4 Roster Climbers after Vikings 1st Preseason Game

Tabs Unlikely
Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings lost Preseason Game No. 1 to the Seattle Seahawks, 24-13, after the team’s third-string unit basically faceplanted at Lumen Field.

Next up for Minnesota? The Tennessee Titans at U.S. Bank Stadium on August 19th.

4 Roster Climbers after Vikings 1st Preseason Game

And with one preseason game in the books and two to go, let’s look at four roster climbers — listed in alphabetical order.

1. Ty Chandler (RB)

4 Roster Climbers
Aug 10, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) carries the ball while being defended by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jon Rhattigan (59) after making a catch during the first half at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports.

Chandler banked 70 yards from scrimmage in about half a game on Thursday night, with an offensive line that felt familiarly and suspiciously bad. The second-year runner turned nothing into something a few times, making his case for RB2 in 2023.

When the first depth chart dropped five days ago, Chandler was listed as RB3 behind Kene Nwangwu. In the next two and a half weeks, expect Chandler to close the gap toward RB2 and formally win the job.

2. Ivan Pace Jr. (LB)

Sep 17, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. (0) reacts after a play against the Miami Redhawks in the second half at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Pace Jr. could’ve been a classic training-camp-only hero. But then he arrived in Seattle and did the important thing for an undrafted free-agent rookie — he looked the part.

He never looked lost and, in fact, played wonderfully, albeit versus Seattle’s second-teamers. Pace Jr. probably doesn’t have the oomph to start at linebacker out of the gate as a rookie, but if an injury besets Jordan Hicks or Brian Asamoah, Vikings fans should be excited — not anxietal — about this ‘next man up’ at the position.

3. NaJee Thompson (CB)

NCAA Football: New Orleans Bowl-Louisiana Tech vs Georgia Southern
Dec 23, 2020; New Orleans, LA, USA; Georgia Southern Eagles wide receiver NaJee Thompson (6) catches a pass against Louisiana Tech Bulldogs during the first half of the New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports.

Because of special teams’ prowess, Thompson went from sure-thing-roster-cut to sure-thing-roster-bubble personality in about two hours in Seattle. He tackled punt returners and downed punts deep in Seattle’s territory.

Thompson was a longshot to make the team at cornerback, but with any luck, Kevin O’Connell will retain his services for special teams wizardry.

4. Luiji Vilain (OLB)

7 Predictions for Vikings Training Camp
Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Luiji Vilian (43) performs a drill during mandatory minicamp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings no longer employ Za’Darius Smith, and D.J. Wonnum enters the final year of his contract in 2023. New defensive coordinator Brian Flores needs a reservist EDGE rusher to splash in 2023, and Vilain looked the part in the first preseason game.

Vilain was aggressive, tabulating 3 tackles, 3 QB hits, and a sack. If there were such a thing as Preseason Game No. 1 MVP — there is not — Vilain would’ve won the thing.

He played so well that you should be upset if he fails to make the 53-man roster.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.