Minnesota Vikings: Immediate 53-Man Roster and Cut Predictions Post Titans Game
The good news is that the Minnesota Vikings just finished off their first unbeaten preseason since 2001.
The bad news is that 2001 team finished the regular season with a record of 5-11.
Actually, there is no bad news for this Vikings team. It's a new era under Mike Zimmer, and he's fostering a winning culture that's been lacking in Minnesota for the last few seasons. Winning might not be important in the preseason, but we'll call it a step in the right direction for an organization that's lost way too many winnable games in its recent past.
Thursday night saw the Vikings beat a listless Tennessee Titans team by a 19-3 score. Neither team's starters played with the exception of a few scattered players, but the Vikings backups certainly were superior to the Titans.
You know it's the fourth preseason game when the best thing to report is that kicker Blair Walsh went 4-for-4 in wet, rainy conditions.
The star of the game for Minnesota was running back Joe Banyard, who ran for 111 yards in the first half.
So now comes the hard part for the coaches, cutting the roster down to 53 players. NFL teams have to be down to the 53-player limit by 4 p.m. on Saturday. Here is our prediction on who stays and who goesand who might end up on the expanded 10-man practice squad.
Matt Cassel won the starting job fair and square over the course of training camp and during the preseason.
Rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater couldn't have been more impressive in the preseason, but he's in the perfect situation to back up Cassel for the time being. Bridgewater showed remarkable poise and control in the pocket and throws with zip and accuracy.
The job is Cassel's for now, but for how long?
Well, obviously, that depends on how things unfold once they start playing meaningful games. Minnesota has a brutally tough early schedule. If they start out 1-4 or even 2-3, the cries for Bridgewater will be deafening.
The Minnesota coaches will give Cassel a chance. A 1-4 start doesn't necessarily mean that Cassel is playing poorly. He'll be judged on his personal performance by Zimmer and Norv Turner. Zimmer has certainly left the door open for Bridgewater to get playing time in his rookie year, so this could develop into a fluid situation.
The good news is that both quarterbacks are playing really good football right now.
Christian Ponder will make the team as the third-string quarterback.
There had been some speculation throughout the summer that Felton's job was in jeopardy as Norv Turner's offense might not be quite as dependent on a fullback as Bill Musgrave's was.
As reported by Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press, Felton hasn't spent too much time worrying about his spot on the roster.
It's no secret that Adrian Peterson is the main man in Minnesota. How much time any other backs see will depend on how Peterson is feeling and how he's implemented in the passing game.
While both Joe Banyard and Dominique Williams showed flashes of ability during the preseason, McKinnon is a third-round draft pick, meaning the deck was stacked in his favor from the get-go. McKinnon has played well himself, but curiously didn't get a ton of carries in the preseason.
Asiata will make it as a dependable short-yardage guy—he proved his value when Peterson missed time at the tail end of last season.
Cut: Joe Banyard, Dominique Williams, Zach Line
Four running backs is cutting it pretty thin, so look for one of those three to land on the practice squad. Banyard is a really tough player to cut, he had an exceptional preseason and really stepped up on Thursday night when he needed to have a big game.
As Matt Vensel writes for the Star Tribune, Banyard probably can't be slipped through waivers to be placed on the practice squad after his Thursday night performance.
The most interesting aspect of how the Vikings receiving corps will shake out is how they will handle Jerome Simpson being suspended for the first three games of the season.
Will they keep Rodney Smith as an extra wideout for three weeks? If they go in that direction, it could be a three-week tryout for Smith. If he plays well given the opportunity, they might eventually cut Simpson.
As the summer wore on, Adam Thielen clearly won the fifth-receiver spot by giving huge contributions on special teams and fitting in nicely on the offense.
Jarius Wright has been curiously nondescript during the preseason before what many had thought would be a breakout year for him. He figures to be the third receiver when the season begins.
Jennings and Patterson are the clear-cut starters. While Jennings hopes to bounce back from a subpar 2013 season, Patterson hopes to live up to the huge expectations being heaped on him after his dazzling rookie campaign.
Cut: Rodney Smith, Donte Foster, Kain Colter
Look for both Smith and Colter to land on the practice squad.
The only question here is if Ford's absence during training camp while recovering from a stress fracture in his foot cost him his job or not.
Allen Reisner certainly did all he could to put his best foot forward, catching three touchdown passes in the preseason. The guess here, however, is that Ford's tape from last year is enough to hold off Reisner and keep his job with the Vikings as the third tight end.
Rudolph looks to have a major break-out season after missing half of the 2013 season with a broken foot. Rudolph has the size, hands and athletic ability to put up big numbers in Norv Turner's tight-end friendly offense.
Ellison is a huge stud as a blocker out of the H-back position and has proved to be a capable receiver as well.
Cut: Allen Reisner
The guess here is that the Vikings go with the promise and potential of rookies David Yankey and Antonio Richardson over Jeff Baca and Vlad Ducasse.
This is a tough call, but if Richardson makes the team it will be because Minnesota knows he probably won't make it through waivers to land on the practice squad. He probably has too much potential to just let him go.
Neither Richardson or Austin Wentworth has been particularly great in training camp, but Wentworth might land on the practice squad.
The starting five are set and will be the same five it's been for the past two seasons.
Berger makes it as a swing player who can play center should Sullivan get injured.
Cut: Austin Wentworth, Jeff Baca, Mike Remmers, Vlad Ducasse
The Vikings should be very excited about a re-tooled defensive line that said goodbye to veteran Jared Allen and Kevin Williams.
Added to the mix is the mammoth Linval Joseph, who will pair in the middle with Sharrif Floyd, and veterans Tom Johnson and Corey Wootton, who have both played very well in the preseason.
Both Johnson and Wootton are tried and tested veterans who know their way around the trenches of the NFL. Johnson is the type of player who's easy to root for, considering his long path to the NFL, as chronicled by Mark Craig of the Star Tribune.
Rookie third-round pick Crichton has been underwhelming in the preseason, but has far too much upside not to make the roster.
Griffen finally gets his chance as the starting end opposite of Robison and looks to cash in on all that potential as a high-end starter.
Cut: Shamar Stephen, Chase Baker, Justin Trattou, Isame Faciane
Stephen has played well this summer, but he's just been keeping the spot warm for Joseph, who was out recovering from a gunshot wound to his calf.
There is a chance that Stephen lands a spot instead of Evans, but if not, he and perhaps Faciane could land a spot on the practice squad.
Vikings coaches will spend a lot of time pulling their hair out trying to decide who to keep and who to let go when it comes to their linebacker corps.
Greenway, Barr, Brinkley, Cole and Hodges are sure things. After that, it probably comes down to Michael Mauti, Larry Dean and Brandon Watts.
Dean has been a leading tackler on special teams for several years in a row, and he'll probably make it for primarily that reason.
The Vikings have played both Cole and Mauti in the middle and on the outside, and the guess is that they make the club for their versatility.
Watts was unfortunately injured and missed too much time during the preseason. He's a perfect candidate for the practice squad if he doesn't make the final roster.
Cut: Brandon Watts, Mike Zimmer, Justin Jackson
Yes, 12 defensive backs is a pretty high number. And just because we're predicting that 12 will make the final roster on Saturday, there probably won't be that many a month into the season.
Look for Zimmer and the Vikings coaches to continue looking for guys to step up during the first few weeks of the season and take control of their positions, with the leading candidates at strong safety being Crocker and Blanton.
Robinson has probably done enough to be the third cornerback to start the season, but look for Price to push him for playing time when he's healthy.
The guess is that Minnesota says goodbye to Jamarca Sanford, who's been a stellar competitor and a vocal leader of the defense for the past three years. Sanford has battled injuries all summer and probably feels like he hasn't had a chance to show his best self to Zimmer, but that's life in the NFL.
Cut: Jamarca Sanford, Kendall James, Julian Posey
James and Posey would both be candidates to land on the practice squad.
K- Blair Walsh
P- Jeff Locke
LS- Cullen Loeffler
No surprises here. The Vikings used draft picks the last two years to add Walsh and Locke to the roster, and both players have paid immediate dividends and should be a formidable duo for years to come.
The Vikings special teams might be as good as they've ever been with that duo and Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels returning kicks.