Pelissero: Vikings roster figures to be in flux through the weekend
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HOUSTON -- The Minnesota Vikings' plane landed in the Twin Cities around 2 a.m. Friday, leaving general manager Rick Spielman and company 18 hours to finalize the roster decisions they've been pondering since training camp began.
Thursday's exhibition finale at Houston gave them plenty to think about.
"There were a lot of things that happened in this game by our players that will definitely make it a challenge for us as we're trying to determine who are going to be our final 53," coach Leslie Frazier said, "which is a problem you'd like to have."
It cuts both ways, though. Because for every player who helped himself, there was another who hurt himself -- in some cases literally -- and raised the chances the Vikings will seek depth from among the more than 600 players who will hit the waiver wire by 8 p.m. Friday.
"You try not to think about it, because it's out of your hands, out of your control," halfback Jordan Todman said. "The only thing you can control is yourself and your own actions, what you did on the field.
"I'm sure waking up in the morning is going to be dreadful for a lot of us guys. You just pray and you just hope for the best."
With the caveat the roster will remain in flux through the weekend as waiver requests are processed, here's an educated guess of how the Vikings might get down to 53 from the 75 they had on Thursday night:
In: Christian Ponder, Sage Rosenfels, Joe Webb.
Out: McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
Toughest decision: The Vikings brought back Rosenfels in large part to be a mentor to their young quarterbacks. Bethel-Thompson's arm and potential probably aren't enough to outweigh that, not to mention the $500,000 in guaranteed base salary the Vikings have to pay Rosenfels whether he makes the team or not.
Running backs (4)
In: Matt Asiata, Jerome Felton, Toby Gerhart, Adrian Peterson.
Out: Ryan D'Imperio, Lex Hilliard, Jordan Todman.
Toughest decision: Asiata has more upside as a runner than Hilliard, and Todman's strong closing argument -- 10 carries for 114 yards, including a 76-yard touchdown -- might have been too little, too late. Plus, Asiata can play some fullback, although Hilliard is the best blocker of the bunch. D'Imperio is a strong special teamer, but he sat out the last two preseason games because of a shoulder injury and is just a guy on offense.
In: Devin Aromashodu, Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Jerome Simpson*, Jarius Wright.
Out: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Stephen Burton.
Toughest decision: Frazier has said the Vikings probably will keep five receivers in addition to Simpson, who won't count against the 53 during his three-game suspension. But do they really need five when they probably wouldn't dress all of them on game day, especially when they're not strong special teamers? Burton remains inconsistent -- he dropped a third-down pass on Thursday -- and Arceneaux never even got a shot with the starters. Both are practice squad-eligible and probably would be back if they clear waivers.
Tight ends (3)
In: John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Kyle Rudolph.
Out: Allen Reisner, Mickey Shuler.
Toughest decision: Carlson's knee trouble casts doubt on how much he can play out of the gate. But he returned to practice last week, and the Vikings probably are safe in betting they can slip Reisner and/or Shuler through to the practice squad.
Offensive linemen (9)
In: Joe Berger, Patrick Brown, Brandon Fusco, Charlie Johnson, Matt Kalil, Phil Loadholt, DeMarcus Love, Geoff Schwartz, John Sullivan.
Out: Chris DeGeare, Tyler Holmes, Kevin Murphy, Austin Pasztor, Quentin Saulsberry.
Toughest decision: The Vikings might be inclined to keep an extra man while Schwartz gets back into game shape after sports hernia surgery. The question is whether there's room for both Brown and Love, who aggravated his shoulder/pectoral issue on Thursday. If not, it's worth noting Love has practice squad eligibility. Brown doesn't, but he was so bad on Thursday the Vikings probably will be active on waivers here anyway. Saulsberry is a dark horse to make the team over Berger, but that'd be a gamble with no other experienced center if something happens to Sullivan.
Defensive linemen (9)
In: Jared Allen, Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Everson Griffen, Letroy Guion, D'Aundre Reed, Nick Reed, Brian Robison, Kevin Williams.
Out: Chase Baker, Jeff Charleston, Trevor Guyton.
Toughest decision: Nick Reed is still only 24 years old and was so productive the Vikings will be reluctant to cut him loose. Guyton, the seventh-round pick from Cal, has struggled to keep up with the speed of the game. He's a better fit for the practice squad and doesn't figure to be a target on waivers. It's tough to justify keeping 10 here with how much the starters play, so somebody has to go if the Vikings can't trade one of the ends.
In: Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Marvin Mitchell, Tyrone McKenzie.
Out: Larry Dean, Corey Paredes.
Toughest decision: It's a toss-up between Dean and McKenzie, who is more physically talented and has more upside on defense -- which could be a deciding factor if Mitchell's sprained ankle is going to keep him out. Turning a short pass to DeVier Posey into an 80-yard touchdown with a weak tackle attempt did Dean no favors. His shoulder might be a bigger issue than he's letting on. This is another spot where waivers could yield some support.
Defensive backs (12)
In: Robert Blanton, Zackary Bowman, Brandon Burton, Chris Carr, Chris Cook, Eric Frampton, Josh Robinson, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Marcus Sherels, Harrison Smith, Antoine Winfield.
Out: Bobby Felder, Reggie Jones, Andrew Sendejo.
Toughest decision: Burton was a fifth-round draft pick last season and has the size to play outside, although he may never be more than a subpackage contributor. Sherels is strictly a slot guy, sprained an ankle last week and looks to have lost ground in the return game. He's sure-handed and a sound tackler, though. Sendejo appeared in position to earn a spot until spraining his right ankle last week. That might have saved Frampton or Blanton, who showed some encouraging signs in his preseason debut after battling through a hamstring injury. The Vikings know how difficult it is to find competent defensive backs on the street, so going deeper than usual here wouldn't be a shock.
In: Cullen Loeffler, Chris Kluwe, Blair Walsh.
Toughest decision: Walsh missed a 43-yard field goal on Thursday, but it appeared there was a problem with the operation. The rookie sixth-round draft pick finished the preseason 9-of-12 on field goals and 7-of-7 on extra points with nine touchbacks in 20 kickoffs, leaving no doubt the Vikings will roll with him in Week 1.