Notebook: Banyard, Reisner make most of Vikings' final exhibition
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Without most starters, a handful of Minnesota Vikings reserves made the most of their final opportunities to earn a spot on the 53-man roster in the preseason finale on Thursday night.
Running back Joe Banyard and tight end Allen Reisner eached continued to make their case as the Vikings offense churned out 336 yards and punter Jeff Locke had to be called on just twice in the 19-3 win over the Tennessee Titans.
Banyard had 18 carries for 111 yards -- all in the first half -- for the Vikings, who continued their dominance on the ground during this preseason. Without Adrian Peterson, Minnesota compiled 598 rushing yards in four exhibitions, averaging 4.75 yards per carry under Norv Turner's power running scheme.
Reisner caught all four of the passes thrown his way for 33 yards as he competes for a backup tight end spot behind Kyle Rudolph. All NFL teams must trim rosters to 53 players by 3 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Tight end Chase Ford (foot) did not play, which bodes well for Reisner's chances of making the roster. However, Ford was coming into his own late last season filling in for both Rudolph and John Carlson and the Vikings' coaching staff will have a tough decision for the third tight end spot behind Rudolph and Rhett Ellison. Ford can't start the season on the physically unable to perform list since he was activated off the list on Monday.
Despite Banyard's contributions in the preseason, including a few impressive kickoff returns, he has a tough hill to climb as the Vikings will likely keep Matt Asiata and rookie Jerick McKinnon to backup Peterson. If he ends up being cut and clears waivers, Banyard has one year of practice squad eligibility left.
Quarterback Christian Ponder may have seen his last snaps as a Vikings quarterback, pending any injury to Matt Cassel or Teddy Bridgewater. He led five drives resulting in nine points as he finished 12-of-15 for 121 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. Ponder had one would-be touchdown dropped by Banyard at the goal line in the second quarter.
Ponder worked with the Vikings' second- and third-string reserves with his longest plays coming on 19-yard completions, each to Donte Foster and Kain Colter. He took two sacks and rushed three times for eight yards, including a fumble he turned into a five-yard gain.
The performance was enough to earn kind words from head coach Mike Zimmer after the game, however it's still not plausible to see his role as any outside of a third-string, emergency quarterback this season -- barring a trade.
The Vikings worked all their options at swing tackle on Thursday night as Antonio Richardson and Austin Wentworth started for the second-team offense.
Minnesota also worked guard Vlad Ducasse at right tackle in the second half, which lends to the possibility the team keeps three reserve guards in Ducasse, David Yankey and Berger, while relying on Ducasse or guard Charlie Johnson's ability to play right and left tackle, respectively, as the Vikings shop free agency for more options.
• Zimmer finishes the preseason 0-for-2 on challenges when he threw the red flag to have the referees take another look at an 11-yard run by Banyard on 3rd and 12. The Vikings lost the challenge and a timeout, but Bridgewater converted on a 4th-down quarterback sneak.
• The Vikings racked up a preseason-high eight penalties on Thursday, including two flags on Ducasse, one for offsides and another for illegal hands to the face.
• Since starting 4-for-6 on field goal attempts this preseason, Blair Walsh has converted 7-for-7 in the two games since, including makes from 22, 30, 35 and 45 on Thursday.
• Julian Posey grabbed an interception off Titans' quarterback Dominique Davis, while Corey Wootton recorded a strip-sack and fumble recovery for Minnesota's two takeaways. The Vikings forced five turnovers (four INTs, one fumble) in the last two exhibitions.
• Phil Loadholt (leg) reportedly didn't make the team's trip to Tennessee, but the expectation is he'll be ready for the Sept. 7 opener.