4 Minnesota Vikings who impressed the most against the Seahawks
Even though they scored the first 10 points of the night, the Minnesota Vikings didn’t win their first preseason game of the 2023 NFL season, losing 24-13 to the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday. But exhibition matches aren’t all about wins and losses. For general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell, it’s about player evaluation, trying to shrink a group of 90 down to the best 53-man roster possible.
With the Vikings and Seahawks resting several key starters, spectators instead saw role players and backups vying for a roster spot given a chance to shine at Lumen Field. Even though the result was an 11-point loss for the Vikings, we saw several inspiring efforts from players with snaps and jobs on the line. Recapping the first of three Vikings preseason matchups, we look at four players who impressed the most against the Seahawks.
Ty Chandler makes a strong case for RB2 role
Kene Nwangwu is still battling an injury, which gave Ty Chandler a chance to show why he deserves the backup RB role. The 2022 fifth-round pick carried the ball 11 times for 41 yards while hauling in four passes for 29 yards. What the stat sheet doesn’t show was Chandler’s physicality and ability to make defenders miss, displaying burst on plays Coach O’Connell called “not well-blocked.” Chandler also held up well in pass protection, which should only improve his odds of seeing the field early on.
Ivan Pace Jr. flashes his speed
At times Ivan Pace was a step out of place in pass coverage, or he’d take the wrong angle in run defense, yet he still had multiple stops. While he was far from perfect, the undrafted linebacker pressured the pocket and played a vital role in a front seven that created a lot of chaos at the line of scrimmage. Pace tied for the team lead with six tackles and continues to improve his chances of carving out a role in Coach Flores’ defense.
Luiji Vilain wreaks havoc
After sneaking onto the roster as an undrafted free agent last season, Luiji Vilain once again finds himself in the mix among a deep group of Vikings pass rushers. Vilain generated multiple pressures on Thursday, racking up three QB hits while forcing an early incompletion. But the real treat was when he showed off his speed rush, getting a sack to close out the first half. With players like Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport, Pat Jones, and D.J. Wonnum likely locked into roster spots, Vilain is battling with Andre Carter and several others. Still, he’s off to a very strong start.
Jalen Reagor shows he’s more than just a returner
Jordan Addison’s arrival and K.J. Osborn’s continued emergence have largely made Jalen Reagor a forgotten man in Minnesota. But by routinely creating separation, hauling in catches for 10, 19, and 25 yards, the former first-round pick provided a loud reminder of his untapped potential. Reagor’s speed and route-running ability was on full display in Seattle, and seeing him maintain possession while taking a punishing hit was simply a cherry on top. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where the 24-year-old isn’t already locked into a roster spot but now may be giving coaches thoughts about finding him more touches on offense instead of just as a punt returner.
Other players who made impressive plays included tight end Nick Muse getting vertical near the back right pylon of the endzone, giving the 2022 seventh-round pick a moment to work on his Griddy after the score. We also couldn’t forget undrafted rookie cornerback Jaylin Williams reading QB Drew Lock’s eyes, jumping a route leading to a one-handed interception. Even though the scoreboard shows a Vikings loss, they still won many individual battles on the gridiron Thursday night, providing plenty of intrigue heading into next week’s matchup with the Titans.
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