The final game of the preseason comes Saturday night at 8:00 PM CST on the road against the Denver Broncos. Most of the roster is set but a few things still could be settled in this final test for the Minnesota Vikings. Here are three things that need to happen for their last game before the regular season to be a success.
1. Get Nick Mullens Acclimated
With the Vikings trading for Nick Mullens, he likely becomes the favorite to win the backup job. Sean Mannion is likely done with his tenure now in Minnesota and it will almost certainly take a miraculous performance from Kellen Mond to threaten Mullens for the job. This final preseason game will be key for Mullens to continue to pick up the new playbook and scheme. If he does not play well that is not necessarily reason for panic as he will have been in Minnesota for less than a week. This will be a good opportunity for Mullens to gain some rapport with the receivers as he gets acclimated to his new team.
2. Figure Out the Punt Returner Situation
Coming into the preseason, Ihmir Smith-Marsette was likely the betting favorite to win the punt returner job, but that has not panned out. He has had issues with muffed punts that are cause for concern and could cause the Vikings to look elsewhere. Other options include K.J. Osborn, Ty Chandler, and Jalen Nailor. Osborn might be the best returner of the three options listed but it seems unlikely that they would want such an important piece on the offense doing so much work on special teams. My pick would be Nailor and this might be his best shot at making the final roster so expect to see him giving maximum effort if given the opportunity. It should be expected that the coaching staff will try out a few guys throughout the week in practice and this game will likely play a large role in this decision.
3. Who is the Third Tight End?
Before last week I would have thought that Zach Davidson would be the favorite to be the third tight end, but after a catastrophic game against the 49ers, that assumption is very much in question. In my 53-man roster prediction, I had Ben Ellefson as the choice over Davidson but there is still time to turn it around. Ellefson is likely the safer option and is a much better blocker which is what you would be looking for in a third tight end, but Davidson has a lot of upside so if he can flash against the Broncos, he has a shot. Nick Muse has also been a nice surprise through camp but he probably still has a little way to go to make the roster. If Muse has a good game though he could be a deep sleeper to make the final roster next week.