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Making the Call on the Minnesota Vikings' 5 Hardest Remaining Cuts

Mike NelsonCorrespondent IAugust 28, 2013

Making the Call on the Minnesota Vikings' 5 Hardest Remaining Cuts

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    By the end of Tuesday, rosters across the NFL were trimmed from 90 to 75 players. By the end of Saturday, teams will be down to their final form with the final cuts for the 53-man regular season roster.

    It's this time of year that often goes unnoticed by the casual NFL fan, but big decisions are being made. Personnel managers are making decisions that could impact the rest of the season.

    Do you keep seven linebackers? Three fullbacks? Nine defensive linemen? The decisions go on.

    Futures are being determined and if enough things go wrong over the course of a season, these "fringe" players could be in position to become major contributors.

    There are five interesting cases to pay attention to for Minnesota Vikings fans as the roster cuts continue.

    Following are five players who could all either become major contributors to the 2013 Vikings or else find themselves on the streets looking for work by this weekend.

    Step inside and have a look.

     

Wide Receiver Joe Webb

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    The speed is there, as is the athleticism and the size at 6'4" and 220 pounds.

    But how do the Vikings think those assets will translate on the field?

    Joe Webb hopes Minnesota is a believer.

    Webb is making the transition from quarterback to wide receiver and has had his share of ups and downs along the way.

    In three preseason games, Webb has five receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown.

    Whether Minnesota keeps Webb will be determined by whether the franchise's believes in his abilities over the long term. In the short term, Stephen Burton appears able to make greater contributions at wide receiver. Webb, however, may have the edge in looking down the road.

    Webb can bolster his cause by convincing coaches that he can also contribute to special teams, which doesn't seem to be the case, according to Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, via Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

    I don't know if he is comfortable in anything yet, but I think he is becoming more comfortable with all the techniques that we teach him at the gunner position. Athletically, he can do a lot of these things, and it is still a work in progress for him, to be quite honest. I like the direction he's going, and he's worked very hard.

    That's not a ringing endorsement for Webb as being a versatile contributor, but it doesn't rule him out as someone who can improve long term either.

    If Webb makes this roster, it's because the coaching staff believes in him over the long haul, which I think they do.

    Verdict: On 53-man roster

     

     

Cornerback Bobby Felder

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    Chris Cook. Xavier Rhodes. Josh Robinson. A.J. Jefferson. Marcus Sherels are in at cornerback for the Vikings.

    Bobby Felder? Maybe, but the numbers game isn't working in Felder's favor.

    The first four names are solidified on Minnesota's depth chart, although not in any particular order. Sherels can also almost pencil himself onto the Vikings' roster because of what he brings to special teams.

    Felder may again be finding himself on the outside looking in and destined for either the practice squad or another team.

    The product of Nicholls State has the size (6'1", 200 pounds) to be an NFL cornerback, but his limited experience and collegiate competition are what may ultimately hold him back.

    Minnesota is likely to keep five or six cornerbacks and with five already seemingly set, the odds are stacked against Felder.

    As head coach Leslie Frazier told Dan Wederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Aug. 23, "This will be a big week for Bobby."

    Since the week has nearly past, not much has been written on Felder since.

    Trusting my gut that he needed to do something spectacular to make the roster, no news is bad news for Felder.

    Verdict: Off 53-man roster

Linebacker Michael Mauti

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    As documented by Fox Sports North and other various media outlets, the road back to football relevancy hasn't been easy for Michael Mauti. 

    His recovery from a third torn ACL is an inspirational feat, but it still may not be enough to land him a spot on Minnesota's roster.

    Two of Minnesota's three starters at linebacker are solidified with Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson. The third spot is all but reserved for Marvin Mitchell.

    That leaves Mauti, fellow rookie Gerald Hodges, second-year pro Audie Cole, Tyrone McKenzie and veteran Desmond Bishop competing for backup spots.

    Mitchell is a big question mark at the second outside linebacker and Henderson isn't a lock to prove he is able to be the man in the middle in his first year at the position.

    With so much uncertainty among the starters, I project Minnesota will want more stability from its backups.

    Given that Cole and Hodges have both been well received, there will be a battle between Mauti, McKenzie and Bishop for the final spot or two at linebacker.

    Considering Minnesota enters 2013 with playoff aspirations, I see the final spot(s) going to Bishop and then McKenzie with Mauti as the first to go.

    Verdict: Off 53-man roster

Fullback Zach Line

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    Jerome Felton's league suspension for the first three games of this season as a result of his June 2 DUI charge opens another door that could lead to Zach Line from being an undrafted free agent to a member of the Minnesota Vikings' 53-man roster.

    The emphasis here is on "could."

    With Felton's suspension. Minnesota will need another player to fill his void as the lead blocker for Adrian Peterson.

    The first player that comes to mind is second-year pro Rhett Ellison. Ellison is known for his abilities as a blocker, which is what got him selected in the fourth round of last year's draft.

    But the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Kent Youngblood reports that coach Leslie Frazier has mentioned Ellison and Line as potential replacements for Felton during the first three games.

    Brian Hall of Fox Sports North also suggests not overlooking tight end John Carlson's role in the backfield, pointing out that he has been lined up behind quarterback Christian Ponder before and could be again during Felton's absence.

    Despite those two strong "in-house" candidates to fill the void left by Felton, the rookie Line warrants consideration for a roster spot, not only because of Felton's absence, but also because of his strong preseason play, which includes a 61-yard pass and catch against the Houston Texans.

    After that game Line admitted to Fox Sports North that he's "not used to lead blocking" calling the transition an "adjustment" for him.

    Line's preseason deserves praise but given the viable in-house options to replace Felton for the first three games and Felton's eventual return, it's tough to justify a spot on this roster for him.

    Verdict: Off 53-man roster

    X

Offensive Tackle Brandon Keith

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    Barring injury, the Vikings' front five starters on the offensive line are etched in stone entering Week 1 with Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt.

    What's written in sand are the backups at each position, although Joe Berger will make the roster as a backup center and guard.

    Outside of that, it's anyone's guess.

    There are at least two, maybe three, spots up for grabs depending how many offensive linemen Minnesota opts to keep. Last season, that number was eight.

    Seth Olsen is competing with rookie Jeff Baca for another backup guard job and Brandon Keith is competing with Kevin Murphy for the backup tackle position.

    Focusing on the battle at tackle, Andrew Krammer of 1500 ESPN reports that offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave thinks Keith had the edge for the backup job there as the top candidate.

    "He definitely is, you bet," Musgrave said.

    I think it's safe to take the offensive coordinator at his word.

    Verdict: On 53-man roster

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