The first week of preseason football gave the Minnesota Vikings plenty to digest, like Teddy Bridgewater’s growth and the positive performance of the team’s rookie class. It also cast a light on certain negatives, like the struggles of the offensive and defensive lines in the trenches.
Tonight’s matchup isn’t just a test for the entire team; it’s a chance for those who underwhelmed to turn their play around and make their way onto the final 53-man roster. It’s also a chance for incumbent starters to secure their jobs, reserves to win the competition, and no-namers to make a splash.
Before the Seahawks tilt, the Vikings Territory team is taking a look at the roster and trying to determine who has the most to prove for the Vikings with three weeks left until Week 1. Is it Andre Smith, Cordarrelle Patterson, or maybe, a surprise name? Follow the jump and see what the gang thinks!
Heading into Week 2 of the preseason, who has the most to prove for the Vikings?
Sam Neumann: RT Andre Smith
No one expects Smith to be a Hall of Famer at right tackle, but he was brought in to start and be a stabilizing presence on the line. It was only one preseason game, but against the Bengals, he was…not…that.
Smith looked sluggish and flat-footed in Cincinnati, and Mike Zimmer has already started tinkering with T.J, Clemmings in the starting lineup, so Smith needs to show SOMETHING in Thursday’s game to remain the presumptive starter.
Andre Smith spending 2016 as a backup would be a big disappointment for an offensive line that desperately needs improvement.
Adam Patrick: WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson
Patterson has been receiving praise from coaches and players throughout the offseason. But the Vikings’ former first round pick has yet to live up to expectations during his career and he is entering the last year of his contract with the team. He needs to play in a game as soon as possible in order to improve his status with the offense for 2016.
Otherwise, this could be his last year in a Minnesota uniform.
Adam Warwas: P Jeff Locke
I so badly want to say Andre Smith, but it is a little late in the game to think that the Vikings are anything other than stuck with the offensive line they’ve got… pending some major turn of events.
Instead, I’m going with the guy that outkicked his coverage Friday night after explaining all offseason long that he cannot be outkicking his coverage. Locke wasn’t the only person responsible for Cincinnati’s special teams touchdown on Friday, as there were plenty of missed tackles to go with it, but these punting problems can only persist for so long before the Vikings front office decides to call an audible (and call a street free agent).
Brent LaBathe: RTs Andre Smith/T.J. Clemmings
Mike Zimmer has made it very clear — if you don’t protect Teddy Bridgewater, I will find some who will. He wasted no time moving TJ Clemmings back to right tackle after spending time at left tackle during training camp. It’s been discussed all offseason that the Vikings’ success is dependent upon the offensive line. With all eyes on them, both Smith and Clemmings must be feeling the pressure to produce.
Carl Knowles: WR Adam Thielen
Thielen is out to prove he belongs ahead of Jarius Wright on the wide receiver depth chart. Wright leads all Vikings’ pass catchers with 76 receptions over the last two seasons, but an August 8 leg injury has kept him sidelined.
Zimmer thinks Wright will return before the start of the regular season, but until then, Thielen will attempt to stake his claim and certify he is more than just a special teams ace. His fearless 22-yard reception over the middle in the first preseason game against the Bengals was simply brilliant.
With Thielen and Jerick McKinnon working hard to earn bigger roles in the passing game, Wright might find himself as the forgotten man when he returns.
Austin Belisle: SS Antone Exum Jr.
It feels like the Vikings are doing all they can for Exum, but that the third-year safety isn’t meeting his end of the bargain. Head coach Mike Zimmer praised Exum earlier this week, but also made it a point to highlight Exum’s noticeable mistakes. For a Zimmer-drafted player with so much athletic ability, it’s shocking how little he’s played in three years. This season truly feels like now-or-never for Exum in Minnesota.