Vikings Notes: George Iloka Could Return Soon, PS Kicker Chase McLaughlin Protected
Happy Tuesday, Vikings fans. Let's go over a couple personnel notes ahead of Sunday's Week 2 game against the Colts in Indy.
Veteran safety (and old friend) George Iloka could be signed soon
The Vikings raised some eyebrows by including just two safeties on their initial 53-man roster. They signed a third to the active roster prior to Week 1, with Nate Meadors taking Danielle Hunter's roster spot and getting some work on special teams against the Packers. Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris were out there for all 78 defensive snaps, so Meadors wasn't needed in that capacity.
There has been plenty of speculation that the Vikings might look to add a veteran safety after Week 1, when they would no longer have to guarantee that player's salary for the season.
It looks like we might've gotten our answer. According to KSTP's Darren Wolfson, George Iloka visited the Vikings on Tuesday and could be signed later this week "if all goes well" with COVID-19 testing.
If that name sounds familiar, it should. Iloka was with the Vikings just two years ago, though his role ended up being smaller than he might've anticipated. Here's what I wrote about Iloka when he visited he Vikings for the first time back during training camp:
Iloka signed with the Vikings back in 2018 after being released by the Bengals, where he spent his first six NFL seasons. He played in all 16 games that season, making three starts, but had just 16 total tackles and a forced fumble. With the emergence of Anthony Harris, Iloka only played 120 defensive snaps and spent most of his time on special teams.
Iloka signed with the Cowboys in March 2019 but was waived after training camp and was out of football last season.
The 30-year-old safety was a fifth-round pick of the Bengals in 2012 after a standout career at Boise State. He didn't play much as a rookie, but started 76 of a possible 80 games between 2013 and 2017, racking up 341 tackles, 32 passes defended, and nine interceptions during that span. Mike Zimmer was Iloka's defensive coordinator for the first two seasons of his career.
At 6'4", 225, Iloka is a huge, physical safety. He's always been a strong run defender who can play in the box, but he's also got some ball skills on the back end. Iloka's main weakness is his athleticism in coverage, especially at this point in his career.
Iloka would give the Vikings a veteran who could contribute on special teams and replicate what Jayron Kearse brought to the roster last year. He likely wouldn't play much unless Smith or Harris had to miss some time, but he would be a valuable backup. Iloka has a ton of NFL experience, which is something Meadors and rookie practice squad safety Josh Metellus are lacking.
Vikings protect practice squad kicker Chase McLaughlin for second straight week
One new aspect of the rules in 2020 is that NFL teams can protect up to four players on their practice squad each week, meaning no other team can swoop in and sign them to their active roster like they could in the past. For the second consecutive week, the only player the Vikings have chosen to protect is practice squad kicker Chase McLaughlin.
I believe teams can only protect an individual player up to four times, meaning the Vikings are already halfway to reaching the limit on McLaughlin. But it makes sense to keep him protected early in the season because teams often panic when their kicker struggles in the first couple games and look to bring in competition. The Titans, for example, could've potentially been interested in McLaughlin after watching Stephen Gostkowski miss three field goals and an extra point on Monday Night Football, nearly costing them the game.
McLaughlin is obviously just the backup to Dan Bailey, but it's important to keep a second kicker around this year in case Bailey were to be exposed to (or test positive for) COVID-19. He's a pretty valuable backup, having made 18 of 23 field goals and hitting all of his extra point attempts last year for three different NFL teams. The Illinois product has made eight field goals of 50-plus yards across his college career and his rookie season in the league.
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