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Early Look: Vikings at Bills

EAGAN, Minn. — The preseason finale is on tap.

The Vikings will play their fourth and final exhibition game of 2019 on Thursday night in Buffalo, with the kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m. (CT).

While the Vikings aren't expected to play their starters, Thursday's contest is one last chance for those fighting for roster spots to make a good impression on coaches and the front office.

Both the Vikings and Bills are 3-0 in preseason play.

Here's a look at the Vikings fourth preseason contest against Buffalo:

Passing: It's doubtful that Kirk Cousins will suit up against the Bills, but the trio of Sean Mannion, Kyle Sloter and Jake Browning could see action in the preseason finale.

Mannion and Sloter have played in each preseason game this far, but Browning hasn't hit the field since Week 1 at New Orleans.

Mannion, who has taken second-team reps, has completed 24 of 36 passes (66.7 percent) for 247 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Sloter has completed 23 of 27 passes (85.2 percent) for 280 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in preseason play.

The quarterbacks are still engaged in a battle for roster spots, and each will look to build on positives from training camp and the preseason.

If Buffalo starter Josh Allen doesn't play, the Bills will likely rely on veteran Matt Barkley and rookie Tyree Jackson to lead the offense.

Rushing: Dalvin Cook needed just two carries to make a splash in the preseason. The Vikings running back made his preseason debut Saturday and had two carries for 88 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown run.

Minnesota's other running backs churned out more than 100 combined rushing yards, with Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah and De'Angelo Henderson each chipping in.

Cook's preseason is likely over, and it remains to be seen how much Mattison will play Thursday.

But with Boone and Abdullah still battling for roster spots, each will look for a strong outing Thursday night. Boone had a rushing touchdown against the Cardinals.

Buffalo will likely sit veterans LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore, so rookie Devin Singletary could see a majority of the work against the Vikings. The Bills also have T.J. Yeldon, Senorise Perry, Marcus Murphy and Christian Wade in their running backs room.

Receiving: Adam Thielen was held out of Saturday's game, and it's unlikely that he or Stefon Diggs will play in Buffalo.

That would create an opportunity for a handful of young wide receivers as the battle for roster spots goes into the final week.

Chad Beebe has continually impressed, while rookie Bisi Johnson turned in another strong preseason performance Saturday.

Other players to keep an eye on Thursday are Laquon Treadwell, Jordan Taylor, Jeff Badet and rookie Dillon Mitchell.

As for the tight ends, the Vikings have a veteran in Kyle Rudolph, a second-round rookie in Irv Smith, Jr., and second-year tight end Tyler Conklin.

Smith, Jr., and Conklin could see action against the Bills, but Thursday's game could be a chance for Cole Hikutini and Brandon Dillon to try and snag a roster spot if Minnesota keeps four tight ends.

Buffalo's starting wide outs are John Brown, Zay Jones and Cole Beasley, while the top tight ends are Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith.

A handful of pass catchers such as Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Ray-Ray McCloud III, Cam Phillips and Isaiah McKenzie could see the field Thursday.

Defense: The Vikings starting defense will likely rest Thursday, and will end the preseason having played seven drives. The unit gave up no touchdowns and four field goals over three games.

Plenty of youngsters will see the field Thursday, especially in the secondary, where cornerbacks Kris Boyd, Holton Hill, Craig James and Duke Thomas could play extensively.

Marcus Epps and Nate Meadors have spent time at safety and corner in the preseason, and safety Isaiah Wharton rounds out a trio that might get plenty of snaps.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has touted the depth at linebacker, so Thursday's game could be a chance for the likes of Kentrell Brothers, Reshard Cliett, Devante Downs, Greer Martini and Cam Smith to have a considerable amount of playing time.

Look for a handful of young defensive linemen to also leave their mark, including defensive tackles Hercules Mata'afa and Armon Watts, plus defensive ends Ifeadi Odenigbo and Karter Schult.

A notable name to watch for the Bills could be cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who spent three seasons in Purple from 2014-2016.

Special teams: There is plenty of intrigue surrounding Minnesota's specialists with less than two weeks to go before the regular-season opener.

Austin Cutting will be the long snapper, while Dan Bailey, Kaare Vedvik and Matt Wile are battling for other spots.

Vedvik handled kicking duties Saturday but missed both his field goal attempts. Wile punted six times for an average of 47.3 yards, and landed two of them inside the 20-yard line.

It remains to be seen how the specialists will shake out on the 53-man roster, but Thursday's game against Buffalo provides one final chance of game evaluations.

Stephen Hauschka and Corey Bojorquez handle the kicking and punting duties, respectively, in Buffalo.


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