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The Skinny Post: Vikings Set for Preseason Finale at Tennessee

EAGAN, Minn. — There is a lot on the line Thursday night.

Minnesota starters likely won't play in the preseason finale at Tennessee, but a good chunk of the Vikings roster will see playing time with the chance to deliver one last impression before roster reductions. Kickoff between the Vikings and Titans is at 7 p.m. (CT).

The Vikings currently have 90 players on their roster, but will have to get down to 53 players by 3 p.m. (CT) on Saturday.

"I want these young guys that have the opportunity to come out here and make the club [to] perform," said Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer. "There are a lot of guys with jobs on the line. We expect them to go out and play well."

Zimmer said he expects some difficult choices on Friday and Saturday as the Vikings pare down their roster.

"It's like that every year, really. You have to make tough decisions," Zimmer said. "A lot of it depends on what happens in this game, and then you might end up keeping this guy because you need a backup at this position, or maybe not this guy who might be better than that player but at a different position."

Here are three areas to watch in Thursday's contest, plus some noteworthy stats on both teams:

Defensive decisions | By @Eric_L_Smith

The Vikings are loaded at every level of the defense, boasting All-Pro or Pro Bowl players on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary.

Yet as the Vikings look to finalize their 53-man roster, there are still a few spots up for grabs. And don't forget about the practice squad, where young players could get extra seasoning.

Most of the rotation is set on the defensive line, but younger or newer players to the Vikings could cement the final couple of spots with a strong showing in the preseason finale.

The Vikings are also mostly set at linebacker, but who falls in line after Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon and Eric Wilson?

Kentrell Brothers, Reshard Cliett, Devante Downs and Antwione Williams are guys to keep an eye on in the final preseason game. A strong showing by any of them could elevate them to the remaining linebacker spots.

Minnesota could potentially keep double-digit defensive backs, most of whom are established veterans. Undrafted rookie cornerback Holton Hill could get quite a few reps against Tennessee.

Only a few spots remain on Minnesota's stacked defense. Who will claim them?

Solidifying the 3rd RB slot | By @LindseyMNSports

The Vikings running back room has been a full one this spring and summer. Assuming the team keeps three running backs and fullback C.J. Ham on its 53-man roster, who will be the guy behind Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray?

Roc Thomas and Mike Boone, who both were signed as undrafted rookies, have been vying for a position along with Mack Brown, who joined the Vikings midseason last year from Washington. Thomas and Brown have each missed time with injuries, but Thomas had a big showing against Denver in Minnesota's first preseason game, racking up 102 receiving yards on just three catches. Thomas also has 13 carries for 54 yards. Brown has 11 rushes for 34 yards thus far.

Boone leads Minnesota in rushing through three preseason contests, with 34 carries for 139 yards. He also has eight catches for 35 yards.

"He has really good hands, and our big thing on our offense is 'the more you can do,' " Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo said when asked about Boone's versatility. "We like moving guys around to do certain things, and the more jobs you can do, the more valuable you are – not only in our offense but to any offense in the NFL."

Brett Jones stepping into the mix | By @pcraigers

Brett Jones, an offensive lineman acquired this week via the trade of a future draft pick to the New York Giants, is likely to make his Vikings debut.

Jones was practicing with the Giants Sunday when he was told about the trade. He started 12 games at center last season and worked at center and guard this week after arriving in Minnesota.

Centers often handle protection calls or work with quarterbacks, so there's quite a bit to learn right away. No time like Thursday for the former Calgary Stampeder to show what he knows and can do.

Jones will be wearing 61, not too far from the 71 Phil Loadholt jersey he proudly wore when attending his first Vikings game at the Metrodome in 2009.

Substantial Stats

— Minnesota's starting defense gave up 17 combined points in 10 total series in three preseason games.

— Vikings wide receiver Chad Beebe leads the Vikings with nine catches in preseason play. He has 95 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

— The Vikings have racked up 10 sacks in three preseason games. Ifeadi Odenigbo and Anthony Harris have 2.0 sacks apiece, while five other players (Tashawn Bower, Wilson, Danielle Hunter, David Parry and Jonathan Wynn) have one sack. Gedeon and Stephen Weatherly have 0.5 sacks to their names.

— The Vikings have played 13 regular-season games against the Tennessee/Houston franchise dating back to 1974. The first seven meetings came when the franchise was known as the Houston Oilers, and the 1998 matchup was against the Tennessee Oilers. The past five meetings have featured the Vikings and the Tennessee Titans.

Quotable

"I think all of these guys are going to come out and play hard. Most of them know they are fighting for jobs now, so the intensity and everything like that won't change one bit."

— Zimmer on the intensity of Thursday's game.

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