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Bleacher Report – Vikings

What did we learn from the Vikings’ the preseason finale?

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up the preseason on Thursday night at US Bank Stadium against the Miami Dolphins. There wasn’t much drama in the game but there were some interesting developments.

No starters played

Head coach Mike Zimmer hinted that he wanted to use starters against the Dolphins – which would be very rare in the NFL. It turned out to only be a sign of his frustration because the Vikings’ only starter on offense was Laquon Treadwell, who needed more work after getting injured early in camp. Mackensie Alexander received playing time on defense. Everyone else was a backup or bubble player.

Mackensie Alexander got a lot of work against the Dolphins

One of the biggest question marks for Zimmer’s defense is whether Alexander will rise to the challenge of being assigned the nickel cornerback spot. The 2016 second-round pick was given another opportunity to see game action on Thursday night. Alexander was the only first-team played on defense and he played the entire first half, exclusively in the nickel. It’s hard discern what that means. Does it say something about Zimmer’s confidence in the Alexander ? Or did the Vikings’ head coach just want to give him a little more work before the regular season begins?

Alexander picked up a very bad taunting penalty in the second quarter that led to a touchdown, which certainly didn’t help his case.

Taylor Heinicke had a (mostly) tough preseason, but could end up on the practice squad

The Vikings’ third-string quarterback may have pulled off a game-winning drive against the San Francisco 49ers, but he’s struggled to move the offense effectively during the majority of his time under center during the preseason. On Thursday, Heinicke went 9-for-20 and was injured on a sack for a safety late in the second quarter. He was evaluated for a concussion.

It’s clear that Case Keenum is the No. 3, now the question is whether the Vikings will keep a third quarterback or not. Both Mike Zimmer and Pat Shurmur said they’d prefer to keep one – and Heinicke is eligible for the practice squad.

Jaleel Johnson’s rise makes Datone Jones a possible casualty

Johnson received the start against the Dolphins while Jones did not appear in the game. That could be a bad sign for Jones, who was signed this offseason. The former first-round pick of the Packers has been asked to move from outside linebacker to defensive tackle – a transition that Zimmer acknowledged has not gone all that smoothly.

Johnson, on the other hand, has been the Vikings’ most impressive preseason player. In the first quarter, he fought through a double team for a tackle for loss. That has been a common sight during the exhibition games. The fourth-round pick from Iowa now appears to be a lock to make the team.

Jayron Kearse hasn’t instilled confidence

The 2016 seventh-round pick has some impressive athletic gifts, but he hasn’t shown much improvement in areas where he struggled last year. On Thursday night, the Vikings were beaten for a long touchdown on a play where Kearse was the over-the-top safety. It wasn’t his first noticeable error this preseason.

It still appears that Kearse will make the 53 because of his ability on special teams. But the Vikings are still short on reliable players past Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo. It’s worth wondering whether the Vikings would consider adding a safety from another team or pursuing Denver’s TJ Ward, who is reportedly on the trade block.

The tight end situation remains unclear

Bucky Hodges started Thursday night’s game and Kyle Carter came in after Hodges suffered an injury. Unless Kyle Rudolph can’t play Week 1 (he missed practice this week), it’s hard to say whether Hodges or Carter or both will make the final roster. Hodges is still a raw project, but his size and speed could fit into the offense on occasion. Carter has been a better blocker and is known as a receiving tight end. If the Vikings keep fullback CJ Ham, it might be tough to find a way to retain both.

Cayleb Jones may have given himself a shot at making the practice squad

On the Vikings’ lone first-half touchdown drive, Jones made a terrific 21-yard, go-up-and-get-it catch, then caught an eight-yard touchdown. The lanky receiver hasn’t seen any time with the first-team this offseason and is likely far behind Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley, but it’s possible he’s intriguing enough to keep around on the practice squad. Former Gopher Isaac Fruechte has not made a case for himself and RJ Shelton and Moritz Boehringer have rarely seen the preseason field.

Jones finished with nine catches for 128 yards.

The post What did we learn from the Vikings’ the preseason finale? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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