Biggest Snubs and Surprises for the Minnesota Vikings' 53-Man Roster
The Minnesota Vikings finalized their 53-man roster on Saturday. For the coaching staff, there's no time to reflect on any possible mistakes made. It needed to quickly scour the released players to fill its practice squad and then start developing a game plan for the Detroit Lions in the season opener.
In the NFL, as in most things in life, it's all about what have you done lately. It's a win-now league, with 32 teams vying for a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season. Coaches will tell you that the shaping of the final roster is a process that starts in OTAs and concludes with the last preseason game.
No single play or great performance in one of the preseason games against the other team's backups will necessarily secure a spot on the roster.
The process starts with 90 players signed to the roster following the draft in April. Even before the first cutdown date, players will be released and signed based on the needs of the team at any given moment. In the end, 37 players will find themselves looking for another chance to make it in the NFL, perhaps as a member of a practice squad with the team that cut them or another willing to give them a chance.
For the Minnesota Vikings, here's a look at their roster and 10 players who were either snubbed or surprisingly made the team.
Snubbed: Defensive End D'Aundre Reed
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A seventh-round draft pick of the Vikings in 2011 out of Arizona, D'Aundre Reed was able to stick with the team the last two seasons. He was activated for four games last season and played on special teams.
This preseason, he was on the field for 88 plays and finished with six tackles and half a sack. When Christian Ballard left the team during training camp, Reed's odds of sticking with the Vikings seemed very good.
After surviving the cut to 75 players, with the release of defensive ends Lawrence and Marquis Jackson, the odds seemed to improve—especially with the Vikings' propensity to favor players they are familiar with.
So much for the odds.
Surprise: Defensive Lineman Chase Baker
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The surprise is not so much that Chase Baker made the roster as the third nose tackle but more that the Vikings kept a total of nine defensive linemen.
An undrafted player from Boise State in 2012, he spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad.
Baker was on the field for 119 plays this preseason, the third most among all defenders. He finished with only 11 tackles, but it was enough to earn him one of the last spots on the roster.
Snubbed: Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie
A third-round draft pick of New England in 2009, Tyrone McKenzie never played a game for the Patriots. After playing three games with the Buccaneers in 2010, he spent the last two seasons with the Vikings and was active for all 16 games last year.
A standout on special teams, he obviously couldn't impress enough at a position of need for the Vikings. With the team taking two linebackers in the draft and signing Desmond Bishop from the Packers, there was plenty of competition for McKenzie this year.
In the end, he was not one of the eight linebackers to make the roster.
Surprise: Linebacker Michael Mauti
When the Minnesota Vikings selected Michael Mauti in the seventh round, it was worth the risk. Coming off his third ACL knee injury in four years, he was in the process of rehabilitating his left knee and did not participate in the NFL Scouting Combine.
He was cleared to participate just in time for training camp. During the preseason, he was on the field for 89 plays and recorded 12 tackles.
The Vikings are opening the season with one more linebacker than they did last year, and that allowed the team to keep Mauti and his college teammate from Penn State, Gerald Hodges.
Hodges finished the preseason with 13 tackles on 94 snaps. Both are listed as third-team linebackers and will make most of their contributions on special teams.
Snubbed: Wide Receiver Stephen Burton
Stephen Burton knew heading into training camp that he was on the bubble. Despite the departure of Percy Harvin and the release of Michael Jenkins from last year's roster, Burton needed to earn a spot for the 2013 season.
The Vikings signed a total of 12 wide receivers to their training camp roster in an attempt to upgrade the position. With the signing of Greg Jennings, the drafting of Cordarrelle Patterson and the switch of Joe Webb from quarterback, there was plenty of competition.
Burton rose to the challenge and did everything he was asked to do in the preseason to make the team. He led the team with 112 receiving yards on seven catches and averaged 24.8 yards on four kickoff returns. He even fielded a punt, returning it for 11 yards.
He did have one black mark in the game against the 49ers. On a slant play, he pulled up on his route while Christian Ponder put the ball where Burton should have been.
Surprise: Wide Receiver Joe Webb
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The Minnesota Vikings have waffled back and forth on Joe Webb. A quarterback at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, they drafted him as a wide receiver. Then they liked what they saw in camp and switched him back to quarterback. After three years and a 66.6 passer rating, they moved him back to wide receiver.
During training camp, the battle for the last wide receiver position came down to Webb and Stephen Burton. It's possible that Webb had an edge because of his experience at quarterback, and understanding the route trees for the receivers.
The only way both players made the team is if the Vikings had decided to release quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and keep Webb as the emergency quarterback—that didn't happen, and Burton is now in Jacksonville.
After leading the team in the preseason with 10 catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, Webb earned the final wide receiver spot on the roster.
Snubbed: Offensive Lineman Travis Bond
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When the Vikings drafted Travis Bond, I predicted his most likely landing spot would be on the Vikings' practice squad. The problem is they wasted a draft pick on a position they have been filling with undrafted free agents and players cut from other teams.
Bond, who didn't start until his junior year at North Carolina, is a big man. At 6'6" and somewhere in the neighborhood of 330 pounds, he definitely has the size to play offensive line—the problem was he needs more refinement.
The Vikings took a long, hard look at Bond, giving him 125 snaps in the preseason—second most to Jeff Baca, the other lineman drafted this year by the team. According to Pro Football Focus, he yielded a team-high seven quarterback hurries and allowed two hits and a sack.
Surprise: Fullback Zach Line
Perhaps the surprise wasn't so much that Zach Line made the 53-man roster but that he did not get drafted—especially after listening to the breakdown of Line by B/R Lead NFL Writer Matt Miller.
Line led SMU in total yards from scrimmage the last three years, averaging 1,332 yards rushing and 177 yards receiving. During the preseason, he proved that making the jump to the NFL was not a problem for him. He had the team's longest catch of the preseason, taking a short pass from Matt Cassel and, after breaking a tackle at the line scrimmage, scoring a 61-yard touchdown.
Along with running back Joe Banyard, he led the team with two touchdowns in the preseason.
He might not have made the team if not for Jerome Felton's three-game suspension. Still, the Vikings could have easily used Rhett Ellison at fullback until Felton returned. They obviously like the versatility Line brings to the team with his ability to run and catch the ball.
The Vikings will have a very interesting decision to make once Felton is eligible to return to the lineup. Currently not counted as part of the 53-man roster, someone will need to be released in order to make room for Felton.
Snubbed: Running Back Joe Banyard
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Joe Banyard spent last season on the Vikings' practice squad after going undrafted following his senior season at Texas-El Paso in 2011.
During the preseason, he led the Vikings with 123 yards rushing and was second with nine receptions for another 63 yards. He scored two of the team's seven touchdowns in four meaningless games.
In the end, it was not enough to earn him a spot on the final roster.
Surprise: Running Back Matt Asiata
The snub of Joe Banyard was a good thing for Matt Asiata. Last season, Asiata led the Vikings in rushing with 134 yards on 23 carries. He beat out three other players to earn the third-team running back position.
During the regular season, he got only three carries for a total of nine yards in 14 games. But at least he was a running back in the NFL.
This preseason, he finished second to Banyard in rushing yards with 67 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Experience counts for something, and those three carries from last season must have made the difference.
Asiata could still be the player released when Jerome Felton rejoins the team—if Zach Line can make the most of his opportunity and give the Vikings something to think about.