Robert Blanton was the only expected regular-season starter for the Minnesota Vikings to start Thursday night’s preseason finale.
He did himself no favors.
Blanton appeared to blame himself for a wide open Rico Richardson on a 3-yard reception on the Titans’ second possession of the game, clapping his hands in frustration after Richardson hauled in the touchdown pass with no one near him as the Titans took a 14-0 lead after only two possessions.
Blanton is trying to hold onto his starting job without seemingly much pressure from behind. However, after Blanton suffered an injury that took him out of one game last Dec. 7, he didn’t regain his starting spot. Andrew Sendejo took his spot for the last three games of the season instead of being only a one-game injury fill-in.
Blanton has been the starter opposite Harrison Smith all preseason and played only a few series before his Thursday night was over. With perhaps the exception of Gerald Hodges at middle linebacker, Blanton was the only player expected to start in the regular season that started in the preseason finale for the Vikings.
While Blanton is hoping to hold onto his starting job, quarterback Taylor Heinicke was looking to prove he deserves a backup job as the No. 3 quarterback, behind Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill.
Heinicke started the game and played the entire contest, with Bridgewater not dressing and Hill dressed in case Heinicke was hurt during the game. He nearly was, as he took numerous hits in the first half behind a sometimes shaky offensive line and stayed strong, picking himself off the turf.
The result was Heinicke completing 27 of 41 passes for 279 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. It capped an impressive preseason in which the undrafted rookie completed 52 of 87 passes (69.5 percent) with two touchdowns, one interception and an 89.3 passer rating. As a team, the Vikings completed 73.2 percent of their passes and had a 98.2 rating.
Through all the pressure, both in the game and to maintain a roster spot, Heinicke showed well, meaning the Vikings likely wouldn’t be able to slip him through waivers and onto the practice squad. His strong performance may have forced the team’s decision-makers into keeping him on the 53-man roster in a quest to develop a young backup after Shaun Hill’s days are done.
For now, however, Heinicke is hoping to get through Saturday’s cuts with uninterrupted employment while Blanton is hoping to keep his starting job.