The Vikings starters for the regular season have pretty much been set and those players will likely see little to no action Thursday night at Houston in the preseason finale. The focus will be on those players who are fighting for roster spots and for playing time as the 2012 season draws near.
One of those areas of competition is at running back, where offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is looking for young backs Lex Hilliard, Jordan Todman and Matt Asiata to step up their play as they compete for what might be just one or two open spots.
"They all work tremendously hard and we're going to give all three of them another opportunity on Thursday night," Musgrave said. "They did some good things. We put the ball on the ground the other night, which we don't want to see, but, other than that, their effort has been good and they've been working really hard."
The Vikings may have some tough decisions to make at wide receiver as well. With veteran Jerome Simpson preparing to sit out the first three games of the season as he serves his league-imposed suspension, the team is confident that the backups will fill that void until Simpson can return for Week 4 of the regular season.
"I think we feel confident there," Musgrave said. "We have a good corps of wide receivers, so we're going to be O.K. until Jerome returns. We'll be excited for his return, but we're going to do our best in his absence to remain effective through the air."
Defensively, the primary battle for playing time will be in the secondary. Defensive coordinator Alan Williams said two players that bear watching are veteran Chris Carr and rookie Josh Robinson, who both have impressed in their time on the field in the preseason.
"One (Carr) has a ton of experience and plays inside in the nickel spot," Williams said. "Josh, so far, is (lining up) primarily on the outside. It's hard to evaluate the differences because Josh hasn't had a ton of reps and a ton of plays. Josh is unbelievably fast. He runs as well as anyone in the NFL. Josh has shown that he tackles well. Chris is a tackler. He gets guys on the ground."
Because of injuries, neither is expected to play Thursday, but that will be a game in which the primary goal may be to simply get everyone out of the game healthy as they prepare for the Sept. 9 season opener.
While most of the starters will be spectators only, there are still several roster questions remaining – whether for winning a roster spot or for playing time on the 53-man roster. The preseason is winding down, but there are still several key questions to be answered. For those fighting for spots on the final roster, Thursday will be a make-or-break type game that will make things more than mildly interesting for the coaching staff – even if it is not necessarily that way for Vikings fans.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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