Think the last preseason game doesn’t mean anything? Try telling that to Lex Hilliard. By tomorrow night he could be on the street looking for a job. Tonight he’ll get one last shot to impress coaches and win himself a roster spot with the Vikings. And he’s not alone on the bubble. Here are five jobs still up for grabs just a day before final cuts.
1. Running Back
Pretty much everyone including the media is handing the #3 RB gig to Matt Asiata. And why not? Asiata has looked impressive when he’s had a chance to be out there. He’s certainly shown more explosion than Lex Hilliard. Jordan Todman should be in this conversation too even though he’s seen action in only one game. Thursday night’s preseason finale should sort this out if there’s anything left to be sorted. It’s possible Asiata has already done enough.
2. Offensive Line
Will the Vikings keep eight offensive linemen or nine? If they keep eight, Patrick Brown will probably be the last lineman cut. If they keep nine he’s probably safe. Then there’s Chris DeGeare who is on the outside looking in on most 53-man projections, whether the Vikings keep eight linemen or nine. I don’t know precisely what DeGeare can show coaches tonight that he hasn’t already shown them. They’ve had a couple years to look at him and it seems he never gets anywhere depth-chart-wise. But you never know. Maybe he’ll pancake a couple guys and leapfrog Brown.
Right now there are four spots locked down and two up in the air. Audie Cole, Tyrone McKenzie and Larry Dean are battling for those two spots. Cole has the advantage of being a 2012 draft pick with a darn nice preseason already in his pocket. McKenzie has experience – limited experience – as a Tampa-2 MLB and that gives him value as insurance behind Jasper Brinkley. Larry Dean is a solid special teams guy who is probably more athletically gifted than Cole. Which of these guys will be cut? Well, there’s a chance two of them could be cut. Cause the Vikings might opt to scour the waiver wire for some extra linebacker depth. If that happens, McKenzie is almost certainly gone and Dean would probably be on the street as well. I personally would keep both those guys over Cole because I don’t think he moves well.
4. Cornerback/Punt Returner
I’m combining cornerback and punt returner into one section because the two spots are tied together. Tonight Jarius Wright will get an extended look at punt returner and could win the job outright. If that happens, Marcus Sherels becomes expendable. The sucky thing for Sherels is that he’s hurt and doesn’t get a chance to compete toe-to-toe with Wright. That would be good for at least a little drama. My guess is that Leslie Frazier would love for Wright to win the job, making it easier for the Vikings to keep Brandon Burton as one of their six cornerbacks. Zack Bowman is also on the line a little tonight too. Reggie Jones is probably on the outside looking in right now but that could change.
5. Defensive Line
This is a numbers game like the offensive line. Right now there are eight spots pretty solidly locked down and one potential spot open depending on how many D-linemen the team wants to keep. Nick Reed and Trevor Guyton would appear to be the two men battling for that final possibly non-existent spot. Guyton has the advantage of versatility, being able to play inside or on the edge. Reed right now is strictly an edge rusher. Reed has the advantage of a more impressive preseason at least to the outside observer (the tape mavens may say different). Like I said, it’s possible there isn’t really a competition here because it’s possible the Vikes will only take eight D-linemen in which case both these guys are SOL.
Good luck to all the bubble men. May your NFL dreams continue to come true.