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Five Vikings who could surprisingly make the final 53-man roster

The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up its second preseason game with a 24-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday. The Vikings will play the final exhibition game on Aug. 26 against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S Bank Stadium. This is three days before the Vikings trim their roster down to 53 players before the Aug. 29 deadline. With over a week before the final cut day, here are five players who could find themselves on the final 53.

Running back Aaron Dykes

On Aug. 17, the Vikings added undrafted free agent Aaron Dykes who immediately made an impact against the Titans by returning the opening kickoff for 38 yards and later added another one for 26 yards.

Who will the kick-return job belong to? DeWayne McBride and Jacob Copeland handled the preseason duties in week one. Meanwhile, Kene Nwangwu’s roster spot could be in jeopardy with Ty Chandler making a case to be the No. 2 tailback, and the Vikings did select McBride in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Dykes played led Richmond with 777 rushing yards while recording 29 receptions. He was essential in the kick return game finishing with 1,802 yards during his collegiate career.

Against the Titans, Dykes finished the night with 112 yards on five returns. He also took a screen pass for 11 yards while picking up 19 more on a trio of carries, completing an impressive debut for the UDFA.

Cornerback NaJee Thompson

NaJee Thompson left the Titans game, entering concussion protocol putting him in question for the preseason finale against the Cardinals. But Thompson’s roster spot might already be secured due to his play on special teams. As the gunner on this play, Thompson speeds downfield Kyle Phillips in his tracks, shutting down the return.

This is the second week in a row where Thompson ended a punt return before it could even begin.

Players can find jobs in the National Football League for a long time on special teams. Ask Matthew Slater and Steve Tasker. Thompson excelled on special teams at Georgia Southern, and it appears he’ll continue his contributions as a professional with the Vikings.

Tight end Nick Muse

The idea of keeping four tight ends is unlikely, but anything is possible. Nick Muse has been impressive this preseason, as he recorded a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks last week. On Saturday, he led all Vikings with 46 yards on three receptions showcasing his speed for a tight end. Whether he makes the roster or not, it shows how deep this offense’s tight end room is.

Nose tackle T.J. Smith

Overall, the Vikings rush defense performed underwhelmingly, giving up 281 yards on 40 carries (7.0 yards per carry) against the Titans.One silver lining from the Vikings front seven is T.J Smith, who on the first defensive snap, made his way into the backfield, tackling Tyjae Spears for no gain. On the first two plays of the second half, Smith was present, including helping Troy Reeder tackle Julius Chestnut for a loss. This resulted in Pete Bercich saying on the broadcast that Smith, indeed was having a sneaky good night. Smith finished with four total tackles, including a pair of solos, as he competes to be a depth piece along the defensive line.

Wide receiver Trishton Jackson

His stat line did not show it, as he only caught two passes for 10 yards, but Trishton Jackson was heavily involved in the passing game early on and could’ve produced more if it wasn’t for circumstances out of his control. On a third-and-short, he beat his man on what appeared to be a hitch route, but Nick Mullens threw the ball behind him, resulting in an incompletion. Later, on another third down, Jackson picked up a long gain on a drag route, but a penalty nullified the positive play.

While Jackson’s play wasn’t justified on the stat sheet on Saturday, he did stand out in the joint practices with the Titans. While the Vikings top three receivers are set, Justin Jefferson, K.J Osborn, and Jordan Addison, it will be tough to decide who rounds out the final two or perhaps three spots.

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