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Bleacher Report – Vikings

10 players who need a strong preseason finale

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings are set to play their final preseason game on Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans. While the contest will not feature the Vikings’ top stars, it will be meaningful to a number of players who are battling for position. Here are 10 players who could really use a strong performance…

QB, Kyle Sloter

The Vikings’ third-string quarterback has played well during his appearances late in games, going 30-for-41 with four total touchdowns. He’s flashed the arm strength and athleticism that intrigued the Vikings when they signed him last year following his release by the Broncos. The Vikings have generally had three quarterbacks, so it would appear they will keep Sloter on the 53-man roster, but he hasn’t always been as impressive in practice, so the 24-year-old could use another solid outing to leave no question about whether he belongs.

Kyle Sloter has made a strong case to stick with the Vikings

RB, Mike Boone

The former Cincinnati running back is in the lead for the No. 3 running back spot, especially with Roc Thomas missing some time due to injury and not playing against the Seahawks last Saturday. Overall the Vikings’ outstanding athlete averages 4.1 yards per carry on 34 rushes and has eight receptions during the preseason. It’s likely that he will start against the Titans and get another opportunity to prove he’s deserving of a roster spot and even a role as a change-of-pace back.

RB, Roc Thomas

In his two preseason games, Thomas was also impressive, gaining 4.2 yards per carry and grabbing five passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. The ex five-star recruit has flashed some of the skill that made him a top high school player, including patient, effective runs and receiving ability. The team’s appreciation for Boone will make it difficult for Thomas to make the squad, but an impressive performance could at least keep him around on the practice squad.

WR, Brandon Zylstra

Over the first few weeks of camp, it appeared to be a lock that Zylstra would force his way onto the active roster, but he missed the first two preseason games with an injury and was not a standout against Seattle. Zylstra has good hands and finds ways to make plays when the ball comes his way. However, his lack of top-notch speed could be an issue, so he will have to prove he can create separation from NFL corners — even if they are Tennessee’s backups.

WR, Chad Beebe

Beebe has fought his way up the depth chart into an on-the-bubble position. His ability on special teams combined with two quality outings against Denver and Seattle (he caught touchdowns in both games) has forced the team to consider him for a job. Beebe isn’t the tallest or fastest player in camp, but he’s been the best playmaker among fringe receivers. Receivers like Jeff Badet, Korey Robertson and Tavarres King have failed to stand out.

CB, Holton Hill

There was a lot of intrigue when the Vikings signed ESPN’s No. 1 rated undrafted free agent, but Hill hasn’t done much to shine in the preseason or camp. Aside from a nice play on special teams against the Seahawks, there hasn’t been many memorable moments for the former Texas standout. Hill does have potential with great size and athleticism, which could make him a practice squad candidate. Of course, cutting him would likely mean another team scooping him up.

Defensive coordinator George Edwards talked about Hill’s progress on Tuesday:

“I felt that last week was probably one of his better weeks,” Edwards said. “He got up and he pressed, and he’s still working to perfect the press technique, but is a lot better getting up and challenging routes. We just look for him to continually show progress that way, because he’s got the ability to stay on top of routes. He’s got the ability to cover, but understanding the techniques and fundamentals and doing it consistently every day is a big thing for him right now. We just look for him to continue to progress.”

K, Daniel Carlson

After two missed kicks against Seattle, nobody wants Thursday night to get here faster than the Vikings’ young kicker. Following the game, Mike Zimmer mentioned that he had sent Carlson a message by going for two after the first missed kick. The former Auburn star beat out veteran Kai Forbath for the job, in part because of his big leg, but if he struggles again, that will make everyone at TCO Performance Center pretty nervous heading into the regular season — including him.

S, Jayron Kearse

Mike Zimmer said that the addition of George Iloka had nothing to do with any particular player, but it could push former seventh-round pick Jayron Kearse off the squad with Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Anthony Harris and Iloka secure in their jobs. While Kearse is an outstanding athlete with great size and speed, he hasn’t appeared to catch on as a reliable backup defensive back option. If the Vikings keep Kearse, it will be because they value his special teams.

TE, Tyler Conklin

The Vikings selected Conklin in the fifth round with eyes on another receiving option. Thus far, the former Central Michigan tight end hasn’t been a standout during preseason games. He is competing with Blake Bell for the No. 3 job — if the Vikings decide to keep a third tight end.

CB, Craig James

Injuries to Mackensie Alexander and Mike Hughes have opened the door for James to see some playing time at nickel corner. He could play the entire game there on Thursday night, giving the 22-year-old a chance to find his way onto the practice squad as in-case-of-emergency nickel corner depth.

Every offensive lineman

We will see Brett Jones, who was acquired this week from the Giants, for the first time in purple. If he can catch on quick enough, we may see Jones start at center Week 1 as Pat Elflein continues to recover from offseason surgery. It’s likely Danny Isidora, Aviante Collins and Brian O’Neill will see a good number of snaps. It’s still unclear how the Vikings’ depth chart beyond the starters will look.

The post 10 players who need a strong preseason finale appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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