This Vikings roster is full of examples illustrating why these preseason games matter, even if the final score is worthless.

Real football returns Friday night as the Vikings open the exhibition slate in Cincinnati following two joint practices. In case you’ve missed it, our Matt Vensel has chronicled those sessions between observations, cornerback Trae Waynes’ opportunity to start  and the  ongoing competition at center. He’ll have you covered on all news and analysis from the game.

Multiple Vikings didn’t make the trip, but many did from Mark Craig’s five under-the-radar players to watch. Like receiver Adam Thielen and cornerback Marcus Sherels before them, those Vikings and their undrafted cohorts need a preseason full of good impressions to crack the regular season roster by Sept. 3.

Overall, starters shouldn’t play long with stars expected to sit on  both sides between Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict.

Here’s what you need to know about the other sideline:


Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. CT

Where: Paul Brown Stadium

TV: Ch. 9

Radio: 100.3-FM, 1130-AM


Head coach: Marvin Lewis, 14th season (112-94-2)

Last season: 12-4, AFC North champions

Primer: The Bengals and Vikings enter this season with similar championship aspirations. Clocks tick a bit faster in Cincinnati after last year’s fifth consecutive one-and-done playoff exit. They’ve won 10-plus games for four straight campaigns, but can’t shake the postseason demons. The Bengals kept the core of one of the league’s most balanced rosters, losing pieces only when deciding not to overpay  a couple receivers not named A.J. Green. With depth on the outsides in question, QB Andy Dalton could lean more on a running back tandem in Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s fingerprints remain on a Bengals defense that retained their main contributors this offseason.

Additions/retention: The Vikings tried to woo  S George Iloka in free agency, but the Bengals ultimately inked a reported five-year, $30 million deal to keep him in Cincinnati. They also re-signed CB Adam Jones. At receiver, the Bengals signed former Panthers and Patriots WR Brandon LaFell and drafted WR Tyler Boyd in the second round. They brought in veteran LB Karlos Dansby in free agency. A handful of position coach departures meant a retooling of the staff, including the addition of former Saints head coach Jim Haslett as the Bengals linebackers coach. They drafted CB William Jackson III in the first round, but he’s expected to miss significant time with a torn pectoral muscle.

Losses: The most impactful departure is likely that of former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, who was hired as the new Cleveland Browns head coach. Dalton enjoyed a career-best QB rating under Jackson last season and will now be instructed by his former position coach, Ken Zampese. On the field, the Bengals opted against keeping WRs Marvin Jones and Mohamad Sanu, who both signed lucrative free agent deals. They  sent packing veteran defenders  like S Reggie Nelson, LB A.J. Hawk and DE Wallace Gilberry. Two more of their castoffs, LB Emmanuel Lamur and T Andre Smith, followed Zimmer to the Vikings.


Vikings: G Brandon Fusco and S Anthony Harris were held out Thursday after practicing Wednesday. A handful of injured Vikings didn’t make the trip, including CB Terence Newman, DT Sharrif Floyd, LB Eric Kendricks, WR Jarius Wright, DT Scott Crichton, LB Edmond Robinson and LB Brandon Watts. Zimmer didn’t rule out CB Marcus Sherels returning after he missed the initial trip due to a family emergency. Still sidelined on the non-football illness/injury and physically unable to perform lists are G Mike Harris (illness), QB Taylor Heinicke (foot) and TE Rhett Ellison (knee).

Bengals: Fourth-round pick DT Andrew Billings suffered a knee injury this week and has been held out of practice. TE Tyler Eifert and DT Brandon Thompson remain on the PUP list. CBs Darqueze Dennard and Jackson III, LT Andrew Whitworth, LaFell and Burfict have also been held out this week.

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Zimmer calls joint practices 'productive,' mum about Friday plans

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Big opportunity for Trae Waynes in Cincinnati