On Sunday night the Minnesota Vikings will be back at US Bank Stadium for the first time since the end of the 2018 season. They will take on the Seattle Seahawks in the second preseason game on the slate. Here are the 10 most intriguing players taking the field…
Kicker/Punter, Kaare Vedvik
Once upon a time, quarterback Kordell Stewart was called “Slash” for his ability to be a quarterback/wide receiver. Well the door appears open for the Vikings’ newest addition Kaare Vedvik to become the first kicker/punter in the NFL since the early 1980s. Veteran kicker Dan Bailey has struggled at times during training camp, only hitting 3-of-6 field goals during Friday’s practice (all of which were under 50 yards) and Matt Wile struggled with directional punting, according to head coach Mike Zimmer. After sending a fifth-round pick to the Ravens, it would be surprising if Vedvik isn’t on the roster. Which job does he get? We will start to get an answer to that question on Sunday night.
Quarterback, Jake Browning
The Vikings’ undrafted quarterback saw some time in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints. The question now is: Will he see the field as the No. 3 quarterback? Kyle Sloter played well in his preseason debut — as he always has during the preseason — but if the Vikings feel they know what they have in Sloter, it might make sense to see more of Browning in game action. Last year the No. 4 QB saw a few snaps at the very end of the fourth game, so it’s clear there is some interest from the team in keeping Browning, who they paid a hefty sum to sign as an undrafted free agent. Assuming Kirk Cousins plays the first few drives, it will be interesting to see much — if at all — Sloter and Browning play.
Tight end, Irv Smith
The tight end’s preseason debut was mostly forgettable. He caught three passes on six targets and the longest reception went for seven yards. He was used as a run blocker on 12 plays and didn’t score particularly high by PFF’s metrics. Of course, it’s only one preseason game so there is still plenty of time for Smith to make an impact and solidify his role. However, if he sputters in preseason overall, it’s possible we could see him mix in early in the regular season with Tyler Conklin. The Vikings would certainly like to see him make a few chunk plays down the field on Sunday.
Cornerback, Kris Boyd
Mike Zimmer did not seem thrilled by the performance of his DBs last Friday night, which opens the door for the seventh-round pick from Texas to set himself apart in his first sniff of preseason action. He missed last week’s game with an injury but practiced this week and presumably will be in the lineup. Boyd isn’t just competing against players like Craig James, Bene Benwikere, Duke Thomas and Nate Meadors, he’s also battling against the possibility the Vikings could sign someone else who gets cut from another team as they have in the past with Tramaine Brock and George Iloka. A strong showing by Boyd would give him a leg up on a spot behind the starters.
Receiver, Bisi Johnson
The seventh-rounder from Colorado State has moved up as the leader for the No. 4 receiving job with Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Chad Beebe locked in as the top three. He caught two passes, one of which was on an outstanding route and contested catch in the end zone. In practice Johnson has seen mostly time with the second team, giving the indication his progress hasn’t just been on display in the preseason opener. A quality follow-up performance could nearly lock him into a job.
Receiver, Brandon Zylstra
Gary Kubiak said he likes what he’s seen out of the former CFL star, who started out behind in camp because of an injury. In the first preseason game he only saw 13 plays and eight of them were run snaps. Zylstra was not targeted in the passing game. His experience on special teams from last season and strong hands gives the 25-year-old receiver an opportunity to make some plays in preseason action and win a job. Last year he caught four passes including a touchdown, which propelled him to a roster spot.
Receiver, Jeff Badet
The speedster needs to make a big-time play to put himself on the map. The Vikings kept him around after spending last season on the practice squad because he has blazing speed and the potential to be an occasional gamebreaker. But they have to see it in games. He caught five passes in the 2018 preseason with the longest being 13 yards. With the only other deep threats being Dillon Mitchell and Alexander Hollins, the opportunity exists for Badet to win a gig over them and more experienced players like Laquon Treadwell and Jordan Taylor.
Guard, Dru Samia
The fourth-rounder saw a good amount of second-team reps this week in practice after having a solid debut against New Orleans. He had been playing largely with the threes, putting his status in question. If the Vikings are healthy up front, there will be a decision to make between keeping Danny Isidora, who has some experience, and Samia, clearly the player with a higher upside. If Samia gets a chance to play with the second team, he will have to show that he can handle matchups with more talented players than what he has been seeing in practice and in the preseason opener.
Defensive tackle, Hercules Mata’afa
Mata’afa did just enough against the Saints to remain interesting. Zimmer did not exactly gush about his performance when he was asked last week but the former Washington State defensive tackle did find his way into the backfield several times in New Orleans. He could be a situational rusher behind Shamar Stephen but it would seem that Jalyn Holmes is ahead of him on the depth chart in that role. A big performance at some point during the preseason could solidify his spot.