The quest for another undefeated preseason ended on Thursday. Mike Zimmer suffered his first career preseason loss as a head coach as the Vikings fell to the Titans, 24-17.
Ok, enough of that. While most of the starters didn’t play, the backups got one final chance to prove why they belong on the 53-man roster. Here are five topics that stood out in the preseason finale.
1. It’s time to be concerned with Blair Walsh’s kicking issues. He missed another field goal, a 48-yarder with no wind, on his first attempt. He finished 1 of 2 on his field goal attempts, connecting on a 33-yarder later in the game. Walsh finished the preseason going 3 of 9 on field goal attempts. Whether it’s trying to live up to a new contract — a four-year extension worth up to $14 million he signed during training camp — or dealing with two long snappers this summer, Walsh must figure out the issue fairly quickly. It’s not time to panic just yet considering it was just the preseason, but we saw Walsh lack consistency last year as well.
2. Taylor Heinicke made a strong case on why he deserves a roster spot. The undrafted rookie free agent started at quarterback and played the entire game. He finished 27 of 41 for 279 yards and two touchdowns. Heinicke moved well in the pocket and eluded a few sacks to extend plays, gaining 21 yards on two rushes. It was a good opportunity for the Old Dominion product to prove his worth and now the decision rests in the hands of the Vikings front office and Zimmer. Heinicke did all he could to crack the team, however. It just comes down to whether the Vikings would rather use a roster spot on a third quarterback or to add depth at another position.
3. There are many questions that remain at the strong safety position. It appears the Vikings will have the same four faces at safety — Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo and Antone Exum. Blanton still had some lapses in coverage to allow some big plays, though he wasn’t the only one at fault on some of those situations. It appeared that Exum was going to make a serious run at Blanton’s starting spot, he suffered a hamstring injury during the preseason. It’s still the weakest position on defense, and Blanton seems poised to win the starting job by default again.
4. The Vikings could use another veteran along the offensive line. They’ll likely have nine offensive linemen, but they only have one reliable backup option in Joe Berger. With Mike Harris starting at right guard, the Vikings lack a sturdy swing tackle if something happens to Matt Kalil or T.J. Clemmings. There are some young options on the team they can choose from including David Yankey, Austin Shepherd and Tyrus Thompson, who missed most of the preseason finale due to a head injury.
5. Dominique Williams likely won’t make the team, but he made one last favorable impression as well. The Vikings are set at running back with Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, but Williams seems to be a practice squad candidate if he goes unclaimed. He had an impressive performance with 24 rushing yards on nine carries and 45 receiving yards on five catches. Williams also scored on a nice one-handed catch for 14 yards.