Predicting Minnesota Vikings' 1st Wave of Roster Cuts
The Minnesota Vikings are deep into their second week of training camp, and while many players are still finding their sea legs, time is getting short for those trying to impress their way onto the 2014 roster.
The reality of NFL football is that your time can end at any moment. The Vikings released defensive end Rakim Cox on Monday afternoon in order to sign safety Chris Crocker, according to Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.
At this point, Crocker is probably an insurance policy for Zimmer, who might not be thrilled with the pool of safeties he has on hand battling to start opposite Harrison Smith.
For Cox, it's the end of the road in Minnesota. His release is an illustration to every player battling to make the Vikings roster that your number could be up on any given day. You might feel like you're on safe ground, but an injury or a signing can start shifting things around very quickly.
The Vikings begin their preseason schedule Friday night at TCF Bank Stadium against the Oakland Raiders. The first mandatory cut-down date is August 26, after the third weekend of exhibition games has been played. On that date, each NFL team will have to pare their roster down from 90 to 75 players.
Here's an early look at who might be facing the chopping block in Minnesota during the first wave of cuts.
Sure to Be Cut
RB Dominique Williams
DE Tyler Scott
LB Mike Zimmer
Trying to win a job in the NFL is the furthest thing from fair. If you're a nobody from nowhere state and you didn't get drafted, your odds of sticking are slim to none.
Returning veterans will almost surely get the benefit of the doubt over new guys. Guys who were selected in the draft will get the benefit of the doubt over undrafted free agents.
Not only are the odds long if you're a nobody, but you get far fewer chances to show what you can do in practice. Coaches don't want to waste precious reps on nobodies. Now, obviously there's a reason you were brought to camp in the first place, but that doesn't mean you're going to get a fair opportunity.
Vikings running back Dominique Williams is a perfect example. He rushed for over 1,000 yards in three different seasons in college as was a three-year captain. But the 5'9", 205-pound Williams did it at Wagner.
He has roughly the same build and characteristics as Minnesota's third-round draft pick Jerick McKinnon. Do you know how much better Williams would have to be than McKinnon to beat him out for a roster spot? And he'd have to do it while getting far less looks than McKinnon.
Tyler Scott was a team captain and a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season. Being 6'4" and 250 pounds won't stop you from being a very good defensive end in the Big Ten. However, Scott is giving up 23 pounds and a lot of athletic ability when matched up against Vikings' third-round draft pick Scott Crichton. Smaller and less athletic isn't a great combination.
Mike Zimmer, the linebacker, has been an amusement at camp simply for sharing the same name as the Vikings head coach. Zimmer also played at Illinois State, the same college his coach played at back in the day.
As Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press reported in May, though, that won't help the youngster when it comes to cut-down day. He quotes the head coach as saying, "Hey, they'll cut me. I ain't worried about cutting him."
More Than Likely to Be Cut
WR Andy Cruse
DT Isame Faciane
LB Dom DeCicco
DE Jake Snyder
The sad truth for Andy Cruse is that if you're a wide receiver who's brought in late to camp and they give you No. 8 to wear, your name on the roster is in pencil, not ink. Cruse was a four-year starter in Miami (Ohio) and caught on with the Houston Texans last season.
At 6'3", 212 pounds, he has nice size, but he's not particularly fast or quick. He's playing behind Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith, who were both on the Vikings' practice squad last season and have a head start on him in impressing people.
Isame Faciane was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Florida International. He's one of eight defensive tackles the Vikings have in camp, and one of the guys he's battling is seventh-round pick Shamar Stephen.
Stephen is no lock to make the roster either, but he would probably get a more serious look than Faciane. Faciane will get some reps in the preseason games, so he'll have some say in his future, but it probably won't be in Minnesota.
Linebacker Dom DeCicco is starting to look like one of the hundreds of guys who get signed and released over the course of three or four years before deciding it's time to go get a real job. Undrafted in 2011, he signed with the Chicago Bears and had a decent season on special teams. He's since been cut and re-signed by the Bears and signed and cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Defensive end Jake Snyder was signed by Minnesota after going undrafted this year out of Virginia. At 6'4", 270 pounds, he has nice size and good smarts, making last year's ACC All-Academic team. Minnesota is just too deep at defensive end, though, with newcomers Scott Crichton and Corey Wootton standing solidly in Snyder's way of a roster spot.
Probably Going to Be Cut
WR Ty Walker
S Brandan Bishop
CB Julian Posey
Ty Walker is one of two receivers the Vikings added last week after cutting receiver Josh Cooper. At 5'10", 191 pounds, Walker is probably too similar of a player to Jarius Wright to stick with Minnesota. According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com, Walker shined at Packers camp last summer before being a late release. Walker is clearly a talented athlete, but he'll be stuck in a numbers game in Minnesota.
Even if the Vikings opt to keep six wideouts on their roster, Walker will be stuck behind Adam Thielen, Rodney Smith, Kain Colter and Kamar Jorden. It's a tough spot for Walker to be in, but the more people he impresses around the NFL, the more opportunities he'll get.
There are eight safeties listed on the Vikings depth chart ahead of Brandan Bishop. At 6'1", 208 pounds, Bishop signed with the Vikings last spring after going undrafted. He impressed them enough to land on the practice squad last year, but he'll be caught up in a numbers game in 2014.
The same goes for cornerback Julian Posey, a 26-year-old journeyman who's spent time with the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns. Posey is a decent player but just doesn't stand out, and with Minnesota having 10 cornerbacks in camp, you have to make some "wow" plays to get noticed.
Probably Cut but Don't Go Too Far Away
CB Robert Steeples
G/T Pierce Burton
Like Posey from the previous slide, Steeples is in a stacked numbers game in trying to land one of the Vikings' cornerback spots. The 6'1", 192-pound corner was a late cut by the St. Louis Rams last summer, and the Vikings signed him to their practice squad.
Steeples was activated for two games last year when the Vikings suffered a rash of injuries. His shot at making the 2014 roster wasn't helped when the Vikings drafted two cornerbacks last spring after signing free agents Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox.
The Vikings signed guard/tackle Pierce Burton as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi. At 6'6", 305 pounds, Burton has nice size, and he started every game at right tackle for the Rebels. He's listed as a guard on the Vikings depth chart, but he's at tackle on their roster. The Vikings love versatility out of their offensive linemen, which could bode well for Burton down the line.
At present, Burton just has way too many good players in front of him to land a roster spot. He may make it past the first cut because he's an offensive lineman, but he won't make the final roster.
On the Bubble
DE Justin Trattou
WR Donte Foster
DT Kheeston Randall
Defensive end Justin Trattou was signed by the Vikings last October as an injury replacement after spending parts of two seasons with the New York Giants. At 6'4", 255 pounds, he's not quite big enough or athletic enough to be a standout in the NFL.
Like Scott and Snyder listed on previous slides, his chances of sticking with the Vikings were severely diminished when Minnesota used a third-round pick on Scott Crichton and then signed free agent Corey Wootton.
Trattou has been through enough training camps that he knows the drill and knows that even if he doesn't make the final roster, his days in the league might not be over. He learned last fall that if you keep yourself in shape, someone will come calling when the injury bug starts to hit.
At 6'1", 193 pounds, Foster is a slight receiver who may make it past the first cut because he's such a phenomenal athlete. According to his draft profile at NFL.com, he has a 42-inch vertical leap and is prone to making some spectacular catches.
Foster isn't polished enough to make it in the NFL, especially with the Vikings, who have too many good wideouts competing for the fifth and possible sixth spots at wide receiver. If Foster can flash enough talent over the next month, he has an outside shot at landing a spot on the practice squad.
At 6'5", 300 pounds, Randall is a pretty good athlete who moves well for a big man. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Miami Dolphins in 2012, and he spent two weeks with Zimmer in Cincinnati last season. He's another guy who may last past the first cut because he's an interior lineman, but he's a long shot to make the roster.