Fourth preseason game leads to decisions for Zimmer, Vikings

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Some players stood out in fourth preseason game, others left with no time to prove themselves further.

The fourth preseason game was the final chance for many players to stand out to coach Mike Zimmer, general manager Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings' coaches and personnel department.

In the 13-3 victory at Tennessee, few players really stood out as they fight for roster positions. Minnesota must get to the 53-man regular season roster by Saturday. Kyle Sloter again delivered a win by driving the Vikings to a pair of second-half scores, including a 24-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Zylstra. But ZImmer has already stated Siemian will enter the season as Kirk Cousin's top backup at quarterback.

Here's a few other items that stood out in the fourth preseason game:


The first-team offense didn't play in the game, which means the starting linemen didn't play. In particular, that meant Cornelius Edison didn't take a snap in Thursday's game. Edison looks to be the starting center when Minnesota opens the season at home next week against the San Francisco 49ers. Edison appears to have the job until Pat Elflein is ready to play. Elflein still hasn't practiced and is on the training camp physically-unable-to-perform list. Zimmer said Elflein isn't expected to start on the regular-season PUP list, but the second-year center likely won't be back for the first week.

Without Edison, Elflein and the other first-teamers (Riley Reiff, Tom Compton, Mike Remmers, Rashod Hill), the Vikings went with an interesting look for the starters on Thursday. Brett Jones, acquired this week from the New York Giants, started the game. But Jones didn't start at center. He was the starting left guard. Danny Isidora, who has been a guard, started at center. The two are getting looks at different positions which could give them a leg-up on backup spots with some versatility. Jones played center in the second half, with Isidora moving over to right guard. Aviante Collins, who started at left tackle, moved to left guard in the second half.


Eric Wilson's spot at linebacker wasn't up in the air heading into Thursday and he's set as a key backup and special teams player. But Wilson showed his progress on defense with a strong performance. Wilson could be a valuable asset defensively this season after playing special teams last year. Wilson led the team with six tackles on Thursday and had one tackle for loss. There's no doubt Wilson will be part of the 53-man roster and could earn time as a sub.


Perhaps the toughest decisions for Zimmer and the Vikings for the final roster might be along the defensive line. Minnesota features a star-studded starting unit with Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph and Sheldon Richardson. Trying to pick through who makes the team -- and how many -- among the backups will be tough. Veteran end Brian Robison is set and didn't play Thursday. Jaleel Johnson continued to show well at defensive tackle.

Tashawn Bower and Stephen Weatherly started at the defensive end spots and shined early. Bower had four tackles, including one for loss. Weatherly had a sack, three quarterback hurries, and three tackles, including one for loss.

Zimmer is facing some decisions with Bower, Weatherly and Ifeadi Odenigbo, who was coming off a strong game last week. Odenigbo, who started training camp at defensive tackle but has been at end lately, had four quarterback hurries and three tackles.

Adding to the conundrum of positions and roster spots, defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes continued his improvement. Holmes is making the move inside after Minnesota drafted him in the fourth round. Holmes had 1.5 sacks on Thursday.


Another intriguing spot is at receiver, but primarily because of the injuries the Vikings have faced. Zylstra had missed time earlier. Stacy Coley, Tavarres King and Chad Beebe didn't play Thursday because of injuries.

Veteran Kendall Wright didn't play Thursday, likely showing that he's set for a roster spot. The limited number of receivers gave those healthy plenty of time to shine.

Zylstra made the most of his chance. He caught four of his five targets, looking strong in doing so, and had 54 yards and the touchdown on a nice catch against a defender and staying inbounds.


Holton Hill got a big contract as an undrafted free agent. Minnesota invested in the rookie cornerback and he played most of Thursday's game. Hill is in a fight for a spot at cornerback; one that appears tight with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes and also Terence Newman and Marcus Sherels to consider.

Horace Richardson is another young cornerback who had been getting his chance, but injury took him out of Thursday's game. Richardson had been working at outside cornerback with the second-team defense throughout camp. Hill had been with the third-team. Richardson missed a practice this week and then left Thursday's game after the first drive with a hamstring injury.

Craig James, another cornerback fighting for a spot, was also injured, leaving Hill to get all the time he needed. He had an up-and-down game. Hill missed a couple of tackles in run defense; a key one early as Tennessee drove for a score. He also allowed a few catches. But Hill also flashes at times with the plays he's able to make in coverage.

Adding into his night, Hill surprisingly got a chance to be a returner. He had a 53-yard kickoff return and averaged 7.8 yards-per-return on four punts.