Thursday, September 1, 2016

Vikings vs. Rams Preview

Photo: Bleacher Report

After a tough week at Winter Park, the Vikings will close out the preseason with a home matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. Daniel House previews the game and gives you some areas to monitor closely before tonight's contest.

Updated: September 1st, 2016 11:50am

By: Daniel House

After a tough week at Winter Park, the Vikings will close out the preseason with a home matchup against the Los Angeles Rams. It will be the final chance for many fringe roster players to prove they are worthy of a spot on the active roster. It also is another opportunity for fans, players, and coaches to get acquainted with U.S. Bank Stadium one final time before the regular season begins.

For more, here are some talking pieces heading into tonight's game with the Rams:

The Joel Stave Show
With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater going down this week in practice with a season-ending knee injury, the whole landscape of the quarterback position has changed. Shaun Hill won't play in this game because the coaches won't risk an type of injury. This means undrafted rookie Joel Stave is going to see extended action. Stave has put together an inconsistent preseason campaign and training camp, but he has shown some potential. Tonight is a chance for him to showcase his talents for a long period of time. The Vikings are likely going to add a quarterback via free agency and with Taylor Heinicke coming back soon, Stave might need to put out some positive tape for other teams. The Vikings did re-sign quarterback Brad Sorenson after Bridgewater went down and he might see some time in this game, but the vast majority of snaps will be given to Joel Stave. It is a chance to convince the coaching staff he is potentially worth an active roster spot in the future.

Eyes on the D-Line
There is still room for discussion among the Vikings defensive line. Will the team decide to keep five defensive ends, or with a strong defensive tackle group, may four defensive ends be enough? Justin Trattou will round out the obvious four defensive ends, but a player like Zach Moore will have enough opportunity to prove he is worthy of a roster spot. One of my early favorites from training camp and the preseason was defensive tackle Toby Johnson. He has an opportunity to see extended action and potentially spiral himself to a 53-man roster spot if the team decides to keep five defensive tackles. Overall play in tonight's game could have an impact on how the coaches structure the defensive line for the final 53-man roster.

Safety Battle Heats Up
The safety battle will likely come to a triumphant close tonight. It appears Andrew Sendejo is the favorite to land the starting nod next to Harrison Smith. Aside from that, the final few spots are up for grabs. Anthony Harris missed the first three preseason games and is expected to return tonight. He will see plenty of action because the coaches will likely limit the amount of time Andrew Sendejo is on the field. Michael Griffin left Sunday's game on crutches, so he probably won't play either. It means Harris and rookie Jayron Kearse will see much of the work in this game. Each of them are fighting for a final 53-man roster spot and can separate themselves from a veteran like Michael Griffin in the race.

The Final Two Linebacker Spots
The final linebacker spot is still questionable at this point. Edmond Robinson had a great game on Sunday and appears to be a player the coaches want to develop. Brandon Watts has been injured and his days appear numbered. Veteran Audie Cole has been filling in for Eric Kendricks as he missed time with a hamstring injury. It is hard to imagine he won't crack the roster. If the team keeps six linebackers, it comes down to whether Kentrell Brothers has done enough to beat out Edmond Robinson for a roster spot. Brothers hasn't impressed me in the preseason, but like many others, has a chance to prove everyone wrong tonight. It is hard to imagine Audie Cole isn't on the roster and with that idea in mind, it ultimately will come down to Robinson and Brothers.

Who stays and who goes on the O-Line?
The depth spots on the offensive line are still being finalized and there is sure to be plenty of shuffling up front in this game. Isame Faciane has been seeing guard snaps ahead of fourth-round pick Willie Beavers in the last two preseason games. That's not a sound endorsement for such a high draft pick. It is hard to imagine the front office would give up on a high pick this early in his career, but who knows? Is Beavers more valuable than an experienced player like Zac Kerin? These two players should be monitored this evening. I'm not sure I would value the potential of Beavers over a solid performer like Kerin. However, in extended action both of those players will be worth evaluating. Additionally, Nick Easton will likely be the backup center after the team released veteran John Sullivan earlier this week. He will be the man snapping the ball to Joel Stave tonight and fans can get acquainted with their future starting center.

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