Final auditions successful for Vikings’ bubble players in victory over Tennessee
NASHVILLE To whatever extent the final preseason game serves as a closing argument for players trying to claim the final spots on an NFL roster, the Vikings 13-3 win over Tennessee on Thursday night might have helped the cause of several players.
Mike Boone put himself in strong position to win the Vikings No. 3 running back job, building on an impressive preseason with more than 100 combined rushing and receiving yards Thursday night. Receiver Brandon Zylstra, who has been limited by a hamstring injury for much of the preseason, came back with a 24-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter from No. 3 quarterback Kyle Sloter. And a Vikings defensive line that has showcased its depth throughout the preseason enjoyed another strong night in Nashville.
As the Vikings now head into the process of trimming their roster to 53 players before Saturdays 3 p.m. deadline, they will weigh the final impressions made by the players on the back half of their roster Thursday night, when most of the Vikings established players watched from the sidelines.
Only 52 of the players on the Vikings 90-man roster dressed for the teams final preseason game. Even non-starters such as tight end David Morgan, fullback C.J. Ham and receiver Laquon Treadwell sat out, as the Vikings stretched their effort to avoid injuries before the start of the regular season.
The Vikings started offensive lineman Brett Jones after acquiring him in a trade with the Giants this week, but Jones (who started 12 games at center for the Giants last year) worked at left guard while Danny Isidora snapped to Trevor Siemian after working at center in practice this week.
The pair got just six snaps together in the first quarter, as Siemian missed all three of his passes and the Vikings punted twice. They held the ball for just 2:56 in the quarter, and their only 8 yards came on three runs from Boone and Roc Thomas.
Siemian directed a scoring drive late in the second quarter, though, hitting Brandon Zylstra on a 16-yard crossing route on a 4th-and-5. The Vikings initially planned to go for it on another fourth down from the Titans 21, as coach Mike Zimmer pulled long snapper Kevin McDermott back to the sideline. But after thinking better of it during the two-minute warning, the Vikings opted for a 39-yard Daniel Carlson field goal, and the rookie drilled his kick after missing wide left twice last Friday.
The offense started slow, but they had a couple of long drives there at the end, and it was nice to see the kicker make it, coach Mike Zimmer said in a halftime TV interview.
The night wasnt without its hiccups, though, for a special teams group thats had a rocky preseason.
Punter Ryan Quigley who had a net average of just 34.2 yards per punt in the Vikings first three preseason games thanks to a pair of long returns entered Thursdays game hoping to close the exhibition schedule on a strong note.
His second-quarter punt, though, was partially blocked and traveled just 29 yards. Quigley did get a favorable bounce on a later punt that went 61 yards.
After allowing a 69-yard drive that resulted in a field goal in the first quarter, the Vikings held Tennessee to just 28 yards in the second quarter, as their defensive line came at Titans quarterback Luke Falk in waves.
Defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who had a half-sack and a tackle for loss in the Vikings first three preseason games, recorded another sack Thursday night, while fourth-round pick Jalyn Holmes posted 1 andfrac12; sacks from the middle of the Vikings defensive line.
Defensive end Tashawn Bower had another strong night against the run, and linebacker Eric Wilson had six tackles.
Wilson was tied for the team lead in tackles Thursday night with cornerback Holton Hill, who also broke up a pass and started the second half with a 53-yard kickoff return.