The final projected 53-man roster for the Minnesota Vikings
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The Minnesota Vikings' coaching staff is in the final stages of evaluating the now 75-man roster before the preseason finale on Thursday and deadline for final cuts to 53 players on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT.
Notes: Matt Cassel was named the starting quarterback this week, which was expected after he completed 26-of-39 passes for 367 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception through three exhibition games. The only question as Teddy Bridgewater prepares to be the backup is: Will they keep Christian Ponder? At this point, my bet is they will as a third-string, emergency quarterback. If the team can't find a trade partner at the right price and wanted to cut him, it would result in more than $3 million in dead money against the cap; however if he were signed by another team, that would help offset some or all of the $1.76 million in base salary the Vikings would owe him, per ESPN.
Running backs (4)
- Jerick McKinnon*
Notes: Running backs fared very well against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Vikings' 30-12 win in the 'tune-up' third preseason game. Asiata should have solidified his role as Peterson's backup as the new-look, slimmed-down rusher averaged 4.4 yards per carry on 11 attempts to go along with two catches for 34 yards on three targets. McKinnon may find it tough to have much of a role, but he showed what he can do with 43 rushing yards on six carries on Saturday. Under Norv Turner, the fullback likely won't be too involved, but Felton's spot should be safe. Joe Banyard has one more year of practice squad eligibility and should land on the Vikings' scout group if he clears waivers.
Cut: Zach Line, Banyard, Dominique Williams
Notes: As Jerome Simpson's appeal of a three-game suspension is ongoing, it's unknown whether or not the NFL will have a final decision before the Sept. 7 opener at St. Louis. In this projection, it's assumed that issue won't be resolved by then. The Vikings could use the extra roster spot and may be fine with four receivers for three games as they've used tight end Kyle Rudolph and various running backs split out wide in various four-wide formations in Turner's offense so far. Wright hasn't done much during preseason games, but his role should be secured as the fourth receiver while Thielen has done more than enough to earn the fifth spot. Rodney Smith should be a candidate for the recently-expanded, 10-man practice squad should he not be added to the 53 as a sixth receiver.
Cut: Kain Colter, Rodney Smith, Donte Foster
Tight ends (3)
Notes: Ford's return from the physically unable to perform list with a broken foot means he can't start the regular season on the PUP. He had a career-high five catches for 43 yards in the team's regular season finale in 2013 and should be a decent complement to Rudolph in the passing game once he's fully healthy. Rhett Ellison should be the team's primary H-back as a run-blocking specialist.
Cut: Allen Reisner
Offensive linemen (8)
- David Yankey*
- Vlad Ducasse
Notes: At this point, I think the Vikings go shopping for a swing tackle as neither Antonio Richardson or Austin Wentworth have made much of an impression during the preseason. When Loadholt (leg) went down on Saturday, the Vikings replaced him with Wentworth, who allowed a pressure and safety on one of his first plays in the game. Richardson played through a knee injury and didn't miss any time, but has seen just the 10th-most snaps among offensive linemen during exhibition games. Yankey and Ducasse can both play tackle, however I doubt the Vikings would want to rely on that should Kalil or Loadholt miss significant time. Both Wentworth and Richardson are likely practice squad candidates. If the Vikings add a swing tackle after the NFL cut deadline on Saturday, they could keep nine offensive linemen and shed from another position.
Cut: Richardson, Wentworth, Jeff Baca, Zac Kerin, Mike Remmers
Defensive linemen (8)
Notes: These eight remain unchanged from our previous projection as Joseph (calf) is set to return to practice next week and is still aiming to be ready by the season opener. Johnson has worked various roles during the preseason and should be the backup three-technique behind Floyd, while Evans should be the backup nose tackle. Wootton and Crichton have put a lot of plays on tape this preseason and are likely the Vikings' backup ends and special teams contributors. Practice squad candidates: Stephen, Faciane, Trattou
Cut: Justin Trattou, Shamar Stephen*, Isame Faciane, Chase Baker
- Anthony Barr*
Notes: I still don't think rookie Brandon Watts will make the team as he's missed time in both training camp and in preseason games due to injury. Watts initially saw the second-team reps over the likes of Dean and Mauti, however Dean got more work in the team's third preseason game than any linebacker outside of Barr and Cole. Mauti's chances are hurt because he'll miss Thursday's preseason finale with a foot injury, but he had starting spots on special teams units throughout the previous exhibitions and should get the nod over Watts as both sit injured. Though nickel packages take a linebacker off the field on defense, I see the Vikings keeping seven at this position because each of the four reserves will contribute on many special teams units.
Cut: Justin Jackson, Watts*, Mike Zimmer
- Chris Crocker
- Shaun Prater
- Kurt Coleman
- Antone Exum*
- Jabari Price*
Notes: For a group trying to turn around a secondary that allowed 37 touchdown passes last season, the Vikings may want to stack bodies and hope further evaluation can sort them out during the regular season. Minnesota brought a NFC North-high 19 defensive backs into training camp and I see 12 making the team. The safety position has likely been frustrating for Mike Zimmer as Blanton, Sendejo and Jamarca Sanford missed time this preseason to injury. It's not usual to stack six safeties with six cornerbacks on the roster, but those numbers are easily changeable throughout the regular season as the team continues to gauge the open market and their own on-going coaching evaluations. Robinson and Sherels are the likely candidates for the team's nickel cornerback when Munnerlyn moves inside. Price will miss Thursday's preseason finale with an arm injury, but should've done enough to show potential and avoid the axe. If the Vikings go with six cornerbacks and just five safeties, I think Exum is gone and a likely practice squad candidate. Though Sanford holds plenty of special teams value, I have the Vikings going with Coleman instead.
Cut: Sanford, Kendall James*, Julian Posey
Notes: These positions are unchallenged and unchanged from last season as this group prepares for 13 of 16 games outdoors in 2014.