The Minnesota Vikings have played two utterly forgettable games so far this preseason. They fell to the Broncos 30-6, and in the second week lost to the Colts 12-10. The offense has looked horrible, while the defense played much better against Indianapolis.
Many questions still remain about the final 53-man roster, so let’s review some areas of concern.
The Minnesota Vikings Backup Quarterback Situation Is a Mess
Neither Jake Browning nor Kellen Mond have distinguished themselves through two games. Browning had the backup position early in camp due to his availability, but he has squandered his opportunities to date. The low point so far was an ugly pick-six to rookie Patrick Surtain III in the game against the Broncos.
Mond has shown good mobility, but overall, he has looked inconsistent and tentative. He has run eight times for 33 yards. He also had a chance at his first NFL touchdown pass against the Broncos, but fellow rookie Whop Philyor dropped the fourth and goal pass.
I thought there might be a Josh Rosen sighting this week, but he was picked up by Atlanta after A.J. McCarron was lost for the season. Purple fans should be on the lookout for a Blake Bortles appearance. At this point, Kirk Cousins better stay healthy.
Competition Reigns at Left Tackle and Right Guard
Dakota Dozier started at right guard against Denver and looked awful. He played much better against the Colts but his roster spot is in jeopardy. Oli Udoh has played well and is the odds-on favorite to start at this position when the season starts.
Rookie Wyatt Davis injured his ankle early in camp and he has been playing catch up to Udoh all camp. But he has shown his ability to move bodies around and to use his weight and balance effectively. He should push Udoh for the starting spot by mid-season.
First-round pick left tackle Christian Darrisaw has yet to practice due to a groin injury and his availability for the start of the season is in doubt. Rashod Hill has been starting, but his play has been woefully lacking thru the two preseason games. Coach Mike Zimmer would also like to keep him in a super-reserve role, where he is most valuable.
Who would like to be the third receiver?
When Dede Westbrook was signed right before training camp started, it was assumed that he would slide right into the third receiver position opposite Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. But he just started practicing after recovering from ACL surgery, and his game-day availability is still questionable.
K.J. Osborn has practiced well so far, and he is currently slotted to occupy the third receiver position to start the campaign. Rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette had a nice game against the Colts but is behind Osborne on the depth chart. However, he did have two sweet returns and is the favorite to handle the punt and kick return duties.
Chad Beebe will be a roster casualty unless they keep six receivers, or Westbrook starts the season on the injured list. He only plays the slot position and he does not have a significant presence on special teams..
Who Wants to Play Linebacker?
Nick Vigil assumed the early lead in the battle for the weak-side linebacker position and has backed it up with steady play in the first two preseason games. His competition for the position, Troy Dye, rookie Chazz Surratt, and Cameron Smith faltered early on with Dye having an especially error-ridden game against the Broncos.
Smith retired due to health reasons, so Vigil solidified his role as the starter with Dye and Surratt in reserve. Then an unexpected turn; strong-side Pro-Bowler Anthony Barr suddenly went down with an undisclosed medical condition. Rumor has it that it may be a groin injury. There is some uncertainty about whether he will be ready for the September 12 opener.
Dye however resurrected his game against the Colts. He intercepted a tipped Sam Ehlinger pass and completed the play with a pick-six to put the Minnesota Vikings ahead 7-3 in the first quarter of Saturday’s game. He also added five tackles and a quarterback hit to his resume in what was a very successful night for him. Most likely he or Blake Lynch will step in if Barr is unable to go in Week One.
Are There Any Safeties Out There?
The Minnesota Vikings are set at the starting safety positions with perennial Pro-Bowler Harrison Smith and Cowboy transplant Xavier Woods but after that, it is a case of “look out below.” Next in line is rookie cornerback turned safety Camryn Bynum, but his coverage skills and knowledge of the playbook are woefully lacking, and it is costing the team.
The next two candidates are Josh Metellus and Myles Dorn and neither has impressed in the secondary so far this year. Metellus is a superb specials teams performer, so perhaps he has the edge, but this is not an ideal situation for the team. It is likely that the Vikings will scour the waiver wires after final cutdowns to find a competent veteran from another team.
Those are among the hot topics coming out of the Vikings camp. We’ll have another update next week after the final preseason game against the Chiefs. There will be numerous roster changes before the team assembles its 53-man opening game roster.