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Updated: September 3rd, 2010 1:00am
Pelissero: Trading depth at quarterback, d-line could help fill holes

Pelissero: Trading depth at quarterback, d-line could help fill holes

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings sat 28 players on Thursday night and still beat a Denver Broncos team that rolled out its starters for the first quarter.

It was a throwaway preseason finale for Brad Childress' bunch, which won 31-24. But it also was a game that hammered home the decisions -- and options -- the Vikings have to sort through by Saturday's 5 p.m. cutdown deadline.

Too many: The Vikings' best quarterbacks in the preseason were their third- and fourth-stringers. Sage Rosenfels was mostly efficient and Joe Webb at times electric. But there's probably not room for both of them as long as Childress is married to Tarvaris Jackson as Brett Favre's top backup. "It'd be hard to keep four and not keep another good football player off your roster," Childress said. More than one NFL team is actively searching for a backup quarterback and Rosenfels' name surely has come up in those discussions.

Not enough: Undrafted rookies Marcus Sherels and DeAndre Wright were the only cornerbacks after Lito Sheppard and Asher Allen departed, forcing the Vikings to play base defense against Denver's three- and four-wide sets. Childress isn't giving a timetable for the return of Chris Cook from knee surgery, but trying to play even one regular-season game -- not to mention one against a wide-open offense like the New Orleans Saints -- with three healthy corners isn't an option. They'd be one injury away from using safety Husain Abdullah in the nickel.

Too many: Defensive tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans were a two-man wrecking crew, even if it didn't show in the box score. The Vikings have Pro Bowl players in Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, plus another veteran in Jimmy Kennedy. Guion is younger and cheaper, making Evans likely bait in trade talks. The Vikings also have a surplus at end with backups Jayme Mitchell, Brian Robison and rookie Everson Griffen, who hasn't flashed much but remains a good bet to make the team.

Not enough: Receiver Javon Walker got a fluke touchdown when cornerback Alphonso Smith fell on his face, but he wasn't even ready for the starting nod on a unit that didn't have Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis or Logan Payne in uniform. That assignment fell to Greg Camarillo and Taye Biddle, who has hung around forever because he has one dominant trait: speed. Walker did put up numbers -- four catches for 87 yards, including the 63-yard TD -- but he's no lock to stick as the No. 5 receiver if something else becomes available.

Too many: Erin Henderson had his second outstanding performance of the preseason, recording a team-high nine tackles (seven solo), a sack and two fumble recoveries -- one of which he returned 35 yards for a score. He's the No. 1 backup option at both outside linebacker spots, which means Heath Farwell, Kenny Onatolu and rookie Nate Triplett have to make the cut on special teams. Farwell and Onatolu both were highly productive on teams last season. Triplett had fallen to long-shot status, but he flashed with three coverage tackles on Thursday. The Vikings have to cut at least one and maybe two unless someone's in the market for reserve help.

Not enough: Childress last week floated the idea of going light on offensive linemen, but that's tough to do when center John Sullivan keeps having setbacks with his calf injury. Rookie Chris DeGeare will take one backup spot. Jon Cooper and Ryan Cook have the inside track on two and maybe three others -- but that still doesn't give the Vikings a clear answer if there's an injury at tackle. Numbers aren't really the issue here. It's where those numbers fit, and the Vikings have to be thinking about finding a backup tackle with some playing experience via waivers or maybe a trade.

Too many: Not many teams keep five safeties, as the Vikings did last season. But that's how things sometimes work when you have players like Jamarca Sanford, Abdullah and Eric Frampton contributing on special teams. Colt Anderson is a long shot but flashed some positive things in extended action on Thursday, too. Given the playing experience in the group, it wouldn't be a surprise if someone comes calling about acquiring backup help.

Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd also delivered on Thursday night, making him a good bet to stick in addition to place-kicker Ryan Longwell.

That means the Vikings are looking at having one fewer spot to work with if there are no takers for their overflow positions -- at least not any that offer help where the Vikings have a shortage.

"I always tell those backups to make the decision-making hard," Childress said. "Don't count numbers in line. There's a number of them that I thought did an outstanding job, all the way through training camp, and showed up again (Thursday). I appreciate those guys."

And Childress will appreciate them even more if they can help him get help where he needs it, rather than simply hitting the streets.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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