Who the heck is Kyle Sloter?
That was the reaction of many last September when the Vikings outbid several teams for the quarterback’s services by agreeing to pay him $20,000 a week to be on their practice squad. That’s a substantial amount for a guy who isn’t going to play, but the Vikings felt Sloter was worth it after the undrafted free agent completed 31-of-43 passes for 413 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions during the preseason with Denver.
The Broncos thought they could bring back Sloter on their practice squad after claiming veteran Brock Osweiler off waivers from the Cleveland Browns. The Vikings had enough confidence in Sloter that he was promoted to the active roster and served as Case Keenum’s backup for a time after starter Sam Bradford was injured in Week 1 against the Saints.
Sloter, who was active for six games, spent the rest of the season with the Vikings but, still, who the heck was Kyle Sloter and what could he do? Vikings fans finally got an idea on Saturday night in Minnesota’s 42-28 exhibition victory in Denver.
Sloter replaced another former Broncos quarterback, Trevor Siemian, in the second half and completed 9-of-11 passes for 69 yards with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Chad Beebe in the fourth quarter. He had an excellent 123.1 passer rating. Sloter also rushed for 19 yards on two carries, including a 14-yard scramble for a touchdown.
Sloter was playing against the Broncos’ backups, but this was encouraging to see from a guy the Vikings liked enough that they felt it was worth outbidding other teams for his services.
Kirk Cousins, whom the Vikings will pay a guaranteed $84 million over three years, is the team’s present at quarterback but Siemian is nothing more than a wise insurance policy who can be plugged in if something happens to Cousins.
In Sloter, the Vikings have a quarterback whom they are actually attempting to develop and who could one day take over for Cousins as their starter. That’s why Sloter’s spot on the 53-man roster is secure. He could go back on the practice squad, but he’d have to be placed on waivers first and it’s almost certain another team would claim him.
“I feel like I’m in a good place for me,” Sloter told the Greeley Tribune. “The players, ownership, coaches, they’ve been great to me. Everything they said they were going to do with me, they’ve done. It’s been awesome.”
On Saturday, Sloter showed the Vikings what he could do in a game situation. They had to be happy.
Is it over?
One of the most difficult things in recent months has been getting a feel on what has been sold as the Vikings’ first real kicking competition in many years.
When the Vikings traded up in the fifth round to select Daniel Carlson last April, it surprised me they bothered keeping veteran Kai Forbath. It surprised even more when Forbath actually ended up going to training camp.
But then, watching Carlson struggle at times last week in practice, I thought maybe Forbath did have a chance to win the job. Carlson then made 39- and 57-yard field-goal attempts and also made all four of his extra-point attempts on Saturday night and it again occurs to me this “competition” is over.
Forbath handled kickoffs on Saturday and likely will take field-goal and extra-point attempts on Saturday against Jacksonville with Carlson taking the kickoffs.
Carlson has a huge leg and his performance was impressive in Denver. The issue with kickers is you never know until the pressure gets turned up to incredibly high levels what might happen. Obviously, in August there’s only so much pressure that can be applied.
What a difference
Veteran running back Latavius Murray was slowed a year ago at this time after undergoing ankle surgery shortly after he signed a three-year, $15 million deal to leave the Oakland Raiders for Minnesota in March 2017.
Murray had only 2, 3, 2 and 7 carries in the first four game of last season in part because he was rebounding from his injury and because rookie Dalvin Cook was so good. But then Cook got hurt, tearing his ACL in October against October, and Murray began to get healthy.
Murray finished last season as the Vikings’ leading rusher with 842 yards on 216 carries and eight touchdowns. He also restructured his contract after last season.
Playing in the Vikings’ opening series on Saturday, and with Cook sitting out, Murray had 43 yards on four carries, including back-to-back runs of 20 and 21 yards on Minnesota’s opening drive that ended with Kirk Cousins completing 1-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.
Cook figures to play a huge role in the Vikings’ offense this season, but Murray should see plenty of time as well and Saturday night was a good start.