Vikings will start Gerald Hodges at middle linebacker on Saturday

Gerald Hodgers had a sack of Buccaneers' quarterback Jameis Winston in the Vikings' second preseason game. Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will start Gerald Hodges at middle linebacker and play rookie Eric Kendricks in the nickel package on Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys, coach Mike Zimmer said on Tuesday.

If all goes well, it seems likely the Vikings would stick with that plan heading into the regular season. They'll play their starters longer on Saturday night, meaning they'll get an extended look at how Hodges and Kendricks fit in their roles, and unless the plan backfires, it seems hard to imagine the Vikings would change directions this late in the preseason.

Audie Cole had started the first two preseason games at middle linebacker, but when Zimmer, general manager Rick Spielman, assistant GM George Paton and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer have been analyzing film of all the Vikings' linebacker candidates, it says something that Hodges is slated to start in the most prominent game of the preseason.

"He's looked good," Zimmer said of Hodges. "The first week, it was more learning, because it's different alignments (than playing outside linebacker). He wasn't perfect with all that stuff. But when he's played, he's done good."