Vikings vs. Cardinals | 6 Items to Watch

Expensive Decision
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One week after falling to 0-2 in the meaningless preseason standings, the Vikings will host the Arizona Cardinals in the third and final preseason contest. It is the last opportunity for some players to top the scale to their favor before the roster cuts roll around.

Vikings vs. Cardinals | 6 Items to Watch

The Arizona Cardinals are in a full-on rebuild after firing head coach Kliff Kingsbury and hiring former Vikings assistant Jonathan Gannon. Quarterback Kyler Murray is recovering from a torn ACL, and the team traded away three players on Thursday. The Cardinals are surely one of the worst teams in the NFL, but can the Vikings take advantage of that to win the first preseason game in Kevin O’Connell’s tenure?

More Jaren Hall Tape?

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The rookie quarterback is expected to play more in the third preseason game, potentially getting the starting nod. That brings the advantage that Hall can throw to better receivers and has better pass protection, although they struggled to keep Nick Mullens clean.

Jaren Hall played poorly in his first preseason contests but looked much more comfortable in the second game. The next step is to continue to improve while perhaps showing his talent with the backup unit so the team can get a better evaluation.

Continued Tight End Domination?

The Vikings have a strong tight end group at the top with T.J. Hockenson and free-agent addition Josh Oliver, but they also have great depth behind those guys with Johnny Mundt, who was named the “best TE3 in the league” by his head coach O’Connell.

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The three players have their roster spots secured, but considering the excellent outings from Nick Muse and Ben Sims, they might opt to keep a fourth one. They need to continue to put pressure on the decision-makers. Muse racked up 6 catches for 56 yards and 1 touchdown in two games, and Sims had 2 receptions for 38 yards against the Titans.

Who Wins the Safety Duel?

Harrison Smith and Camryn Bynum are starters in Brian Flores’ defense and will certainly not play. Also not expected to suit up is special teams ace and Swiss-army knife Josh Metellus, and Lewis Cine hasn’t practiced much this week because of a soft tissue injury.

That is why there will be a heavy dose of Theo Jackson and Jay Ward. The duo is competing for one potential roster spot as depth safety. Jackson has performed better in training camp and the preseason, but Ward is a rookie and was a fourth-round pick.

Can DeWayne McBride Show Enough?

Rookie running back DeWayne McBride was highly productive in college at UAB, but that hasn’t translated to the field in the preseason, running behind poor blockers. Regardless, he hasn’t shown much burst and looked markedly worse than Ty Chandler.

The next game is his final chance to showcase his skills to make the roster, with Abram Smith and Aaron Dykes trying to do the same in the absence of Kene Nwangwu. Through two games, McBride rushed for 33 yards and 1 touchdown in 12 carries.

Which WR Shines?

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They had the same opportunity last week but struggled to advantage with the two tight ends stealing the show in the passing game. Without Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn expected to play, the depth guys can win or lose a roster spot with good or poor play.

Jalen Reagor, Brandon Powell, Trishton Jackson, and Thayer Thomas are the candidates for one or two roster spots, depending on how many the Vikings will keep behind Jefferson, Osborn, Jordan Addison, and Jalen Nailor.

How Does Andrew Booth Look?

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The sophomore went through all kinds of issues in the first 16 months of his professional career. He has struggled to stay on the field in his football life throughout college and the NFL but has the talent to be a solid cornerback in the NFL.

So far, however, that hasn’t translated to the field. He got badly burnt in the first game by undrafted Seahawks receiver Jake Bobo, and Akayleb Evans will handle the starting job. The second preseason game was a better outing, although not flawless. His task is to keep that upward trend going.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt