MINNEAPOLIS — Mike Boone gave the Vikings — and perhaps his own chances of winning the third running back spot — a boost on Saturday against the Jaguars.
The Vikings rookie nearly topped 100 yards on the ground and added a rushing touchdown in the second preseason game of 2018, sending a message that the undrafted free agent is more than ready to fight for a roster spot.
Boone's big performance — 91 yards on 13 carries — came a week after fellow rookie Roc Thomas had 100-plus receiving yards and two scores.
"That's what we come here to do — to compete and make plays," Boone said when asked about wanting to perform well after Thomas' solid day against Denver. "That's the goal every game, not just because Roc did good last game. I try to come every game and put my best foot forward."
Boone had 12 carries for 22 yards in his first NFL outing. But he nearly topped that on his first run of the day, showing his quickness by getting to the sideline and scampering for 19 yards.
Boone then ran for four yards before moving the chains again with an 11-yard carry.
But his best stretch came late in the third quarter, as Boone ripped through the defense for a 26-yard gain to get down to the 1-yard line. The running back then punctuated his impressive day by powering into the end zone on the next play for a score.
"Yeah man, that one felt good," Boone said. "Just to be rewarded for the run before, it feels good. Also, with it being my first preseason touchdown, it felt pretty good."
When asked about Boone after the game, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer praised his running ability. But the first thing Zimmer mentioned was his improvement in the passing game.
"I thought he did well … he picked up the blitz one time very nice," Zimmer said. "He ran the ball really well, held onto the ball. I thought he ran good."
Added Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins: "Mike stepped up on that last drive on fourth down and blocked the defensive end. You could hear the pads pop, and he displaced the guy and gave Kyle [Sloter] a chance to step up and make the throw. It's stuff like that, with a trained eye, that you love to see from a young running back."
Thomas had five carries for 25 yards in Minnesota's 14-10 loss, while fellow running back Mack Brown did not play due to an injury. Boone said he just happened to be the one to get going this time around.
"I give all the credit to the offensive line," Boone said. "Those guys open all the holes, I just do what [Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu says] and what I'm coached to do and what I've been doing for years.
"Every game is going to be different [with] fits and blocking schemes," Boone added. "It was just there. It was hitting. I spent a little extra time in the film room, and it paid off."
One person who has continuously been impressed with Boone is Cousins, who heaped plenty of praise on the rookie from the University of Cincinnati.
"He's a great player," Cousins said. "Anytime you put this many good things on tape in preseason games, it's not really a question of 'if' you'll be in the league, but 'where.'
"We've had some really good running back play from several guys who are competing for those spots. We've run the ball well, I think, so far in the first two preseason games and really throughout all of training camp," Cousins added.