The preseason for the Minnesota Vikings wraps up tonight as they take on the Denver Broncos at 8 pm central time.
The third preseason game is an interesting one this year for the Vikings. Historically, it has been the game where the starters get the most run in preparation for the regular season opener in just 10 days.
With only three preseason games, that contest has moved to the second game. The Vikings, having had joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers during the week chose to rest all but one of their starters.
Going into Saturday’s game, head coach Kevin O’Connell hadn’t given any clear direction as to whether the starters would be playing in the game.
They never locked in publicly, but based on what they did say, I would be surprised if the Vikings played many starters tonight. Lots of back-roster playing time… https://t.co/abLVT7INe4
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) August 27, 2022
For the sake of this piece, we are going with the assumption that the Vikings choose not to play the starters and we get to see a lot of developmental players get quality snaps. With that in mind, here are three things to watch for in Saturday’s game against the Broncos.
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Nick Mullens (9) runs for a first down against the Minnesotas Vikings during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
After the Vikings traded for Nick Mullens on Monday morning, the quarterback room seemed to be a foregone conclusion.
There is still some question as to who will win the job due to the conditions of the Mullens’ trade being that the Raiders get a 2024 seventh-round pick only if Mullens suits up for a regular season game in 2022. If Mullens leaves a bad first impression, the Vikings could choose to cut ties with him and look elsewhere to fill the backup job.
Assuming Mullens isn’t an absolute disaster, Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion are fighting for their lives.
Mond being a developmental third-round pick from 2021 has the better shot at making the roster due to his projected ceiling, but his performance against the San Francisco 49ers was the catalyst to the Mullens trade. The quarterbacks will be the main focus of the evening.
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle T.Y. McGill (76) reacts after making a stop against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
The most competitive group on the team right now is the defensive line. The main reason? Two veterans seen as longshots to make the team have made the most noise.
Having played in the Vic Fangio-style of defense his whole career, Jonathan Bullard has been the most consistent of the backups in this group. Showing a propensity to penetrate the offensive line with power and technique, his experience in the system and ability to play multiple spots will be invaluable for a backup.
T.Y. McGill is the biggest wild card. Having what only appeared to be a punchers chance to win a roster spot, the eight-year veteran has made a massive impact in tallying 3.5 sacks and nine pressures per Pro Football Focus over just 46 snaps. He has played his way onto the team and has one more chance to prove himself.
The one wild card is second-year player Jaylen Twyman. Having missed last season due to gunshot injuries sustained during the offseason, Twyman has played really well during camp. Primarily a speed rusher on the inside that wins with quickness and explosive technique, Twyman has mostly played solid during his limited action this preseason. Could he be slipped through to the practice squad? Yes, but the Vikings brass might choose to keep seven defensive lineman to make sure they don’t lose him.
Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Jordan Mason (41) runs while Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) defends during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
When injuries happen, opportunities arise.
When Andrew Booth Jr. went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter during Saturday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, the opportunity arose for Evans. Not just for extra reps but a chance to rise up the depth chart.
Evans has looked about what was expected coming out of Missouri. He stays in-phase really well but needs to get quicker and more aggressive in attacking the football. More reps will make a big difference for Evans against a deep Broncos receiving corps.