After two competitive days of joint practices at TCO Performance Center, the Minnesota Vikings will host the Tennessee Titans on Saturday night at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Throughout joint practices, the starters were active and went to war with the other team. Because of that, we won’t see the majority of the starters play in the game. That will give the second and third-team players extensive run to make an impact and earn either a position on the depth chart or a roster spot.
As we head into Saturday night’s game, here are the four storylines to keep your eye on.
Managing editor Tyler Forness: Wide receiver depth
After the top three wide receivers, there is a log jam for the WR 4, 5 and 6 spots. Jalen Nailor seemed to be the leading candidate to be the WR4, but he hasn’t practiced since the first practice of training camp. Jalen Reagor has stepped up in a big way during practice, as have Brandon Powell and Trishton Jackson. Seeing how things play out with this group is worth keeping your eye on, as it will also impact punt returner as well.
Columnist Judd Zulgad: Cornerback depth
The Vikings’ cornerback depth wasn’t great before an injury to third-round pick Mehki Blackmon in Thursday’s practice. That likely bumps Joejuan Williams up to the first unit, assuming Blackmon is forced to miss time. The Vikings are either going to have to feel very good about some of their younger corners, such as potential special teams ace NaJee Thompson, or they are going to have to go outside to add another body or two to the mix. The Titans game should be a good test of the younger group of corners. Andrew Booth Jr., a second-round pick in 2022, has been with the second team all of camp. This game would be a great time for Booth to give the coaching staff something to consider.
Columnist Kevin Fielder: Offensive line
The Vikings’ offensive line had their moments, but consistent offensive line play wins championships and nothing from the opener screamed consistency. If their offensive line continues to struggle to pick up stunts and twists from the defensive line, it’ll be hard to feel encouraged about the team’s depth at the position. As a result, keep an eye on the unit that starts the game for the Vikings. Even if it won’t be filled with starters, seeing players like Ed Ingram take a step forward would be a positive sign for the overall unit, especially as they ramp up for when the games matter.
Columnist Saivion Mixson: Pass rush
The Vikings lost over a quarter of their pressures and sack production from last season with the departure of Za’Darius Smith. While the addition of Marcus Davenport can help mitigate that, there are still questions about who else can step up for Minnesota in the pass-rush department. Luiji Vilain had a good game against the Seattle Seahawks and has a chance to have another one on Saturday. The Titans allowed eight sacks to the Chicago Bears defense, including eight pressures to fourth-year defensive linemen Trevis Gipson. This game is a prime opportunity for Vilain, or second-year edge rusher Benton Whitley, to earn a spot on the 53-man active roster.
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