The Minnesota Vikings concluded the preseason with a disappointing 1-3 record. The roster has been trimmed to 53 players and it's time for things to start getting serious.
With the starters playing sparingly throughout most of the preseason, the Vikings defense still looked porous as the team allowed an average of 320 yards per game.
The year's training camp and preseason was huge for the Minnesota Vikings and head coach Leslie Frazier. Only 30 months ago, following a 12-4 season, the Vikings were on the doorstep of the Super Bowl. Since that painful, overtime-loss in New Orleans, the Vikings are 9-23.
Since taking over as the head coach in Week 12 of the 2010 season, nothing has been normal for Frazier.
Last season he had to deal with a lockout that cancelled all of the Vikings' OTAs and limited his exposure to the players.
With the highest draft pick since 1985 (when they selected Chris Doleman with the fourth pick), and a full season of OTAs, the pressure is on Frazier to quickly turn things around and avoid a third consecutive last-place finish in the NFC North.
When camp opened the Vikings, in an attempt to address two of their most pressing needs, opened with 12 wide receivers and 11 cornerbacks among the 90 players they had in camp. It shoudln't take long to determine if the Vikings have upgraded these two positions.
The hopes are that Frazier and his coaches have selected a roster that can begin the transformation from division doormat to playoff contender—a journey that needs to be completed in as few as years as possible.
The following slides will track all the moves the Vikings make through training camp and the preseason. You will be able to stay current with the Vikings roster, and projected depth chart up until the final cuts are made to meet the NFL roster limit of 53, on September 2nd.
Included are an in-depth look at each position, projecting the starters as the roster takes shape.
The Minnesota Vikings announced their 53-man roster today with a few surprises among those cut.
Don't expect this to be the final roster when the Vikings open the season on September 9th against the Jacksonville Jaguars. General Manager Rick Spielman will be scouring the waiver wire looking for anyone that can help the team.
Here are the cuts as reported on Vikings.com:
DeMarcus Love, offensive tackle.
Emmanual Arceneaux, wide receiver: Arceneaux, the former CFL player, who was activated fro three games last season and made one catch, finished the preseason with only three catches, but with a healthy 20-yard average. There's still plenty of upside for the 25-year old, so he should land find another team interested, but most likely as a practice squad player.
Chase Baker, defensive tackle: The free-agent rookie from Boise State could did not play enough to get ahead of Fred Evans and Christian Ballard.
Chris Carr, cornerback: A bit of surprise for the former Raven who started all 16 games in 2010. Carr was beaten out by Zack Bowman and rookie Josh Robinson to make the team.
Jeff Charleston, defensive end: The deepest position on the team, Charleston was doomed when the experiment to move Everson Griffen to linebacker failed. The six-year veteran has a chance to catch on with a team looking for a solid backup.
Chris DeGeare, guard: The Vikings have finally given up on the the 2010 fifth-round draft pick who started five games his rookie season, but was unable to put together any consistency. Injuries, including a concussion suffered last preseason prevented him from establishing himself, and the Vikings are putting a lot of hope into Geoff Schwartz being ready when the season opens.
Ryan D’Imperio, fullback: The experiment to convert the Rutgers linebacker to fullback is officially over. This could spell the end of D'Imperio's NFL career.
Bobby Felder, cornerback: One of four rookie free agents the Vikings brought in at cornerback, Felder can be comforted in the fact he lasted longer than Chris Stroud, Nicholas Taylor and Corey Gatewood.
Eric Frampton, safety: The five-year veteran's spot on the roster was in jeopardy when the Vikings drafted two safeties from Notre Dame. Mainly a special teams player, Frampton is being replaced with a younger player that the Vikings hope to develop. The surprise might be that Andrew Sendejo beat him out.
Trevor Guyton, defensive tackle: The Vikings seventh round draft pick could still end up on the practice squad.
Lex Hilliard, running back: Hilliard basically ran himself out of a job. Going into training camp he had the most experience, but was beaten out by converted fullback Matt Asiata.
Tyler Holmes, offensive guard: Another rookie free agent who was a long shot to make the team.
Reggie Jones, cornerback: See Felder above.
Kevin Murphy, offensive tackle: This isn't the first time the Vikings have cut Murphy, but it could be the last.
Corey Paredes, linebacker: The best chance the rookie free agent had to make the Vikings was on special teams, despite the lack of depth at the position.
Austin Pasztor, offensive guard: The fourth overall selection of the Edmonton Eskimos this year may still have an opportunity in the CFL
Nick Reed, defensive end: The third-year veteran was caught in the same trap as Charleston.
Sage Rosenfels, quarterback: This move surprises me the most. Rosenfels played the best of any quarterback in the preseason with a 122.9 rating. Of course this is not the first time the Vikings got rid of him after playing successfully in the exhibition season. In 2009 he was clearly outplaying Tarvaris Jackson when the Vikings signed Brett Favre.
He will be signed by a team looking for a capable backup.
Quentin Saulsberry, center: A rookie free-agent that can play anywhere on the line, look for Saulsbarry to wind up on the Vikings' practice squad.
Mickey Shuler, tight end: A practice squad player for most of the past two seasons, Shuler had little chance with the Vikings signed John Carlson.
Jordan Todman, running back: Todman finished with 121 yards on 12 carries, but it was not enough to secure a spot on the Vikings roster. A member of the Chargers practice squad last season, Todman has a chance to end up on another team's practice squad.
Solomon Elimimian, a two-year standout in the CFL did not survive the first round of cuts.
On Saturday, following the Vikings preseason loss to San Diego the team announced the following cuts in order to trim the roster to 75 players.
G Bridger Buche: Already released by the Steelers, Buche was a late addition to the Vikings training camp.
RB Derrick Coleman: The undrafted rookie from UCLA may be the best candidate to land on the team's practice squad.
G Grant Cook: Like Buche, Cook came to the Vikings after being released by the Packers.
LB Solomon Elimimian: This move surprised me a little. After a successful two seasons in the CFL playing linebacker, I thought Elimimian would earn a spot on the Vikings' special teams. He had five tackles and interception in three preseason games.
DB Corey Gatewood: The rookie from Stanford finished with three tackles. In an area of need, Gatewood was one of 11 cornerbacks on the roster.
OT Levi Horn: Horn spent the past two seasons on and off the Bears practice squad before the Vikings gave him a look.
DT Anthony Jacobs: There was no way the rookie free agent from Minnesota was going to break into the rotation that includes Letroy Guioin, Fred Evans, and Christian Ballard.
WR Kamar Jorden: Jorden was unable to play after breaking his hand earlier in camp.
WR AJ Love: Love was released once already by the Vikings and re-signed when they lost fourth-round draft pick Greg Childs.
LB Tyler Nielsen: The undrafted rookie from Iowa finished with three tackles.
DE Ernest Owusu: The deepest position for the Vikings, there was no way Owusu was going to make the team, especially after Everson Griffen was moved back to defensive end.
DT Tydreke Powell: One of two players wearing no. 60 in the Chargers game—an omen that didn't bode well for Powell.
DB Chris Stroud: Signed as a replacement when the Vikings lost Nick Taylor to injury, Stroud was a long-shot to make the team.
WR Kerry Taylor: Taylor, an undrafted free agent in 2011, spent time on four different practice squads last season.
WR Bryan Walters: The undrafted rookie form 2010 finished his stint with the Vikings making one catch against his former team on Friday.
There are no real surprises here.
9/3/12: Vikings.com reports that the team signed Kevin Murphy (OL) and Ernest Owusu (DT) to the practice squad. This fills the eight-man complement for the Vikings.
9/2/12: According to cbssports.com the Vikings added a couple of wide receivers to the practice squad. Chris Summers an undrafted free agent from Liberty was released by the Bears. B/R lead writer Sigmund Bloom put together this story on Summers back in May.
Tori Gurley comes from the Packers. An undrafted rookie in 2011, he spent last season on Green Bay's practice squad.
9/2/12: Upon clearing waivers the Vikings signed the following players to the practice squad: Jordan Todman (RB) who led the Vikings with 121 rushing yards in the preseason on 12 carries, Tyler Holmes (OL), Chase Baker (DL) and Bobby Felder (CB).
9/1/12: According to 1500ESPN the Vikings claimed offensive lineman Mark Asper off waivers. Asper was one of the final cuts of Buffalo. From the University of Oregon, Asper took two years off for a mission trip. The Bills drafted him in the sixth round.
9/1/12: Several sources including the Pioneer Press and NFL.com, report that the Vikings acquired Arizona cornerback A.J. Jefferson. Details of the trade have not yet been made public, but it is speculated that the Vikings are parting with draft picks. Jefferson, an undrafted rookie from Fresno State in 2010 started seven games last season for the Cardinals, and finished with one interception.
Jefferson's Twitter account has been busy will fans of Jefferson and the Vikings wishing him well.
Once the trade becomes official the Vikings will have to make another roster move to make room for Jefferson.
With the addition of Jefferson and Asper the Vikings released Zack Bowman and Pat Brown to remain at the 53-man limit. The release of the veteran Bowman continues the Vikings recent youth movement.
8/31/12: The Pioneer Press reported today that the Vikings released quarterback Sage Rosenfels. This is a the second time that the Vikings have gotten rid of Rosenfels after leading all of the team's quarterbacks with the best passer rating during the preseason. In 2009 the Vikings traded him to the Giants when Brett Favre joined the team.
8/12/2012: According to several, outlets including espn.com, the Vikings activated Adrian Peterson from the Physically Unable to Perform list. According to cbssorts.com, the plan is to have Peterson go through the Sunday walk-through and a light practice on Monday. If all goes well he will participate fully on Tuesday with the team.
8/6/2012: According to cbssports.com, as expected the Vikings have removed Greg Childs from the active roster and re-signed wide receiver A.J. Love. Childs is expected to undergo surgery to repair both knees and will miss the entire season. The move will allow the Vikings to eventually put him on IR.
8/5/2012: In a report from Tom Pelissero on 1500espn.com, Vikings rookie Greg Childs suffered injuries to both knees when he leaped for a ball and came down awkwardly on Saturday. Child was expected to challenge for some significant time as wide receiver. Especially with Jerome Simpson suspended for the first three games.
8/4/2012: According to Vikings.com The Vikings cut wide receiver A.J. Love and defensive end Eric Latimore to make room on the roster for offensive linemen Bridger Buche and Grant Cook. Both Love and Latimore where rookie free agents not expected to make the team.
Cook, an undrafted rookie played tackle at Arkansas was released by the Packers.
7/30/2012: The Minnesota Vikings signed cornerback Chris Stroud from Webber International. A long shot to make the roster, the Vikings are throwing as many bodies into the mix at cornerback, hoping to find a someone that might be able to contribute. Third-round draft pick, Josh Robinson is still limited due to a hamstring injury.
7/30/2012: The Minnesota Vikings released defensive back Nicholas Taylor from Florida International. Taylor, who played point guard in college, was never going to make this team, and this was made certain after suffering a torn labrum on the first day of training camp.
Matt Asiata earned a spot as the Vikings third running back.
Here's the current Vikings roster, following the most recent cut to the 53-player limit listed by position with the projected depth.
The number following each player is their years of experience.
C(2): John Sulivan (5) and Joe Berger (7)
OG(3): Charlie Johnson (7), Brandon Fusco (2) and Geoff Schwartz (3).
OT(3): Matt Kalil (R), Phil Loadholt (4) and Patrick Bown (3).
FB(1): Jerome Felton
TE(4): Kyle Rudolph (2), John Carlson (4), Rhett Ellison (R), and Allen Reisner (2).
WR(6): Percy Harvin (4), Jerome Simpson (5), Michael Jenkins (9), Devin Aromashodu (4), Jarius Wright (R) and Stephen Burton (2).
RB(3): Toby Gerhart (3), Adrian Peterson (6) and Matt Asiata (1).
QB(3): Christian Ponder (2), Joe Webb (3) and McLeod Bethel-Thompson (R)
DE (4): Jared Allen (9), Brian Robison (6), Everson Griffen (3) and D'Aundre Reed (1).
DT(4): Kevin Williams (10), Letroy Guion (5), Fred Evans (6) and Christian Ballard (2).
LB(7): Chad Greenway (6), Erin Henderson (4), Jasper Brinkley (3), Marvin Mitchell (6), Larry Dean (2), Tyrone McKenzie (2) and Audie Cole (R).
Cornerbacks (6): Chris Cook (3), Antoine Winfield (14), Zackary Bowman (4), Brandon Burton (2), Marcus Sherels (2) and Josh Robinson (R).
Safeties (5): Mistral Raymond (2), Harrison Smith (R), Jamarca Sanford (4), Robert Blanton (R) and Andrew Sendejo (2)
K - Blair Walsh (R)
P - Chris Kluwe (8)
LS - Cullen Loeffler (9)
With the NFL roster limit set at 90 for the opening of training camp, that means there are 37 players that will be looking for a job.
Here's an updated look at the bottom five players hanging on to make the team. Think of these as the best of the worst, or the worst of the best.
As the roster takes form I'll update this list based on what transactions the Vikings make.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson (QB) made the Vikings' roster, despite being outplayed by veteran Sage Rosenfels. At the same time the Sacramento State quarterback played almost as good as Joe Webb. His downfall were the two interceptions he threw that lowered his passer rating to 57.9, just 7.1 points lower than Webb. It's falls in line with youth movement the Vikings are making with only three players older than 30.
Marcus Sherels (CB/PR) an undrafted rookie from Minnesota in 2010, made the Vikings roster last season as the team's punt returner. Only because of injuries to the defensive secondary did he see any action at cornerback.
This year he was able to beat out veteran Chris Carr and a slew of rookie free agents to again make the team. His versatility to play special teams and return punts and kickoffs earned him another year in the NFL. Rookies Jarius Wright and Josh Robinson were given the chance to show what they can do in the return game, but were unable to unseat Sherels.
Andrew Sendejo (S) an undrafted free agent in 2010, he is another player that spent time with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL. Following the UFL season he was signed to the Cowboys practice squad and was activated for two games. After a stint on the Jets practice squad in 2011, the Vikings signed him last November. The Rice University product beat out veteran Eric Frampton to make the roster as a special team's player.
Devin Aromashodu (WR) has won yet another chance to play with the Vikings. The season-ending injury to Greg Childs may have been the saving grace for Aromashodu, who has has a problem catching balls thrown in his direction. Last season he was last in the league with a 33 percent catch rate for all receivers who played at least one0third of their team's offensive snaps.
If D'Aundre Reed (DE) is make the roster, the 2011 seventh-round pick from Arizona beat out six-year veteran Jeff Charleston and undrafted rookies Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu to earn a roster spot.
Here's my look at the last five players that just about made the roster. These were players who heading into camp looked to have the advantage to make the team, but either played themselves out of a position, or were soundly beaten out by another player.
Zack Bowman (CB): I was surprised that Bowman had made the 53-man roster on Saturday, and had earned a spot over Chris Carr. The 12-games starter for the Bears in 2009, Bowman was supplanted when the Vikings traded fro A.J. Jefferson from the Cardinals.
Pat Brown (T) earned the right to backup Phil Loadholt at right tackle—briefly on Saturday until the Vikings claimed Mark Asper, a rookie from Oregon off waivers.
An undrafted free agent in 2009, Brown was initially signed by Carolina. After failing to make their roster, Brown rotated from various practice squads for the next two seasons. He spent time with the Patriots, Vikings, Jets,Dolphins and back to the Vikings. Last season he was finally promoted to the active roster when Anthony Herrera suffered an injury. Brown, who was active for 15 games last season is no longer eligible to be assigned to a practice squad.
Sage Rosenfels (QB): This move once again escapes me. Rosenfels out played every other quarterback on the roster and yet is the casualty. With Christian Ponder's durability in question, I shudder to think how this team will do behind either Webb or Bethel-Thompson. Never given the chance to play with the first team, Rosenfels was able to move the offense, leading the Vikings with two touchdown passes in the preseason.
He will find a home somewhere as a backup.
Eric Frampton (S): a fifth-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders in 2007, he was twice claimed off waivers that season, first by the Lions and then by the Vikings. He's been a special teams regular for the Vikings for the past five seasons. However, even Pro Bowler Heath Farwell couldn't stick on the roster as a very good special teams player. The Vikings obviously are looking to groom some younger players for the future. Frampton was beaten out by Andrew Sendejo.
DeMarcus Love (T): had both his knees scoped this off-season. After being inactive for all 16 games last season, the Vikings sixth-round choice from last year suffered more setbacks during training camp and didn't make the final cut. At a position the Vikings desperately need some depth, Love could still end up once again on the practice squad.
Chris Carr (CB): The Vikings were hoping that Carr could provide some depth at cornerback and perhaps challenge as the third cornerback in the team's sub packages. It was not to be. The seven-year veteran who joined the league as an undrafted free agent with the Raiders in 2005 was not able to return to form that had him starting all 16 games for the Ravens in 2010. Injuries in 2011 limited him to one start. Because of his experience someone will give him a chance to be a backup.
Ryan D'Imperio (FB): The former seventh-round pick of the Vikings in 2010 made the transition from linebacker to fullback. After a season on the practice squad he was promoted to the active roster last year. playing in 12 games and making one start. He had plenty of competition in training camp from Matt Asiata and Jerome Felton. In the end it may have been the experience of Felton, a fifth-round pick of the Lions in 2008, that doomed his chances to make the team.
QB's on roster: McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Christian Ponder, Sage Rosenfels, Joe Webb
Projected Starter: Christian Ponder.
Offseason addition: McLeod Bethel-Thompson
Roster Cuts: Rosenfels
Final roster: Ponder, Webb, Bethel-Thompson
Final Preseason stats:
Ponder: Passing: 23-for-38, 331 yards, touchdown, interception—passer rating of 86.6. Rushing: 7-24 yards.
Webb: 21-of-41, 199 yards—passer rating of 65.0. Rushing: 2-95 yards.
Rosenfels: 17-of-25, 225 yards, two touchdowns—passer rating 122.9.
Bethel-Thompson: 18-of-36, 242 yards, touchdown, two interceptions—passer rating of 57.9. Rushing: 3-13 yards.
Rosenfels, on the field with second and third team players, performed the best of all four quarterbacks. Looking like the leading candidate to backup Ponder, the Vikings released the veteran with more starting experience, 12 games, than the other three combined.
Yet the Vikings decided that they were better off developing Bethel-Thompson.
To me, the addition of Bethel-Thompson was a head-scratcher. The only information I can find on him is that in 2007 he played at UCLA. He finished 23-of-55 for 293 yards with one touchdown and five interceptions. He finished his collegiate career at Sacramento State University. He signed with the 49ers and was in camp competing for the third-string quarterback.
After being released at the final cut down, he signed with Sacramento of the UFL. He would start two of the four games for the 1-3 Mountain Lions.
After the UFL season he was signed to the Miami Dolphins practice squad. In January he signed a futures/reserve contract with the Vikings. He will not make the team.
Over his career Rosenfels is 6-6 with a 62.5 percent completion rate with 30 touchdowns and 29 interceptions. When he was with the Vikings in 2009, he was the top quarterback through three preseason games, out playing Tarvaris Jackson. Up to that point Rosenfels was 28-of-40 for 381 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions—a 133.4 quarterback rating.
When the Vikings acquired Brett Favre the Vikings still named Jackson the backup, and Rosenfels never threw a single pass in 2009. In fact, he has not recorded a pass in a regular season game since 2008 when he started five games for the Texans.
Webb has played in 14 games with three starts. He is 88-of-152 for 853 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions for a quarterback rating of 66.6
Ponder, who took over from Donovan McNabb in Week 7 as the starter, has a 2-8 record. Last season as a rookie he was 158-of-291 for 1,853 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. At 70.1, his passer rating is only slightly better than Webb's.
Though activated to the roster, Adrian Peterson has yet to see any action.
RB's on the roster: Toby Gerhart, Lex Hilliard, Adrian Peterson, Jordan Todman, Derrick Coleman
FB's on the roster: Matt Asiata, Ryan D'Imperio, Jerome Felton
Projected Starter: Gerhart
Offseason additions: Hilliard, Todman, Coleman
Roster Cuts: Coleman, D'Imperio and Todman
Final roster: Gerhart, Peterson, Asiata and Felton
Final preseason stats:
Asiata: 23-134 yards, fumble.
Coleman: 19-50 yards, fumble—released.
Gerhart: 17-79 yards.
Hilliard: 16-53 yards, fumble.
Todman: 12-121 yards, touchdown.
If not for the devastating knee injury suffered by Peterson last season in Week 16 against the Redskins, the only discussion here would be who is replacing Lorenzo Booker as the third-string running back.
Now the discussion is focused on when will Peterson return to the lineup and his effectiveness when he returns.
Limited to sideline drills involving soccer balls, Peterson was placed on the active/PUP list when camp opened. While he can be activated at any time, the Vikings, to their credit, are taking a cautious approach with their superstar running back.
It's already been an exciting camp for Peterson, even without being on the practice field with his teammates. On the fourth day of camp he suffered an allergic reaction that resulted in an ambulance trip to the local hospital.
The biggest challenge for head coach Leslie Frazier is to stay the course, and not allow Peterson to push his return too soon. The Vikings are not going to be challenging for a play-off spot, so there's no reason to risk re-injuring the knee.
Peterson is only 66 yards from becoming the Vikings all-time leading ground gainer. If he stays healthy, and opens the season on the roster, he should be able to surpass this within the first four games, even with limited carries.
In a previous article, I projected Gerharts stats. The bottom line, he gets more carries early and finishes with 820 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Gerhart needs to carry the ball to be effective. Over his first two seasons he has 190 carries for 853 yards, a 4.5 average with two rushing touchdowns. Only three times has he carried the ball at least 19 times. As the main running back to open the season, he will get the chance to carry the ball and establish himself as more than a capable running back in the NFL.
Don't be surprised if the Vikings audition other running backs to camp as they are released from other teams.
The surprise of the preseason has been Asiata. When training camp opened he was listed as a fullback. As a senior he led Utah with 695 rushing yards. He went undrafted in 2010.
Todman entered the NFL draft after his junior season at the University of Connecticut. In his last two season he averaged 285 carries a season with 14 touchdowns and 1,441 yards. The sixth-round draft pick of the Chargers last season, he has yet to carry the ball in an NFL regular season game.
The Vikings signed Todman off the Chargers' practice squad last season after Peterson's knee injury. If he makes the opening day roster it will be as an insurance policy to add some depth, but as Peterson improves, so does the likelihood of his release.
Coleman has the advantage of knowing how to serve as a backup. In his four years at UCLA, he finished second on the team in rushing every year. As a freshman in 2008, he finished second on the team behind senior Kahlil Bell.
In his sophomore season Coleman would backup freshman Johnathan Franklin—a role he could not escape over the rest of his collegiate career. He did lead the Bruins with 11 rushing touchdowns last season and finished with 1,780 yards on 341 carries for a decent 5.2-yard average in four years.
Coleman will most likely wind up on the Vikings practice squad when the season opens.
Rookie Jarius Wright finally caught a pass in the preseason.
WRs on the roster: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Devin Aromoashodu, Stephen Burton, Greg Childs, Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Kamar Jordan, A.J. Love, Jerome Simpson, Kerry Taylor, Bryan Walters, Jarius Wright.
Projected starters: Harvin, Aromashodu and Jenkins—at least for the first three games.
Offseason additions: Childs, Jordan, Love, Simpson, Taylor, Walters, Wright
Roster Cuts: Jorden, Love (again), Taylor, Walters, Arceneaux.
Final roster: Burton, Simpson, Harvin, Jenkins, Aromashodu, Wright
Preseason stats through three preseason games:
Burton: 3-88 yards
Harvin: 3-74 yards
Arceneaux: 3-60 yards
Jenkins: 3-54 yards
Taylor: 3-44 yards
Simpson: 3-43 yards
Walters: 1-7 yards
The Minnesota Vikings are throwing just about everything at the wide receiver position to find someone that sticks.
The injury to Childs, one of the Vikings fourth-round draft picks is a devastating blow. With questions about his health after suffering a patella injury his junior season, it was not a lock that he would make the roster. Now it looks like he may spend the season on the IR.
Harvin, Simpson and Jenkins are the locks to make the roster, followed very closely by Wright. The final pecking order will be determined in camp between Aromashodu, Burton, Arceneaux and Burton.
As for Jordan, Taylor, Walters and Love, the best they can hope for is to wind up on the practice squad.
Like last season the Vikings opened camp with a dozen receivers battling for five or six spots on the roster. To muddy the waters a little bit, the Vikings biggest free-agent signing, Simpson, must serve a three-game suspension to open the season. Projected to be the Vikings down-field threat, his suspension will give another receiver and extra three games to prove themselves.
Because of his experience, Jenkins, in the second of his three-year contract, makes the team. but after missing five games last season with a torn meniscus, he will need to perform like a solid No. 2 receiver. All bets are off once Simpson returns and if Jenkins struggles he could be the odd-man out as the Vikings look to build for the future.
Simpson had his best season with the Bengals last year with a career high 50 catches as the No. 2 receiver. Four years younger than Jenkins, Simpson it the favorite to step in and be the Vikings top outside receiver.
That future looked very bright if rookie Childs was completely recovered from the knee injury that dogged him since his junior season. According to rotoworld.com, before suffering the torn patella tendon, Childs was projected to be a late first round or early second round pick. Selected by the Vikings in the fourth round, he has declared himself the "steal of the draft."
Now, he might wish he had never uttered those word.
Wright, Childs' teammate at Arkansas, led the Razorbacks in 2011 with 66 catches for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns—the highest totals for any Arkansas receiver in a season. Wright has been working as the backup to Harvin, and will get a shot to be the team's primary punt and kick-off returner. Though Harvin has solved his migraine problem that affected him as a rookie, if he continues to be a headache for the Vikings, Wright could wind up as his replacement in the future.
Harvin has been the most explosive player since the Vikings drafted him in the first round in 2009. Every season he has led the Vikings in total yards when you combine his rushing, receiving and return yards. For this reason he has a legitimate beef about his contract and how the Vikings are using him, but he needs to be patient. The Vikings has shown they are willing to take care of their stars, this is evident by the contracts given to Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Chad Greenway.
TEs on the roster: John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Allen Reisner, Kyle Rudolph, Mickey Shuler
Projected starters: Rudolph,
Offseason additions: Carlson, Ellison
Roster Cuts: Shuler
Final roster: Rudolph, Carlson, Ellison and Reisner.
Final preseason stats:
Reisner: 7-83 yards
Rudolph: 6-65 yards
Ellison: 6-43 yards
Shuler: 3-43 yards
The biggest question right now is the health of Carlson. The Vikings signed the Minnesota native to a five-year, $25 million contract. On Tuesday, the fifth day of training camp, Carlson sprained the MCL in his knee and could miss one to four weeks.
While he should be ready in time for the Vikings opener against the Jaguars on September 9th, he will have limited exposure to Christian Ponder and the Vikings offense.
This gives Rudolph the edge to be the top tight end. So far during training camp, according to Michelle Beisner of the NFL Network, he has been the Vikings' MVP. The second year player came into the league at the same time as quarterback Christian Ponder, and the two are establishing a connection that could lead the Vikings for years.
The surprise in this group is Ellison. The surprising part is the fact that he was even drafted. Walterfootball.com had him ranked 22nd among tight ends and not even projected to be drafted. Like the retired Jim Kleinsasser, the Vikings are hoping they found a player that can make an immediate impact, with a career as long as the 13 years Kleinsasser played.
As for Reisner, an undrafted free agent last season from Iowa, and Shuler, a seventh-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2010, their odds of making the team hinge on the health of Carlson.
OTs on the Roster: Patrick Brown, Bridger Buche, Grant Cook, Levi Horn, Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, DeMarcus Love and Kevin Murphy.
Projected starters: Kalil and Loadholt
Offseason additions: Horn, Murphy
Roster Cuts: Horn, Buche, Cook, Murphy
Final roster: Kalil, Loadholt and Brown
Update 8/31/12: The Vikings placed Love on injured reserve opening the spot for Brown.
Update 8/4/12: Due to injuries to Love and Brown the Vikings have added two more offensive linemen. They Signed Grant Cook, a rookie free agent from Arkansas who was released by the Packers. They also signed Bridger Buche a rookie free agent from Eastern Michigan who was released by the Steelers.
One of the biggest battles being watched during training camp involves the draft's top left tackle in Kalil, against the NFL's best sack machine in Jared Allen.
While it's still early, NFL.com reports that Kalil is holding his own in this marquee training-camp match up.
On the other side, Loadholt should have no competition at right tackle. The problem is last season he took a step back from his rookie year in 2010, committing too many penalties. He is in the last year of his contract and will need to have a solid season if he wants to get an extension. The truth is no one has emerged a threat to take his job, and the lack of competition could actually hurt him by not pushing him to play better.
That could change however if free agent Geoff Schwartz, who has some experience playing guard, loses the battle to start at right guard to Brandon Fusco.
Love has been hindered in the first week of training camp with a shoulder injury. This is not good news for the Vikings sixth-round draft pick from 2011. He is expected to be out for at least two weeks.
Brown and Horn both went undrafted out of college in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Brown has bounced between the practice squads of the Panthers, Patriots and Vikings in 2009. In 2010 he split time between the Jets and Dolphins, but was never active for a game. Last season, after spending most of the season on the Vikings practice squad, he was activated after Anthony Herrera suffered a season-ending injury. It will be tough for him to make the active roster this year.
Brown suffered an MCL strain early in camp that limited his practice. Despite the injury the Vikings' coaches saw enough to keep him on the active roster.
As for Horn, he spent all of 2010 on the Bears' practice squad. Last season he was activated for the last seven games, but did not see any action. After being waived by the Chicago in May the Vikings signed him to the roster.
OGs on the roster: Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Brandon Fusco, Tyler Holmes, Charlie Johnson, Geoff Schwartz and Austin Pasztor.
Projected starters: Johnson and Fusco
Offseason additions: Schwartz, Pasztor
Roster cuts: Buche, Cook, DeGeare, Holmes and Pasztor.
Final roster: Johnson, Schwartz, Fusco, and Berger.
After struggling with the move to left tackle in 2011, Johnson moves back to guard where he played all 16 games for the Colts in 2008. While not as good as Steve Hutchinson in his prime, playing alongside Kalil should make him better.
While Fusco opened camp as the starter at right guard, he was expected to get plenty of competition from Schwartz who the Vikings signed as a free agent from the Panthers.
The competition took a hit when an MRI discovered that Schwartz has a sports hernia. A report in the Pioneer Press indicates that he will have surgery to repair the hernia and miss most of the preseason.
Because Schwartz is coming off a hip injury that wiped out his entire 2011 season, he opened camp behind Fusco at right guard. In 2010 he started all 16 games for the Panthers, showing the flexibility to play both guard and tackle.
The biggest battle on the offensive line will be between guard DeGeare and tackle DeMarcus Love to make the roster as a backup—and in the end, neither made the team.
As for Pasztor, the undrafted free agent from Virginia, his best bet might be to play for the Edmonton Eskimos who drafted him fourth overall in the 2012 CFL Draft.
Centers on the roster: Quentin Saulsberry and John Sullivan
Projected starter: Sullivan
Offseason Additions: Saulsberry
Roster cuts: Saulsberry
Final roster: Sullivan and Joe Berger
The only two centers listed on the roster, there will be no competition for this position.
Drafted by the Vikings in the sixth round in 2008, Sullivan has started all but three games since 2009.
The battle for the backup may be more between Joe Berger and Brandon Fusco, with the rookie free-agent Saulsberry winding up on the Vikings practice squad.
During his four seasons at Mississippi State, Saulsberry started at every position on the offensive line, except left tackle.
Because of his versatility look for Saulsberry to wind up on the Vikings practice squad.
DEs on the roster: Jared Allen, Jeff Charleston, Trevor Guyton, Everson Griffen, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu, D'Aundre Reed, Nick Reed, Brian Robison
Projected starters: Allen and Robison
Offseason additions: Charleston, Guyton, Jacobs, Latimore, Owusu and Nick Reed.
Roster cuts: Latimore (8/4/12), Owusu (8/25/12), Jacobs, Charleston, Guyton and Nick Reed
Projected final roster: Allen, Robison, Griffen, and D'Aundre Reed
This is the deepest position on the team with Allen and Robison set as the starters. And even though Griffen opened training camp as a linebacker, he is still the third best defensive end on the roster. Regardless of how things shake out, he will make the Vikings roster as both a backup at linebacker and defensive end.
Camp opened with three rookies—seventh-round draft pick Guyton from California and undrafted free agents Jacobs from Minnesota and Latimore from Penn State. Don't look for any of these guys to make the final 53-man roster. Of the trio, Guyton has the best chance to land on the Vikings practice squad.
The duo of Allen and Robison combined for 30 sacks last season with Allen breaking the Vikings' single-season record with 22 sacks, a mere 1/2 sack from tying the NFL mark.
With a healthy Kevin Williams in the middle of the line and an upgrade over the failed Remi Ayodele experiment from last season, the line in total will be better, opening things up for the ends to have another tremendous season.
DTs on the roster: Chase Baker, Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Tydreke Powell and Kevin Williams.
Projected starters: Williams and Guion
Offseason additions: Baker and Powell
Roster Cuts: Powell and Baker,
Final roster: Williams, Guion, Evans and Ballard
This will be an important year for Williams to prove that at 31-years-old he can still play as effectively as he did before suffering from fasciitis and missing two games due to suspension. If he can be anywhere near as effective as Pat Williams, who played his last season with the Vikings in 2010 at the age of 38, then he has another six or seven years left.
The key will be who can step it up and play along side Williams. The top candidate at this point is Guion who signed a three-year, $9 million contract in March.
In a report on rotoworld.com, general manager Rick Spielman is expecting second-year player, Ballard to take a step up in 2012. Ballard figures to be the top backup at defensive tackle for the Vikings.
As for rookie free agents Baker and Powell, they have virtually no chance of making the roster.
OLBs on the roster: Larry Dean, Solomon Elimimian, Chad Greenway, Everson Griffen, Erin Henderson, Tyler Nielson, Corey Paredes.
Projected starters: Greenway and Henderson
Offseason additions: Dean, Elimimian, Nielson and Paredes
Roster Cuts: Elimimian, Nielson and Paredes
Final roster: Dean, Greenway, Henderson, and Mitchell
With only Henderson and Greenway with any starting experience in the NFL, this is the Vikings thinnest position on the roster.
It's for that reason the Vikings are giving Griffen a good look at linebacker. He came into camp at 258 pounds, down 15 from his playing weight of last season. Having played in only 25 percent of the defensive snaps last season, he was very good at getting to the quarterback with four sacks.
The experiment to move Griffen to linebacker was declared a flop early in camp, and as predicted, he made the team as one of four defensive ends.
Henderson, an undrafted free agent 2008, returns as the weak-side starting linebacker after signing a one-year contract. Last season he started 11 games and finished with 70 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Greenway has led the Vikings in tackles every year since 2008. Entering his seventh season as the strong side linebacker he takes over from E.J. Henderson as the senior member of the linebacker corp.
Dean, an undrafted free agent from Valdosta State in 2011, made the team as a special teams player. He will be battling this year's free agent rookies, Tyler Nielson from Iowa and Corey Paredes from Hawaii.
MLBs on the roster: Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, Tyrone McKenzie, Marvin Mitchell
Projected starter: Brinkley
Offseason additions: Cole, McKenzie, Mitchell
Roster Cuts: None. All four make the roster.
Projected final roster: Brinkley and Mitchell
I previously stated that linebacker is the thinnest position on the Vikings roster, it is also really thin at middle linebacker.
Brinkley, who missed all of last season with a hip injury, is slated to take over for long-time starter E.J. Henderson. A fifth round selection in 2009, Brinkley started the last four games at middle linebacker when Henderson suffered a broken femur in Week 13.
The problem is if Brinkley falters the Vikings could be in trouble.
The Vikings added Mitchell, the seventh-round draft pick of the Saints in 2007. He played four years in New Orleans as special teams player before signing with Miami for last season where he was credited for his first start in the NFL.
According to Walterfootball.com, Cole was rated the seventh-best inside linebacker and projected as a fourth or fifth draft pick. A poor showing in the combine dropped him to the seventh round. A member of the North roster for the Senior Bowl, the Vikings coaching staff got an extended look at him and know what they're getting.
Cole is on the bubble to make the team, and if he does it will be at the expense of someone like Larry Dean on special teams.
McKenzie was drafted by New England in the third round of the 2009 draft. During rookie mini-camp he tore the ACL in his right knee. He was placed on injured reserve.
After spending most of the 2010 season on the Patriots' practice squad he was released in November and signed by Tampa Bay. He made his debut in December of 2010 and was active for three games.
He spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad and it will be another tough road for McKenzie if he is to make the team.
CBs on roster: Zackary Bowman, Brandon Burton, Chris Carr, Chris Cook, Bobby Felder, Corey Gatewood, Reggie Jones, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Chris Stroud and Antoine Winfield.
Projected starters: Cook, Carr and Winfield
Offseason additions: Bowman, Carr, Felder, Gatewood, Robinson, Stroud.
Roster Cuts: Gatewood, Stroud, Carr, Felder and Jones
Final roster: Bowman, Burton, Cook, Robinson, Sherels and Winfield
Just as the Vikings threw plenty of bodies at the wide receiver position, they are doing the same at cornerback. The Vikings have 11 bodies on the roster for six or seven spots.
The three undrafted rookies, Felder from Nicholls State, Gatewood from Stanford and Stroud from Webber International, will not make the final 53-man roster.
The biggest battle to make the team will be between Sherels, Burton, Carr and Bowman.
Bowman, a fifth-round draft pick of the Bears in 2008, had his best season in 2009 when he led Chicago with six interceptions. Since then his play has fallen off and he only started one game last season.
Sherels has the advantage of making the team last season as the primary punt returner. Due to injuries he was forced to make three starts late in the season. He has the advantage of being with the Vikings for three seasons and knowing their system.
Burton, the Vikings fifth-round draft pick in 2011, appeared in 10 games last season making one start.
Carr started all 16 games for the Ravens in 2010. Injuries limited him to one start in seven game last season. Signed to just a little more than the veteran minimum of $810,000, both Carr and the Vikings would like to see him play like he did in 2010. It was a bit of a surprise that he did not make the team because of his experience.
As the Vikings third-round draft pick, Robinson will make the team unless he absolutely plays himself off the roster. He will also compete as a punt returner to make the team.
The key to the defense will be the play of Winfield and Cook.
Winfield, now the oldest player on the Vikings' roster, enters his 14th season in the NFL. Coming off a broken collarbone that ended his season after only five games, he has missed a total of 23 games since 2007.
This is a make or break season for Cook, the Vikings second-round pick in 2010. After two seasons limited to only six games each season, he needs to prove he can play an entire season effectively. Here's hoping a number change from 31 to 20 come with a performance boost.
Safeties on roster: Robert Blanton, Eric Frampton, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith
Projected starters: Raymond and Smith
Offseason additions: Blanton, Smith
Roster cuts: Frampton
Final roster: Blanton, Raymond, Sanford, Sendejo and Smith
The Vikings finished with the worst secondary in the NFL last season, giving up 34 touchdown passes.
Last year the Vikings opened the season with Husain Abdullah and Sanford at safety. This year Abdulluah is out of football after suffering multiple concussions the past couple of season, and Sanford will be moved back to a special teams.
Depending on the quality and direction of the Vikings roster, Sanford could be cut to make room to develop a younger player.
Raymond, one of the Vikings' sixth-round draft pick from last season, made five starts last season in 10 games.
The Vikings made a deal to move up in the draft to select safety Smith from Notre Dame. The expectation will be for him to provide an instant upgrade at safety. They selected his college teammate Blanton in the fifth round. A cornerback in college, he is being moved to safety.
Doubtful that the Vikings will be confident to start two rookies at safety, Blanton will be battling for the top backup role with Frampton and Sanford.
That leaves Sendejo. An undrafted rookie in 2010, he played with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL. Following that season he signed with Dallas and was assigned to their practice squad. He was activated for two games toward the end of the season. He spent last season on both the Jets' and Vikings' practice squads before being activated for three games late in the season. He surprised me by making the final cut.
Sendejo beat out Frampton who has been a special teams player for the Vikings since 2007.
Kicking specialist on the roster: Punter, Chris Kluwe and kicker Blair Walsh.
Projected starters: Kluwe and Walsh
Offseason additions: Walsh, the Vikings sixth-round draft pick out of Georgia.
Roster Cuts: None
Projected final roster: Kluwe and Walsh
Preseason stats through three games:
Walsh: FG: 9-for-12, long 47 yards. nine of 20 kick-offs have been for touchbacks.
Kluwe: Punts: 19 punts with a 45.3 average with a long of 53 yards and two downed inside the 20-yard line, with one touchback.
Walsh was the second of four kickers drafted in 2012, marking the most kickers in the draft since 1993 when the draft was eight rounds long.
The only question here will be how well Walsh makes the transition to the NFL—so far it has not been a problem for the rookie. At Georgia he finished 76-of-103 in field goals, 73.8 percent. The Vikings are planning that the strong-legged kicker will be as successful as Mason Crosby a sixth-round draft pick of Packers in 2007. Crosby, who converted 74.7 percent of his field goals at Colorado, has made 79.4 percent in his five years in the NFL.
Walsh replaces 15-year veteran Ryan Longwell who struggled to put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs, despite the rule change moving the ball up to the 35-yard line.
Kluwe returns for his eighth season with the Vikings. In 551 punts he has only had one blocked and has been very consistent with a 44.4 yards per punt average.
Returners on the roster: Percy Harvin, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Bryan Walters and Jarius Wright
Projected starters: Harvin and Wright
Offseason additions: Robinson, Walters and Wright
Roster cuts: Walters
Projected final roster: Harvin, Robinson, Sherels, Wright
The player with the most on the line here is Sherels. An undrafted free agent from Minnesota in 2010, he spent most of that season on the Vikings practice squad. Last year he made the 53-man roster as the primary punt returner.
Last year Sherels returned 33 punts for an 8.4 yard average. He also split kickoff return duties with Harvin and Lorenzo Booker. He finished with 16 kickoff returns for a 27.8 yard average, second to Harvin who led the NFL with a 32.5 yard average per kickoff return.
The trend for the Vikings last season was to reduce the number of kickoff returns for Harvin. In his first two seasons he averaged 41 returns. Last season that number dropped to 16. According to special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, Harvin will be the team's primary returner on kickoffs.
Still it's not a bad idea to limit his exposure on returns and save him for the offense.
In four years are Arkansas, Wright only had eight punt returns, but he will be given a chance to show what he can do on both punts and kickoffs as a potential replacement for Harvin.
In his three seasons at Central Florida, Robinson had 27 punt returns and four kickoff returns. As the Vikings third-round draft pick the team will work diligently to find a spot on the roster for Robinson.
An undrafted free agent in 2010, Walters signed with the San Diego Chargers, landing on their practice squad. He was activated for four games last season and returned eight punts for 45 yards. He will get a shot to make the team, but his odds are long. The best bet is he will end up on a practice squad somewhere, but not with the Vikings.