Traditionally, the fourth preseason game is for filling out the roster, identifying which fringe guys are in and which are out. The Vikings are fairly secure across the board with their starters. Even their regular rotation guys are well established at this point. As such, expect to mostly see young bubble players in action tomorrow as the Vikings travel to Tennessee.
With regard to that bubble, a fair number of questions still need to be answered. And Mike Zimmer stated in his press conference yesterday that many of those answers may come down to tomorrow’s game. With that in mind, here are the five key questions to watch as the young players submit their final resume for roster consideration.
Will the Vikings overload some positions?
The Vikings have a lot of depth in three particular areas: wide receiver, defensive back and defensive line. By depth, that is not to say guys who will contribute regularly on Sundays. Rather, it is a depth of fringe players who have provided reasons why they belong on the 53-man roster. Seven or eight receivers are in play for spots. 11 defensive linemen have strong cases. 12 or 13 defensive backs could realistically end up on the team. Because of that, it is possible the Vikings overload on some of those positions and take less of another position.
It seems likely they keep 11 defensive backs. But they could also keep on 10 defensive linemen, six receivers or even another secondary player. As for which group would suffer, linebacker seems most likely, given the Vikings’ penchant for using safeties in hybrid linebacker roles. Truthfully, the players’ special teams value will probably play the biggest factor.
Hill, Kearse or Harris?
Speaking of a glut of viable defensive backs, the Vikings have three guys with decent cases for roster spots. Holton Hill, the undrafted rookie with supreme physical gifts, has not blown the competition away, but his upside is intriguing. Jayron Kearse and Anthony Harris have been around longer, have taken defensive snaps with Minnesota and are proven special teams contributors. With the signing of George Iloka, the chances all three make the roster are slim. Hill is likely the odd man out at this point, so tomorrow is a big game for him to show his coverage skills, both as a corner and as a special teams guy.
Odenigbo, Holmes or both?
Back to the defensive line, eight guys seem pretty well locked in: Tashawn Bower, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Stephen Weatherly, Jaleel Johnson, Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson. Beyond them, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Jalyn Holmes have both showed well in preseason. That is especially true for Odenigbo, who has been a productive pass rusher both as a tackle and an end. Holmes, while not quite as productive, has the proper physique for a new wave of interior pass rushers and was a fourth-round pick this year. Choosing between the two for the ninth spot is tough. Truth be told, the Vikings may end up retaining both in order to keep all of their young depth pieces intact.
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Who emerges from the linebackers?
Outside the three starters, Eric Wilson has been a marvel. He was a special teams ace last year, but this summer he has looked like a perfect fill-in for Anthony Barr. He has been all over the field, rushing the passer, in coverage and playing the run effectively. Wilson’s spot is all but cinched.
Behind him, there are a couple guys with fair cases for spots. Antwione Williams has made a few plays, as has Reshard Cliett. Kentrell Brothers is suspended for four games, but he could be in consideration for a spot come week five. Their battle is probably going to come down to a week four performance. One other thing to keep in mind, however, as stated above, linebacker may face cuts resulting from an extra defensive back, receiver and/or defensive linemen. Wilson may end up being the only reserve who sticks.
Does Thomas still have a chance?
Roc Thomas was the star of week one due to his home run receiving ability. However, since then, Mike Boone has handled the bulk of the carries, including most of week three as Thomas sat out. Boone seems like the more complete back as far as NFL runners go. Thomas has the explosion, but his ball carrying skills have not shown nearly as often as Boone’s have. A strong showing in week four could change the narrative, but Thomas seems to be headed to the practice squad and possibly to another roster.
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