UPDATE: I now see that Brandon Zylstra might not play this evening because of an injury he suffered in practice on Wednesday. We’ll have to see how the Vikings roll with that. If he doesn’t play. . .well, I guess that means I only really have two players to watch, eh? -Chris
With this being the first preseason game, we know that the starters for both teams will see very limited action. However, this is the first opportunity for those of us that haven’t been able to see Training Camp or anything up close to get a look at some of the guys that are fighting for spots towards the bottom of the 53-man roster.
I know we’re all interested in seeing Kirk Cousins lead the Vikings’ offense or how Dalvin Cook looks after almost a year on the shelf. But the preseason, and particularly the first couple of games, aren’t really about guys like that. It’s about finding depth guys, and with that in mind I’ve got a few players that I’ll be keeping an eye on this evening.
Brandon Zylstra, WR - While the first three spots on the depth chart for the Vikings are occupied by Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, and the (apparently) resurgent Laquon Treadwell, the spots behind those three are wide open. Thus far, based on what I’ve seen on social media and in a few brief highlights, Zylstra seems to be garnering a lot more attention that any of the other receivers the Vikings currently have in camp. I don’t think it’s entirely because of the opportunity for another “local kid does good” story, though I’m sure that doesn’t hurt. Zylstra led the CFL in receiving last season, and appears to have a really solid chance of making the big roster. He probably won’t get to work much with Cousins, so it will be interesting to see how he operates with Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter, or Peter Pujals behind center.
Aviante Collins, OL - Collins was on the team last season and saw some action as a sixth offensive lineman in “jumbo” sets. Word coming out of camp is that he’s gotten significantly better this season, and with the injury to Nick Easton, could potentially figure more heavily into the mix on the offensive line this season. Right now he’s being used primarily at tackle, but I’d really like to see him get a shot at guard. One of the knocks on him coming out of college was his arm length, and on the inside that issue could potentially be mitigated a bit. Will the Vikings give him a go there? With the issues they’ve had on the offensive line, I’m hoping that they haven’t ruled it out.
Holton Hill, CB - Another potential undrafted steal for the Vikings, Hill has been drawing the praise of his teammates on both sides of the ball thus far in camp. The Vikings’ cornerback depth chart is already ridiculously talented, so Hill is certainly going to have his work cut out for him. Still, there hasn’t been any indication that Hill is letting the off-field habits that dropped him from a Day 2 draft prospect to the undrafted free agent ranks affect his play in Minnesota. If that continues to be the case, there’s no reason that Hill can’t find himself in the mix for a spot on the big roster.
Those are three players that I’m going to be attempting to keep an extra close eye on during tonight’s preseason opener. Who are some of the players that you’re interested in seeing?