A look at the Vikings potential 53-man roster
AUG 30, 2013 12:38p ET
The Minnesota Vikings coaches and personnel staff will meet Friday and try to determine the final 53-man roster before the 5 p.m. Central time deadline on Saturday.
Coach Leslie Frazier said the group will have "strong discussions" about the final roster with general manager Rick Spielman having the final say when it comes to tough decisions.
"We've been collaborative in our discussions, but at the end of the day Rick is going to give his input and I'm going to share my input, but he's going to make that final decision," Frazier said after Thursday's preseason finale. "One of the things that he's learned and I've learned, you don't want to make that decision about a player if the coaches, the head coach in particular, are against it. It's hard if, as a coach, you've got to get this guy going and then you don't necessarily believe it.
"It's a tough deal, but we've been very fortunate in our relationship where we can discuss every single guy, talk through what needs to be done and what's best for our football team. It's worked out, whether it be the draft or whether it be the 75 or the 53, we've always been able to come to an agreement and make it work for our team."
The Vikings could possibly add by signing players released by other teams, but here's a best guess as to who will be on the active 53-man roster when Minnesota suits up on Sept. 8 at Detroit for the regular-season opener:
Starter: Christian Ponder
Backups: Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
There's really no discussion left here for the Vikings unless they are trying to decide whether to keep a third quarterback. Minnesota has just three quarterbacks on the roster. Bethel-Thompson's strong arm has been intriguing and he should stick. Playing most of Thursday's game, Bethel-Thompson was 19 of 26 for 187 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. Ponder is the starter and Cassel is the veteran backup.
RUNNING BACKS (5)
Final cuts: Joe Banyard, Zach Line
Felton doesn't count in the final 53 spots because he's suspended for the first three games and Minnesota will have a roster exemption. Ellison is here because he will get the bulk of Felton's playing time during the suspension and the Vikings still list him as a fullback even though he played the majority of his time at tight end last year.
The final decision here comes down to Asiata and Banyard. Asiata is bigger and has played some fullback in the past. Banyard is shiftier. Banyard has looked explosive at times during the preseason. But Asiata looked good in his most extensive playing time on Thursday. In most cases, deciding on a third running back often comes down to help on special teams, which gives Asiata the edge. Minnesota might try to pass Banyard, and maybe even Line, to the practice squad.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6)
Starters: Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson
Backups: Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Joe Webb, Stephen Burton, Greg Childs (physically unable to perform list)
Final cuts: Rodney Smith, Adam Thielen
The first four spots are set and Childs doesn't count against the 53-man roster because he'll start the season on the PUP list. Here's to the belief the Vikings might hold six receivers, at least for the first six weeks. We'll give the extra roster spot -- open because of Felton's suspension -- to the wide receiver corps and Minnesota giving itself three more weeks to decide between Webb and Burton.
The competition between the two is really close. Webb is a great athlete who still hasn't looked completely comfortable in his move to receiver. Burton has flashed during the preseason and also has the ability to return kickoffs and punts, but the inconsistent and mental lapses are still there. One or both of Smith and Thielen might be practice squad possibilities.
TIGHT ENDS (2)
Starter: Kyle Rudolph
Backup: John Carlson
Final cuts: Chase Ford, Colin Anderson
There's little discussion here too. Rudolph is an emerging star at the position, who only needs more consistency in his connection with Ponder. Don't forget Ellison fits in here as well. He is the blocking tight end to Carlson as the receiving threat when Minnesota goes to multiple tight end sets. The Vikings have typically kept another tight end on the practice squad, which is where Ford was last season.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Starters: Left tackle Matt Kalil, left guard Charlie Johnson, center John Sullivan, right guard Brandon Fusco, right tackle Phil Loadholt
Offensive line will take up some decision time on Friday. The starting line is set, with all five starters returning from last year. Berger gets the nod as the veteran backup with the ability to play guard and center. Berger has security as well from the fact Minnesota feels comfortable with him at center. Olsen and Baca have both had time at center in the preseason and training camp, but haven't been consistent with snaps and both are natural guards. The final guard spot likely comes down to Olsen or Baca. Frazier mentioned Baca as a standout in Thursday's game. Olsen is a veteran and the concussion he sustained might affect the decision.
The Vikings will keep one tackle and Keith's experience likely gives him an edge over Murphy, Love -- who is suspended for the first four games -- and Kropog, who was the extra tackle last season. It's possible Love sticks while his suspension is ongoing, but it's doubtful he returns to the team. Minnesota will need to decide what it wants to do with Baca and Bond, two draft choices this year that are intriguing. They might find their way to the active roster, or maybe to the practice squad, where the Vikings typically have a couple of offensive lineman.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
Starters: left end Brian Robison, nose tackle Letroy Guion, 3-technique tackle Kevin Williams, right end Jared Allen
Final cuts: D'Aundre Reed, Collins Ukwu, Anthony McCloud, Spencer Nealy, Everett Dawkins, Christian Ballard (left squad list)
The starters are set along with Evans, Griffen and Floyd. Evans shares time with Guion and Griffen is rotated in often, especially in passing downs. Evans and Guion might have to start the regular-season opener depending on the health of Kevin Williams. Before knee injuries to Williams and Floyd, Minnesota might have stuck with just eight linemen, but probably feels it needs to go with the nine linemen like it carried last season because of the injuries to Williams and Floyd.
Griffen is the first backup at both end spots, but Johnson should stay and has played special teams. Baker, who was on the practice squad last season, gets the final spot as the Vikings carry extra depth with the injury concerns. Ballard might have had the final spot, but is still away from the team for personal matters and will probably be released at this point.
Deciding on the linebackers might be the toughest decision of all for Minnesota. Here is to believing Bishop will start, at least eventually, at the weakside spot alongside Henderson and Greenway, who are set as starters. Mitchell, who's been running as the starter on the weakside, sticks as the top backup option. For the other spots, the Vikings stay young with their three draft choices of the past two years in Cole, Hodges and Mauti.
Cole has been the top backup to Henderson in the middle. With Cole, Hodges and Mauti, they will need to be productive on special teams as well. Hodges is a fourth-round pick this year and Mauti continues to get stronger each week in his recovery from knee surgery and Minnesota might not want to risk losing Mauti to another team in the chance to re-sign him to the practice squad now that he's healthy. Dean, a standout special teams player for years, is the toughest cut, but the Vikings might look to keep their younger players. The final decision might come down to Dean or Cole.
Final cuts: Darius Eubanks, Brandan Bishop
Status-quo for Minnesota among the safeties as all five from last year return and are the leading candidates to stick this year. Eubanks and Bishop are undrafted rookie free agents, but neither has likely done enough to break through last year's five safeties. Smith and Sanford are set as the starters and work well together. Blanton is the project who looks more comfortable in his second year as a safety after moving from cornerback in college. Sendejo is the special teams standout.
Raymond was the starter to open last season before being injured, opening the door for Sanford. Raymond is injured again and if Minnesota decides to keep numbers elsewhere, Raymond might be the most "surprising" candidate for the cut list. He was a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft and has dealt with injuries throughout his career.
Starters: Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes
Final cut: Brandon Burton
Note Rhodes listed as a starter. The rookie was selected in the first round in April's draft for a reason and he should eventually carve out a starting spot in the base defense. Rhodes is a physical corner, but needs to learn to control his physicality and handling of receivers off the line of scrimmage. Robinson has been starting in the base defense, but has struggled a bit recently. For now, Rhodes is the third corner and plays on the outside in the nickel defense, with Robinson sliding in to cover the slot.
Aside from the questions about Ponder, perhaps no other position on the roster will be as scrutinized as the cornerbacks. Jefferson had a tough game Thursday in the preseason finale and he's lined up as the fourth corner right now. Burton's run with the Vikings might be over with Sherels and Felder both flashing in the preseason. Sherels and Felder are competing for the punt return spot as well, but its possible both make the final roster over Burton. Sherels has more experience than Felder and would likely have the edge as the punt returner, but Felder is intriguing from a defensive aspect too.
No questions here as Walsh tries to replicate his rookie success in his second year. Locke is the rookie this year and has been solid in the preseason. He is also the holder. Loeffler is the veteran of the group. Kickoff returns will be Patterson's responsibility with the possibility that Sherels, Jefferson or Stephen Burton are the backups. Again, Sherels is likely to be the top punt return option. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer prefers Sherels back to return punts, in part because of his ball security. Felder could force his way in and has looked explosive returning the ball when given the chance in the preseason.
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