Vikings 53 man roster set by Joel Schafer

bridgewaterNFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikingsharrison smithtjmycolefloydMinnesota Vikings v New York GiantslinvalWith all the preseason games mercifully behind us, it is time to start to look ahead to the season. There were very few surprises as to who was given their walking papers and who was kept. The one that may be a slight surprise was the waiving of Brandon Watts. Other than that there were no big names let go. Let’s take a look into who is in and what we may expect.

 

Quarterback may arguably the most scrutinized position in football. The Vikings kept three of them on the active roster.  Teddy Bridgewater will be starting with back-up  Shaun Hill firmly in the back-up role.  Taylor Heinicke, an undrafted free agent out of Old Dominion grabbed the clipboard holder of the year award after turning heads all preseason. One thing about Taylor is he showed poise and  play well enough to make the power that be at winter park hold a roster spot for him. They didn’t risk putting him on waivers because he was too good.

 

 

Vikings are bring back one of the greatest backs to play the game in Adrain Peterson. A.P. had a year of turmoil last year and is fresh after having 15 games off.  Peterson is a home-run or bust back and may give way on third down to Jerick Mckinnon. McKinnon  is good catching the ball out of the backfield and is a change of pace from  A.P.   When it comes to goal line you may see Matt Asiata more than you would think. Asiata had 9 touchdowns last year and scored 3 in a game twice.  Zach Line made the team as a fullback. Line will not see a tone of use in the Norv Turner offense. Line will have to contribute on special teams or he may be deemed waivable in the future.

 

The Receiving corps are very interesting as you go into depth. Starters on the outside will be Charles Johnson and the burner Mike Wallace. While many are looking for Wallace and the deep ball, they will be missing a top-tier route runner in Greg Jennings.  Guys that will play slot  will be Jarius Wright or Adam Thielen.  Jarius will probably get more looks early, while Thielen seems to be gaining some steam with superb route running and his special teams play. Adam  reminds me of Chris Walsh  back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Thielen  will contribute on special teams as well as making catches to move the chains. Stefon Diggs and Cordarrelle Patterson round out the unit. Diggs may be inactive for  some games early on to let him learn the system more. Cordarrelle with start as the kick-off returner and will be used in special packages. Look for him to have looks like the rams game. Patterson is the worst of any of the rostered receivers in the  route running category,but he can bring the big play if he has his head on straight.

 

 

Tight End  has the oft-injured Kyle Rudolph returning at the best security blanket check down you can have and also a big body to go get 50-50 balls in the end-zone. Bridgewater has said many things about how good he is, but can Kyle stay on the field for at least  14 games this year? Rhett Ellison is known to be the teams blocking TE but he will occasionally be thrown a bone so to speak. Fifth round pick Mycole Pruitt seems to be the special insurance for  Kyle Rudolph. If Rudolph goes down, not your Cole but MyCole will be called on to secure the pass catching duties in Rudolph’s absence. Chase Ford may see time in the red zone with 2 TE sets. Ford is sure handed and another big body that can pull down passes. Chase may have some games where he is not active due to the log jam at TE.

 

The offensive line was Brutal last year. It was not a cohesive unit.  Matt Kalil is covering the blind side. Matt had a very down year and had off-season knee surgery and claims to be 100%. Kalil had a very good preseason, but that was preseason. Brandon Fusco is coming back after tearing his pectoral muscle last year and is moving to the left guard spot. John Sullivan is the center. Sullivan has held down this position since Matt Birk moved on from the organization. Sullivan has had a few weeks of being inactive due to back spasms.  Could this be a problem? Sullivan in a football sense is very smart. Three different coaching staffs have marveled over how good he is at getting the right blocking schemes called and having the assignments picked up pre-snap. (The execution from other line mates are another story.) Newcomer Mike Harris is slotted as the right guard. Harris spent time as a Charger at right tackle and is moving inside.  Harris seems to fit the role well and is able to Mentor T.J. Clemmings at left tackle. Clemmings, a fourth round pick this year replaces Phil Loadholt who is out for the year with a torn Achilles.  T.J. has shown good footwork throughout the preseason and just may fit the bill at tackle.  Joe Berger, Zac Kerin, Austin Shepard and newly acquired Jeremiah Sirles fill out the Offensive line. You can never have enough good bodies for the OL.

 

The Defensive line is bringing back all four of the starters from last year. Bookends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison. Griffen exceeded many expectations after filling the spot Jared Allen left in free agency. Griffen had 12 sacks and 55 tackles in his first year as a starter. Robison  had a down year with only 4.5 sack as to 8 or more sacks the past 3 seasons. Look for Brian to reel in the QB a few more times this year. In the middle you have Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd. The beef up front will make  pitch in 10 sacks and hold the line in the running game.  Tom Johnson  (backup DT) is coming off a career year in the rotation at tackle Johnson added 6.5  sacks and looks to do more of the same. Danielle Hunter, a third round pick this year, will get some time in the line rotation. Hunter looks to being special pass rusher in the making.  Justin Trattou, Scott Crichton and Shamar Stephen  round out the D-line.

 

The Vikings had a major issues with linebacker play going into the draft in 2014. They filled one of those issues last year with Anthony Barr from UCLA. This year they picked up his college teammate in the 2nd round Erik Kendricks. Kendricks currently owns the Bruins career tackles record. He is looking to fill the void in the middle that has been there for several years. Stalwart Chad Greenway will be going into his 9th year playing in the league. This could be Chad’s final year in purple but don’t think he is washed up. He will still be productive.  Gerald Hodges will be in the mix a lot. Hodges can play all 3 linebacker positions.  Zimmer will find a spot for this guy on the field. Hodges started 7 games last year and averaged 8.75 tackles a game in his starts. Audie Cole and Edmond Robinson fill the remaining spots. Cole is serviceable in the middle but not the quickest guy out there. Robinson is a seventh round pick this year and will need to develop.

Mike Zimmer loves his CBs. He finds guys that fit what he wants to do and gets them to buy in to the system. Terrence Newman is one of those Zimmer guys. Newman played 2 years with the Bengals.  In 2012 he was a train wreck in the big D  and 2013 he was a completely different guy. That guy is here to mentor Trae Waynes (2015 first round pick) and play well knowing that his time will soon be as a reserve. It appears that Captain Munnerlyn has locked down the nickel role. With Xavier Rhodes on one side of the field, very few balls will be thrown his way.  Will Skol nation be saying Newman’s name with the same disgust as Seinfeld did or will the Quarterbacks be saying it that way?  Landing one of the last spots on the roster was Marcus Sherels. Sherels will be “the guy” on special teams. Zimmer called him the best gunner we have. He will also be returning punts. Marcus is one of those feel good stories like the little engine that could. Just when you count him out  he makes it to the top of the hill.

 

The Safety position is much like the Cornerbacks. On one side you don’t have to worry about it, the other is a different story. Harrison Smith is a top 7 safety in the NFL.  The other side may rank in the 60’s or lower.  Robert Blanton looks to be the starting safety opposite Smith. Blanton is notorious for taking the wrong angles and a play going a long ways for a touch down. Antone Exum had a shot to take the spot but ended up in the tub far too often to take this position.  Andrew Sendejo is a special team ace, who filled in well when Harrison was out.  He seems to be strictly a backup and special teams guy.

In special teams there is really not much to talk about  Kevin Mcdermott will handle the long snapping duties while Jeff Locke (Punter)and Blair Walsh (Kicker) are back. There were no camp legs brought in.  Many are talking about Walsh missing field goals in meaningless preseason games. Who cares about the preseason?  Let’s wait until at least week 5 to talk about our ‘stupid idiot kicker’. (thanks for that Mr Manning)