Key matchups are internal in preseason finale

There is no head-to-head matchup to watch in the preseason finale. Instead, the most intriguing battles will be internal with more than 20 players on the roster fringe. We break down the locks and the precarious question marks at each position.

Typically, the key matchup is a key head-to-head battle between a Vikings player and his opposite number from that week’s opponent. However, with many of the starters for the Vikings and Titans sitting out the final game, the real question is who will make the final 53-man roster and who won’t.

With that, he is a quick take on who is in, who is likely out and who could find himself at Nos. 52, 53 or 54 and beyond – making the internal competition this week’s matchup to watch.

Quarterback – The only player in any potential danger of being traded or cut is Christian Ponder. Given that the Vikings have used three different starters in three of the last four years, going with just two quarterbacks might not make sense unless the Vikings get a solid trade offer for Ponder, and head coach Mike Zimmer has already said he plans to have three quarterbacks.

Running Back – Joe Banyard, Dominique Williams and Zach Line. The Vikings are likely to keep four running backs (Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon). There may not be enough room for a fifth running back, but Banyard may have the inside track if they keep a fifth one.

Wide Receiver – The Vikings are likely locked in on four wide receivers (Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright). They may only keep five receivers, perhaps six, if one of them becomes the primary punt returner. As such, the roster battle will be waged between Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith. Kain Colter and Donte Foster have little to no realistic chance of making the final roster.

Tight End – The Vikings are likely going to keep three tight ends. The only lock is Kyle Rudolph. The other spots are up for grabs with Rhett Ellison, Allen Reisner and Chase Ford likely fighting for two spots.

Offensive Tackle – Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt are the starters and there are three players battling for what will likely be two spots – Antonio Richardson, Mike Remmers and Austin Wentworth.

Guard – Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson are locked in and David Yankey isn’t going anywhere. That likely leaves one spot to be fought over between Jeff Baca and Vladmir Ducasse. It’s unlikely the team will keep both and they could cut both if they keep Wentworth, who is versatile enough play tackle and guard.

Center – John Sullivan is entrenched as the starter and Joe Berger is likely to fight off Zac Kerin for the backup spot because of his line versatility.

Defensive End – There is the potential that the Vikings will keep five DEs, but four of them appear locked and loaded – Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Corey Wootton and Scott Crichton. The only question is whether 2013 practice squad player Justin Trattou makes the 53-man roster or not and that doesn’t appear likely.

Defensive Tackle – The Vikings still have seven DTs on the roster and the only question as this point is how many they keep. Shariff Floyd and Linval Joseph are penned in and rookie Shamar Stephen has impressed. Veterans Fred Evans and Tom Johnson might have to battle for a final spot. Chase Baker and Isame Faciane are still on the roster, but neither of them is guaranteed a roster spot.

Outside Linebacker – Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway are locks and 2013 fourth-rounder Gerald Hodges is likely safe from The Turk. The team will likely carry four or five OLBs, so the competition for those final couple of spots will be waged between Michael Mauti, Larry Dean and Brandon Watts. Watts has speed; Mauti has versatility to play inside or outside. But nothing is guaranteed for any of them.

Middle Linebacker – Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole are going to make the final roster. Mike Zimmer (the player, not the coach) is on the chopping block.

Cornerback – One of the more difficult positions to project, there are still eight corners left on the roster and the number that will be kept is likely limited to five or six at the most. Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson are most likely locked in, but the other five remain in active competition, including Marcus Sherels, Shaun Prater, Jabari Price, Kendall James and Julian Posey. James and Posey appear to the be the longest of the long shots, which could make the battle for the fifth spot (and possibly sixth) fierce heading into Labor Day weekend when the final cuts are made.

Safety – The competition here may be as strong as any position on the roster. Once again, five or six players may end up being kept, but even with Mistral Raymond on injured reserve, there are still lingering questions as to who stays and who goes. Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton and Chris Crocker are the favorites to win roster spots, but the competition between Kurt Coleman, Andrew Sendejo, Jamarca Sanford and Antone Exum may come down to the final roster spot available on the final 53-man roster.

This weekend, the Vikings will make the tough calls that will determine the final roster. Considering that Thursday’s performances may be the final chance for players to make their case for being among the final 53, it will be the internal battles for roster spots that will be this week’s key matchup.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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