NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vikings closed the 2018 preseason by defeating the Tennessee Titans 13-3.
There were multiple questions heading into the game, including players' pushing for remaining roster spots and how well younger defensive players would respond to more reps. Here's a look at a variation of both questions.
How would the battle for the third running back spot behind Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray shake out?
Mike Boone started at led the Vikings with 56 yards on 15 carries. He averaged 3.7 yards per attempt and had a long of 13 yards.
Boone also caught two passes for 53 yards, ripping free for a 46-yard gain in the second half.
Roc Thomas, who had been competing with Boone and Mack Brown, rushed four times for 12 yards and caught two passes for 15 yards. Unfortunately, Thomas suffered an injury at the end of a reception and left the game. Zimmer said Brown, who has been battling an injury, did not travel to Nashville.
The most important thing that Boone might have done, however, was picking up a blitz that Head Coach Mike Zimmer mentioned in his opening comments.
"[Boone] can run," Zimmer later added. "I saw him pick up a blitz one time. Unfortunately, he had a false start as well, but he's hard to bring down when he's got the ball in his hands. He goes for extra yards, so I thought he showed well all preseason."
Blitz pickup is critical on third downs in the NFL, and Boone has admitted the challenging looks at this level have required adjustments. Boone successfully transitioned from receiver to running back out of necessity at Cincinnati.
"It's been a ride, especially picking up blitzes at this level because they come from everywhere," Boone said. "You've really got to hone in on your coaching and go out and showcase that. I feel like I've come a long way. When I first got here, I missed a few. Then I just tried to get better and better. I feel like I came a long way.
"It's crazy. It's a major transition," he later added. "You go from not having to pick up blitzes at all to it being a main priority. It's been a long ride, but I feel like I've made a pretty good transition."
How would younger players do with an opportunity to start or play more snaps?
Backups were able to take the field for the offense and defense against counterparts on the Titans before all teams reduce their rosters to 53.
1. Stephen Weatherly, who talked this week about playing with a new attitude, opened the game in the city where he played collegiately for Vanderbilt.
He was flagged for roughing the passer on the game's third play but bounced back and forced the end of that possession with a sack of Luke Falk. Weatherly totaled three quarterback hits.
Weatherly credited the coaching he's received as well as the examples set by the likes of Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison.
"A lot of the moves just worked out early for me," Weatherly said. "That's what led to my overall pressures throughout the game and just sticking to it. We knew they were a heavy run, play-action team, so converting after we read play-action was key, too."
2. Holton Hill started at cornerback. He tied with Eric Wilson for the team lead of six tackles and had a pass breakup. He also provided a jolt in the return game, taking the opening kickoff of the second half 53 yards to the Minnesota 48-yard line.
It was quite an improvement in starting field position after the Vikings averaged beginning drives at their own 16 in the first half.
"Coach told me I was going to have the opportunity this upcoming week," Hill said. "I watched a lot of film and took advantage of it and gave it my all. I haven't had a kickoff return consistently since I was in high school, so it was good to be back there and have the ball in my hands. I tried to make something happen."
3. Rookie defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, loving the Tennessee Titans.
Eddie George, Steve McNair, Jevon Kearse were the three names that Holmes rattled off after Thursday's game. Those players had inspired him to draw a picture of himself playing for the Titans.
During his youth, Holmes dreamed of going to a Titans game. Not only did he finally make it, but he also made an impact in the game, recording 1.5 sacks, his first QB takedowns in the pros.
"I had to stop and think, 'This was my team growing up' — you've seen the picture — 'I'm now playing in [Tennessee's stadium] and I'm playing against them, so I've got to ball.'
"It was a great feeling because I grew up liking the Titans," Holmes said. "It was my team since I was young, so to get my first sack on them, it was kind of ironic."