3 things to watch out for during Saturday night’s game

The Minnesota Vikings’ preseason concludes tonight when they take on the Denver Broncos at 8 pm Central Time.

The third preseason game is interesting this year for the Vikings. Historically, it has been the game in which the starters get the most runs in preparation for the start of the regular season in just 10 days.

With only three preseason games left, that contest has moved to game two. The Vikings, having held joint practices with the San Francisco 49ers earlier in the week, opted to rest all but one of their starters.

Prior to Saturday’s game, head coach Kevin O’Connell had not given any clear direction as to whether the starters would play in the game.

For the sake of this article, we’re assuming the Vikings choose not to play as starters and we may see a lot of developing players getting quality plays. With that in mind, here are three things to watch for in Saturday’s game against the Broncos.

Backup quarterback

August 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, United States; Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Nick Mullens (9) runs for a first down against the Minnesota Vikings during a preseason game at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After the Vikings traded for Nick Mullens on Monday morning, the quarterback’s room seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Questions remain about who will win the job because the terms of the Mullens trade are that the Raiders get a 2024 seventh-round pick only if Mullens suits up for a regular-season game in 2022. If Mullens leaves a bad first impression , the Vikings could choose to cut ties with him and look elsewhere for the backup job.

Assuming Mullens isn’t an unmitigated mess, Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion are fighting for their lives.

Mond, who is a 2021 third-round developmental pick, has the best chance to make the roster because of his projected ceiling, but his performance against the San Francisco 49ers was the catalyst for the Mullens trade. The quarterbacks will be the main focus of the night.

defensive line

August 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle TY McGill (76) reacts after making a save against the San Francisco 49ers during the second quarter at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The most competitive group on the team right now is the defensive line. The main reason? Two veterans seen as long shots to make the team have made more noise.

Having played the Vic Fangio defensive style for his entire career, Jonathan Bullard has been the most consistent of the backups in this group. Showing a propensity to penetrate the offensive line with power and technique, his experience in the system and his ability to play multiple spots will be invaluable as a backup.

TY McGill is the biggest wild card. With what only seemed like a chance for strikers to earn a roster spot, the eight-year veteran has made a massive impact by tallying 3.5 sacks and nine pressures per Pro Football Focus in just 46 snaps. He has worked his way up the team and has one more chance to prove himself.

The only wild card is second-year player Jaylen Twyman. Having missed last season due to gunshot wounds sustained in the offseason, Twyman has played very well in camp. Primarily an inside sprinter who wins with quickness and explosive technique, Twyman has played mostly solid during his limited action this preseason. Could you pass it to the practice squad? Yes, but the Vikings bosses could opt to keep seven defensive linemen to make sure they don’t lose him.

akayleb evans

August 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States; San Francisco 49ers running back Jordan Mason (41) runs as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) defends during the fourth quarter at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

When injuries happen, opportunities arise.

When Andrew Booth Jr. injured his ankle in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, an opportunity arose for Evans. Not just for extra reps, but for a chance to move up the depth chart.

Evans has looked what was expected coming out of Missouri. He stays in phase very well, but he needs to get faster and more aggressive when attacking the ball. More reps will make a big difference for Evans against a deep Broncos receiving body.

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