Vikings' preseason finale last chance for bubble players to earn roster spots
MINNEAPOLIS — Some NFL careers might come to an end. Others might be resurrected.
The Vikings will play their fourth and final preseason game against Tennessee at Nissan Stadium in Nashville Thursday, Aug. 30. Most starters aren't expected to play, leaving reserves to battle it out before the 53-man roster is set Saturday.
"There are a lot of guys with jobs on the line," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "You have to make tough decisions. A lot of it depends on what happens in this game."
Roster battles of most interest are at wide receiver, on the defensive line and secondary, and for the third running back spot.
The Vikings have 90 players, so as many as 37 could be waived by Saturday, although some could be placed on injured reserve. On Sunday, the team will set its 10-man practice squad comprising mostly players waived on Saturday.
Players let go will have an opportunity to hook on with other teams, too. That's another reason Thursday's final audition is so important.
"Any time you have a chance to put tape on of yourself in the National Football League, you want to put obviously the best tape you can put on," offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said. "It's on tape for a long time, forever."
DiFilippo said he will be involved in "dialogue'' regarding offensive positions when meetings are held Friday and Saturday to determine the roster. Zimmer will have plenty of input. And general manager Rick Spielman will make all final decisions.
On offense, Mack Brown, a three-year veteran who returns after missing two games with an injury, will battler rookies Mike Boone and Roc Thomas to be the third running back. With a team-high 139 rushing yards in three games, Boone is the favorite. But Thomas had a big game in the preseason opener, with 131 yards from scrimmage at Denver, and Brown has the most experience.
At wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Laquon Treadwell are roster locks and Kendall Wright is looking good for a fourth spot. DeFilippo said this week said he's "very, very pleased" with Wright.
"Hopefully, the work I've been doing here on the field, hopefully that's enough," Wright said.
For one or two other receiver spots, the competition includes Chad Beebe, Stacy Coley and Brandon Zylstra. Beebe and Coley missed practice all week with injuries, so Zylstra should get ample chances against the Titans.
On defense, there will be competition on the defensive line. Ifeadi Odenigbo, who spent last year on the practice squad, has had a strong preseason and could make the roster because of his ability to play tackle and end. David Parry started 32 straight games for Indianapolis from 2015-16 but only plays nose tackle.
"It will be tough," Zimmer said of cuts along the line. "We may have to manipulate things to figure it out, but we'll try and keep the best guys we can."
Zimmer is fond of saying he never can have too many cornerbacks, but it might be hard to keep more than six. That could make undrafted rookie Holton Hill a candidate for the practice squad.
Last week's signing of George Iloka puts into question whether the Vikings will keep five safeties or just four. If it's four, Anthony Harris might have a leg up over Jayron Kearse for a final spot. The Vikings are working with Iloka as a hybrid linebacker because, Zimmer said, the Vikings "don't have enough depth" at linebacker.
Linebacker Kentrell Brothers will be suspended for the first four games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, and it's not out of the question that Antwione Williams receives a suspension after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in May. He pleaded guilty to careless driving in July. The NFL did not return a message seeking comment on Williams.