By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Every year the fourth and final preseason game swings around and you hear a smattering of mixed opinions towards its value. Fans hate it because almost all of the starters will be on the sidelines and tickets remain at full price. Coaches and GMs consider it a necessary evil as they continue to make important decisions in preparation for the weekend roster cut to get down from 75 to 53 players.
If you are part of the majority that lines up with the latter, here are five things you should key in on and watch in today’s fourth preseason game.
Middle Linebacker Position Coming Down to the Wire…
It’s not exactly a sign of strength when the battle for your starting MLB comes down to the final preseason game, but it does make it interesting. We haven’t received official word on what the Vikings plan to do tonight in the middle but the possibility remains that we could see both Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole in action tonight for one final audition.
Earlier this week, Zimmer said that he has “a pretty good idea [who will start] right now. I’m just going to sit and wait until after this week and see though.”
Cole offers a more athletic style of play, he’s better in coverage and has a knack for finding the passing lanes. On the other side, Brinkley brings the experience. He’s known as a run stopper and knows how to lay a hit on backs coming out of the backfield.
Strong Safety Job Up For Grabs…
Injuries have torn apart the Vikings defensive backfield this preseason. On the back end, the strong safety position remains up for grabs. Robert Blanton came back from a hamstring injury last week and still looked to be a little rusty. He’s the favorite to win the job but will likely need to boost the confidence of the coaching staff with a good performance tonight in Tennessee.
Behind him, the battle rages on between Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo, Chris Crocker and Kurt Coleman. Nobody from this quartet impressed while Blanton was down, so it’s probably safe to say it’s Robert’s job to lose, but he’ll need to show that he’s ready before Zimmer throws him out there during the regular season.
New punt returner in 2014…
The battle between Marcus Sherels and Adam Thielen for the number one punt returner has been one of the more interesting competitions through the preseason. Second year wide receiver Adam Thielen leads the entire league this preseason with 127 punt return yards and is currently averaging an impressive 25.7 yards per return. Thielen has likely earned a roster spot already through his receiving acumen, but could Sherels be losing out on a roster spot if Thielen grabs the number one punt returner job?
Who will back up Adrian Peterson?
It has kind of slipped through the cracks this preseason but with Toby Gerhart in Jacksonville this season, Adrian Peterson will have a new backup running back this year. And with the implementation of Norv Turner’s new offensive schemes, this backup running back could turn into the regular third down running back and could find themselves having a larger impact on this team. Matt Asiata tops the depth chart right now but has had an unimpressive preseason. Dropping some easy passes last week, Asiata has also looked average on the ground. With 24 carries under his belt, Matt averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Meanwhile, rookie running back Jerick McKinnon has seen some extended play this preseason and has looked the part. Averaging 4.5 yards per carry, McKinnon has been a regular part of the aerial attack and it does not appear as if the game is too big for him off the bat.