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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Where every position battle stands after the Vikings’ second preseason game

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings’ second preseason game was far less entertaining than their opening win over the Denver Broncos, but there was plenty to learn from the result. Let’s have a look at how each position is shaking out now that two games are in the books…

Quarterback

The battle at quarterback isn’t Trevor Siemian versus Kyle Sloter, it’s more of Kyle Sloter versus himself. Last year the Vikings made quite an effort to keep the developmental quarterback around, giving him a significant sum of money to sign after getting cut from the Broncos and then keeping him on the roster even when Sam Bradford returned for the playoffs.

Thus far in a handful of camp reps per day, Sloter hasn’t made a super strong case for himself. While he was solid against the Broncos, throwing one touchdown and running for another, he wasn’t as effective against the Jaguars. Overall Sloter is 19-for-26 passing but averages just 5.8 yards per attempt matching up against opponents’ third and fourth teamers.

Right now it’s up in the air whether he will get a roster spot.

Running back

In Week 1 of the preseason, Roc Thomas exploded for two touchdowns, and then in Week 2 it was Mike Boone‘s turn to stand out. Against the Jaguars, Boone ran for 91 yards on 13 carries and had an excellent block in pass protection late in the game. Thomas was still solid, gaining 5.0 yards per carry and catching a 16-yard screen pass. Mack Brown did not play.

The Vikings have been very interested in Boone’s freakish athleticism since Day 1, which may give him the slight edge over Thomas for a roster spot, but that depends on how each running back plays over the next two games. Both have likable skills. Boone is explosive and proved he can be tough to tackle, while Thomas is a natural runner with solid receiving ability — he was even targeted out of the slot on one play but could not bring in the pass.

Whichever player gets the job, it would make sense that the other is signed to the practice squad.

As far as fullback goes, it appears CJ Ham’s spot is secure and he will be a regular part of the Vikings’ personnel groupings and special teams.

Wide receiver

It wasn’t a banner day for any of the Vikings’ depth wide receivers. Things are still up in the air behind Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Laquon Treadwell, so here’s where we stand with each receiver:

  • Cayleb Jones had two catches, including a nice back-shoulder adjustment on one. He’s had a strong camp and has a good shot to make the team, but he’s also suspended for the first four games.
  • Tavarres King received his first preseason action. He caught one pass and dropped another. Without a special teams presence, there’s a chance he may not make it.
  • Kendall Wright has failed to make any noise during camp or preseason, making it possible the Vikings cut him. However, they are short on receivers with Stacy Coley injured
  • Brandon Zylstra did not play for the second game in a row. He will likely get a shot against Seattle on Friday. He’s in line for a job if he plays well.
  • Chad Beebe saw time with the twos and played well in special teams opening the door a crack for him to make it on the back of his special teams work
  • Jeff Badet appeared to suffer a concussion after a big hit. He has blazing speed, but hasn’t found a way to show it off during preseason
  • Korey Robertson was a highly-paid UDFA. In practice and games there hasn’t been much that has stood out about his performance.
  • Jake Wieneke had three catches late in the game against the Jaguars. It’s hard to see him making the team at this point but there will be practice squad jobs available.

Tight end

Tyler Conklin caught one pass for 10 yards. With Blake Bell as his only competition, Conklin is in position to win the No. 3 spot, though he hasn’t been a standout in either preseason game.

Offensive line

Aviante Collins started at right tackle against the Jags, which came as a surprise since had appeared Brian O’Neill was No. 2 on the right tackle depth chart behind Rashod Hill, who sat out with an ankle issue. O’Neill, who performed well with the twos, also practiced last week at guard for a handful of reps.

Tom Compton started at left guard and Danny Isidora was on the right side, giving credence to the idea that Compton will be Nick Easton’s fill-in if the Vikings can’t find anyone on the waiver, trade or free agent market.

The Vikings are likely to get Mike Remmers and Pat Elflein back in action, making the line appear more secure for the time being, but don’t be surprised if Mike Zimmer continues to experiment with different ideas. Could Remmers move to the left side and O’Neill play guard? Could Remmers end up back at right tackle if Hill struggles in the third preseason game? The door is open to almost anything at this point.

Defensive line

Jaleel Johnson is working toward solidifying himself as a swing player between nose tackle and three technique. He had a strong game against the Jags while David Parry, a pure NT, took a ton of snaps. Ifeadi Odenigbo has been working on the inside throughout camp but moved outside because of injuries and performed exceptionally well with two sacks and seven tackles. Stephen Weatherly had his second straight solid game as he makes an argument to be part of the D-line rotation. Tashawn Bower did not play, but appears to be in good shape for a roster spot. Jalyn Holmes worked into the game earlier than in Week 1 and found a way to pressure the Jags’ quarterbacks on several occasions. He might be the type of project player who makes the team but is rarely active in his first year barring injury. Ade Aruna suffered what looks like a season-ending injury.

Linebackers

Eric Wilson had an outstanding game. With his special teams ability, Wilson is looking like the fourth linebacker behind Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Ben Gedeon. While Antwione Williams reportedly had a DWI arrest earlier this year, he remains on the team and picked up a sack — though it was negated by a roughing call. Devante Downs, the Vikings’ seventh-round pick, is in the mix for a depth job. It’s unclear whether the Vikings will keep Kentrell Brothers. He is also suspended for the first four games. Players like Garrett Dooley and Brett Taylor remain long shots for a job.

Cornerbacks

Mackensie Alexander suffered an ankle injury that does not appear to be catastrophic. If he’s out for the rest of the preseason, that may open the door for Mike Hughes to see first-team snaps this week against Seattle and in practice — though Terence Newman took over with the first team when Alexander left the game against the Jags. Holton Hill had a better Week 2 than Week 1, but he has not been a major standout in camp thus far. If the Vikings do not elect to keep him, they will likely stay with Marcus Sherels, who is a versatile backup corner and outstanding punt returner. Horace Richardson is a dark horse for a depth job. He was in with the twos against Jacksonville. Craig James played well, giving him a shot at a practice squad gig.

Safeties

Jayron Kearse did not play on Saturday, allowing Tray Matthews to play nearly the entire game aside from when the first-teamers were in the game. Matthews is on the outside looking in because Anthony Harris is locked into a backup safety spot and Kearse is an exceptional special teamer, but the former Auburn safety could be a practice squad candidate.

Special teams

Kai Forbath missed a 41-yard field goal, putting him behind in the competition with rookie Daniel Carlson. It isn’t quite over yet, but it was interesting to see Carlson take the final extra point of the game for the Vikings.

The post Where every position battle stands after the Vikings’ second preseason game appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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