The Vikings trimmed their roster over the weekend, but how does Daniel House like the current personnel structure? He breaks down every position group and explains the strengths and weaknesses of the 53-man roster.
Updated: September 1st, 2014 8:32pm
By: Daniel House
The Minnesota Vikings trimmed their roster and added several pieces to their 53-man roster this weekend. By making these decisions, the Vikings became the third youngest team in the league, which bodes well for the future of the organization. I took the time to analyze every position group on the Vikings roster, while discussing all of the strengths and weaknesses among the final roster decisions.
Quarterback (3): Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater, Christian Ponder
Analysis: There were no surprises at the quarterback position and Matt Cassel is ready to take the reigns of the offense. Teddy Bridgewater will have the opportunity to sit behind Cassel and grow as a quarterback and Christian Ponder can be a serviceable third-string passer.
Running back (3): Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon
Analysis: There were really no questions with the top three Vikings running backs, but many wondered whether they would keep Joe Banyard as a fourth running back. The Vikings decided to release Banyard, but he magically cleared waivers and was placed on the practice squad. The team has very good depth at this position and there shouldn't be any worries about who will be carrying the ball for this team.
Fullback (2): Jerome Felton, Zach Line
Analysis: In a shocking turn of events, the coaching staff decided to keep two fullbacks on the active 53-man roster. This move really surprised me, but I think they are really looking ahead to the future at this position. Zach Line would have likely been swiped in waiver claims and the coaches really want him to be the successor to Jerome Felton. They can slide Line into the rotation to provide him with experience this season. This is a roster longevity situation and while it may not be the perfect scenario at this time, it will pay dividends down the road.
Tight End (3): Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison, Marqueis Gray
Analysis: The tight end position was slightly puzzling when you first looked at how the Vikings trimmed the roster. Allen Reisner was released, along with Chase Ford (added to practice squad) and it seemed the team wasn't completely settled at this position. This left just two tight ends on the roster, until the front office decided to claim Marqueis Gray off of waivers. Gray can be a hybrid player, who is an extremely athletic specimen in this offense. Furthermore, he has experience within Norv Turner's offensive scheme, which will aid his transition to the Vikings.
Wide Receivers (5): Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Adam Thielen, Rodney Smith (Jerome Simpson starting the season on suspension)
Analysis: Minnesota State-Mankato product Adam Thielen did enough in training camp and the preseason to punch his ticket onto the Vikings 53-man roster. Rodney Smith also performed well and will be on the roster, at least until Jerome Simpson returns from suspension. The Vikings have a very young and talented group of wide receivers, along with a player like Greg Jennings, who can help these wide receivers grow every day.
Offensive Line (9): Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt, Joe Berger, David Yankey, Vlad Ducasse, Mike Harris
Analysis: The Vikings were a bit weak at the 'swing' tackle position, especially after losing Antonio Richardson to knee surgery. They solidified this problem by adding offensive tackle Mike Harris during the waiver period. Harris played for Norv Turner in San Diego during the 2012 season and he can provide the flexibility to play tackle, along with guard in emergency situations. The Vikings have a great group of starters, along with young players like David Yankey and Vlad Ducasse that can be developed for the future. Pair those players with a utility offensive lineman like Joe Berger and the offensive line position is solid, but may lack some depth in second-tier positions. According to multiple reports, the Vikings were able to add Austin Wentworth to the practice squad, despite losing him on the 53-man roster when they added Mike Harris to the team. Wentworth can provide some assistance and stability in the event an injury occurs, but the team lacks a wealth of experience when it comes to offensive tackle depth.
Defensive Line (8): Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Brian Robison, Corey Wootton, Shamar Stephen, Tom Johnson, Scott Crichton
Analysis: The Vikings have an extremely deep group of defensive lineman on the current roster. This team will be predicated on reaching the quarterback, which in turn will provide the secondary with opportunities to create turnovers. The front office decided to part ways with veteran defensive tackle Fred Evans, who was the second longest tenured Vikings player on the roster. Instead, they kept Shamar Stephen, a young developmental player that flourished during moments of training camp and the preseason. The team was able to slide Justin Trattou on the practice squad and successfully kept superior depth among the defensive line.
Linebacker (7): Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley, Anthony Barr, Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole, Brandon Watts
Analysis: Most people were very surprised to see the team initially keep eight linebackers on the roster. They quickly fixed this sense of astonishment and released Larry Dean to make room for the one of the two waiver claims. That decision didn't seem strange, especially considering the amount of linebackers on the roster that can contribute on special teams now. This position group is rather young and will need some time to develop, but there is some promising talent on the roster. Mike Mauti didn't see much time in the preseason, but his role on special teams, combined with some of the raw talent he has displayed, was enough for him to save his spot. In addition, the coaches were able to keep Brandon Watts, an athletic specimen who can contribute on special teams and in certain sub-packages on defense.
Cornerback (6): Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn, Josh Robinson, Jabari Price, Marcus Sherels, Shaun Prater
Analysis: The Vikings cornerback group has been weak in the past, but this year, they have a more formidable nucleus by adding a players in free agency and the draft. Jabari Price was a seventh round pick and continually impressed the coaching staff with his physicality. Marcus Sherels has proven himself as a punt returner, but the coaches seem to like his strong work ethic, combined with the strides he has made as a coverage cornerback. Shaun Prater cracked the roster as well, and might see some work at safety too. He made several great plays in training camp and the preseason, which was enough to justify him a roster spot.
Safety (4): Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo, Antone Exum
Analysis: The coaching staff felt like they didn't need the veteran presence of Chris Crocker and decided to part ways during the final roster cut. In a more surprising move, Kurt Coleman was also released and the team appears to be leaning towards starting Robert Blanton at strong safety this season. Andrew Sendejo missed most of training camp, while recovering from back surgery, but his role on special teams and his abilities during the final two preseason games were enough for him to reclaim his roster spot. Antone Exum may be the future strong safety and with some development of his techniques, he can make contributions to this team in a variety of ways. Many feel the team may still add a safety in free agency, but I believe Coach Zimmer is satisfied with the current group of players and will make adjustments when it is necessary.
Specialists (3): Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke, Cullen Loeffler
Analysis: There were no question marks with this group.
The Vikings made several moves to upgrade their roster following the final roster cuts and I don't anticipate them making any huge additions before the season begins. The team appears to be set and there is plenty of depth among the roster, except at safety and offensive tackle. With some work and development of younger players at those positions, this roster can be very successful in the near future. The results might not show immediately, but with a young core of players and an experienced coaching staff, the outlook looks bright for the Minnesota Vikings.