practices into strong games. Mond, a third-round pick, has also been inconsistent while trying to speed up his tempo and reads. Zimmer wants to see more from every quarterback while playing in front of what might be the biggest road crowd since January 2020. That starts with Cousins, who will likely be without his top two running backs and top receiver on Friday.

Has the offensive line gained confidence?

Coaches spoke this week like they were trying to keep alive the offensive line's confidence, or perhaps speak it into existence. A revamped defensive line has collapsed pockets throughout training camp, and the Colts' pressure (two sacks among seven quarterback hits) led to questions about the line's protection. Coaches were quick to point to miscues by running backs and quarterbacks that contributed to the pressure. The starting five, including left tackle Rashod Hill and right guard Oli Udoh, will get another chance to show progress. Roster decisions loom among the backups with Mason Cole, Dakota Dozier and Blake Brandel vying for spots on the initial 53-man roster, which will be set Tuesday.

Is the retooled defense in bubble wrap until Sept. 12?

The Vikings' new-look defense was down five starters — Anthony Barr, Patrick Peterson, Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith and Xavier Woods — when the other starters debuted against Indianapolis last weekend. Zimmer would only say Friday's plan is similar, meaning the same key players, including Cook and Jefferson, might be sidelined in Kansas City. Reserves expected to have big opportunities with the starters are cornerback Kris Boyd, safeties Camryn Bynum and Myles Dorn, linebacker Blake Lynch and defensive end Stephen Weatherly. Defensive end D.J. Wonnum appears to have won the competition to start opposite Hunter; he is taking the bulk of first-team work during recent practices.

Can depth players keep it rolling?

A disappointing preseason opener against Denver, when the Vikings rested nearly every starter, left Zimmer grinding his teeth about the roster's depth. But linebackers Chazz Surratt and Troy Dye, and receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette were among the playmaking backups in a narrow loss to the Colts. Coaches want to see improvement at positions where the team is young, such as defensive back, linebacker and receiver. Smith-Marsette is expected to handle kick and punt returns again, with veterans Dede Westbrook and Ameer Abdullah also available as options.

Will kicker Greg Joseph keep his grip on the job?

Joseph is the only kicker on the Vikings roster, but that doesn't mean he'll line up for kickoffs in Week 1. The journeyman has been relatively steady during training camp. He bounced back with a 49-yard field goal against the Colts after missing a 51-yard attempt. Coaches tested his range this week in practice. He missed from 55 and 59 yards on Wednesday, when he made seven of 11 tries. Good, not great, would be the best way to describe Joseph's summer, which may keep the front office on the lookout.