Report Card Grades for Minnesota Vikings Rookie Through Preseason Week 2
At the halfway point of the preseason schedule, the Minnesota Vikings have three rookies who are settling in nicely as starters, or in the case of kicker Blair Walsh, making a significant contribution to the team.
There are still six other rookie draft picks, and a slew of undrafted rookie free agents, with only two games left to make a big enough impression and win a spot on the final 53-man roster.
With just over a week before the Vikings must reduce the roster to 80 players by August 28th, time is running out as many of the undrafted free agents will be candidates for that first round of cuts.
Here's a mid-year grade report for the Vikings' rookie class of 2012.
Minnesota Vikings Rookie Free Agents
After going undrafted, these players came into camp as long shots to even make the team. Now, with an opportunity to show what they got, they're hoping to be the next Marcus Sherels or Larry Dean, the most recent undrafted rookies to make the Vikings roster.
Here's a quick rundown of the Vikings' rookie free agents.
Chase Baker, DT, Boise State: He is credited with one tackle. There's too little data to make a grade on Baker, and there's no way he makes the roster.
Bridger Buche, OG, Eastern Michigan: Buche was signed by Pittsburgh as a rookie free agent and was in their camp. The Vikings signed him on August 4th after the Steelers released him.
Like many of the offensive linemen on this list, I have not seen enough to be able to provide a grade. The fact that this is his second team this preseason does not bode well.
Derrick Coleman, RB, UCLA: Coleman has seen more action than any other undrafted rookie. He is competing with Lex Hilliard to make the team as the third running back. He is tied with Toby Gerhart with 11 carries in the two preseason games. He has 35 yards, for a 3.2-yard average.
Bobby Felder, DB, Nicholls State: So far, Felder has no stats this preseason. Before the preseason schedule, Mike Wobschall from Vikings.com had identified Felder as one of 10 Vikings off to a quick start. I have not seen enough of him to make a fair assessment.
Corey Gatewood, DB, Stanford: Gatewood is credited with two tackles. He falls into the same boat with Felder, an undrafted rookie trying to make the Vikings.
These two are competing with free-agent veterans Chris Carr and Zack Bowman, as well as Marcus Sherels for, maybe, one spot.
Tyler Holmes, OG, Tulsa: I have no data on Holmes, a rookie from Tulsa to make an assessment. Holmes is a 6'5", 308-pound offensive guard from Ottawa, Ontario. He was drafted by Toronto of the CFL last year, but opted to return to Tulsa for his senior year.
He has the size, but there is a reason he went undrafted. Best bet, he ends up on the practice squad.
Anthony Jacobs, DE, Minnesota: Jacobs has three tackles and a sack so far this preseason. The problem is the position he plays, and the fact that there four returning players ahead of him—starters Jared Allen and Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Christian Ballard.
Grade: C+—at least he is on the stat sheet
Kamar Jordan, WR, Bowling Green State: No stats from the two games for Jordan. Too little information to provide a grade.
A.J. Love, WR, South Florida: When the Vikings needed to make room on the roster, Love was the first player cut. When they lost Greg Childs for the season, they re-signed him. That's not a very big vote of confidence they have in Love. Love has not hit the stat sheet in two games.
Tyler Nielsen, LB, Iowa: Nielsen has three tackles this preseason, a 6'3", 240-pound linebacker, he started 20 games in his career. It will be tough for him to make the final roster. His best chance would be to land on the Vikings practice squad.
Ernest Owusu, DE, California: There's not enough to grade Owusu yet. He is in the same boat with Jacobs.
Corey Paredes, LB, Hawaii: Paredes is credited with two tackles so far this preseason. The odds are long that he will make the Vikings, even on special teams, despite how thin the team is at linebacker.
Austin Pasztor, OG, Virginia: A long shot to make the team, Pasztor is one of 12 offensive linemen on the roster. I have not seen enough to provide a fair grade.
Tydreke Powell, DT, North Carolina: Another player with no stats and not enough information to make even a guess. Powell has too many bodies in front of him to make the roster.
Quentin Saulsberry, OG, Mississippi State: The fact that Saulsberry started every game in his college career, at every position on the offensive line gives him a shot to make the team. Along with starter John Sullivan, he is listed on vikings.com as only one of two centers on the roster.
That could work in his favor. (Although Joe Berger has seen action at center) Like the other offensive linemen, I cannot make an accurate assessment with so little playing time.
Chris Stroud, CB, Webber International: Signed to the Vikings' roster when Nick Taylor went down with a shoulder injury. Having not made the stat sheet there's no information available to provide a grade.
Defensive End, Trevor Guyton, California
The Minnesota Vikings' seventh-round draft pick, Trevor Guyton has the unfortunate luck of playing the same position as Jared Allen and Brian Robison.
In order to make the team, Guyton is going to have to really bust out and show something in the last two preseason games.
Having only one tackle in two games doesn't yield much in the stats column for the rookie from California.
Linebacker, Audie Cole, North Carolina State
Unlike, Trevor Guyton, Audie Cole plays a position where the Vikings are extremely thin, with only four veterans with any experience starting on defense.
Although a long shot to crack the starting defensive lineup, Cole has made the most of his playing time with the Vikings.
In Friday's game against the Buffalo Bills, Cole returned two interceptions for touchdowns on consecutive plays in the fourth quarter.
Along with his two pick-six plays, Cole has recorded three tackles.
Grade: B—His best bet to make the team will be on special teams.
Kicker, Blair Walsh, Georgia
It wasn't until two days after the NFL draft, when the Vikings released veteran placekicker Ryan Longwell, that it became clear why the Minnesota Vikings drafted Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round.
Walsh came into camp with no competition, and so far, has done just about everything right.
He's 6-of-7 on field-goal attempts and has put five of his 12 kickoffs into the end zone for a touchback.
Safety, Robert Blanton, Notre Dame
Like Mistral Raymond the year before, Robert Blanton comes to the Vikings attempting to make the switch from cornerback to safety.
So far this preseason, a hamstring strain has prevented Blanton from making an appearance in a preseason contest.
Coming into camp, it was thought that he could compete for a starting spot alongside his collegiate teammate, Harrison Smith.
Now, there's no chance of that happening, and he will have to make the most of each and every opportunity to make it as a backup.
Wide Receiver, Greg Childs, Arkansas
It was a bad sign when the Minnesota Vikings' fourth-round draft pick, Greg Childs, called himself the "steal of the draft."
After suffering a knee injury his junior season that dogged him all through his senior season, the team knew there was a risk drafting the Arkansas wide receiver.
During the team's Saturday night practice on August 4th, Childs tore both patella tendons when he landed awkward after attempting to make a catch.
The injury ended his season before it even had a chance to get started.
Grade: Incomplete—here's hoping Childs will be able to recover from this devatating injury
Tight End/Fullback, Rhett Ellison, USC
The Vikings are hoping the that fourth-round draft pick Rhett Ellison, a teammate of Matt Kalil's at USC can adequately fill the shoes of departed Jim Kleinsasser.
Perhaps, they're hoping there's some good karma in issuing the rookie the jersey No. 40, the number that Kleinsasser wore for 13 seasons, all with the Vikings.
He has taken advantage of the MCL sprain of free agent John Carlson, who has missed most of the training camp.
Ellison has three catches in two preseason games for 25 yards—two of them resulted in first downs.
Grade: B—Along with Kyle Rudolph and Carlson, Ellison will make the final roster.
Wide Receiver, Jarius Wright, Arkansas
In an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Jeremy Fowler writes that the Vikings like fourth-round draft pick, Jarius Wright's football IQ.
That's like telling your best friend that the blind date you're trying to set him up with has a great personality.
The results from Arkansas' top receiver last season have not exactly jumped off the page.
So far, Wright has not made a catch in the first two games. He does have on punt return for 15 yards.
Grade: D—Unfortunately so far, the potential backup to Percy Harvin has played nothing like him.
Cornerback, Josh Robinson, Central Florida
One of the Vikings' biggest position of need heading into 2012 is cornerback.
They are throwing a slew of veteran free agents at the position in an attempt to improve the group.
Third-round draft pick Josh Robinson entered camp with a very good shot at earning a role that would have provided plenty of plays with the defense.
A hamstring injury limited his participation in training camp and prevented him from making his Vikings debut until Friday's home game against the Buffalo Bills.
Robinson recorded two tackles in the Vikings 36-14 win at the Metrodome.
Grade: C+—Robinson needs to do some extra credit to make up for lost time.
Safety, Harrison Smith, Notre Dame
When the Minnesota Vikings moved up in the draft to select Harrison Smith with the 29th pick in Round 1, the expectation was that he would start—at least in the minds of many Vikings fans.
When camp opened, head coach Leslie Frazier had Smith practicing with the second team. In no time, he made his way to the top, taking reps with the first-team defense.
Smith has started both preseason games at safety. He has recorded tackles in two games, but has yet to be challenged on a deep pass play.
Grade: B—He's doing well, but the competition at safety is not that great.
Left Tackle, Matt Kalil, USC
Since being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the fourth pick in the draft, Matt Kalil has been atop the Vikings' depth chart at left tackle.
Since then, he has done nothing for the Vikings' coaching staff to even thinking of changing that.
Kalil has the benefit of working against Jared Allen in practice and seems to have taken the lessons from Allen into the two preseason games.
Grade: A—Not having to worry about his backside has quarterback Christian Ponder playing better.