Analyzing Vikings' depth chart requires an eye on special teams
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Each player, his spot with the Minnesota Vikings anything but secure, opened training camp last week on one of Mike Priefer's No. 1 special teams units.
"My philosophy is that you're going to take the players who you think have the best shot at being successful in special teams," Priefer said, "put them in their spots and then let them go out and get those reps."
The 46-man game day roster limit forces NFL teams to plug holes in their special-teams units with starters during the regular season. Ninety-man camp rosters provide nearly twice that many options, allowing coaches to give fringe players opportunities they probably wouldn't get on offense or defense.
Marvin Mitchell, Ryan D'Imperio, Eric Frampton, Larry Dean and Zack Bowman are the Vikings' core special teamers right now, working with the No. 1 group of all four primary units -- punt, punt return, kickoff and kick return. Players such as safety Jamarca Sanford figure to be active on teams as well if their roles on offense or defense diminish.
The more unproven players flash, the more chances they'll get to show they belong as coaches sort out the "10 to 15 spots and maybe even more than that" Leslie Frazier said on Sunday are up for grabs on the 53-man roster.
Asiata, 25, signed with the Vikings as an undrafted rookie fullback out of Utah in 2011 and was having a strong camp before suffering a hip flexor injury.
McKenzie, 26, was a third-round pick at linebacker by New England in 2009 but suffered a major knee injury in rookie camp and has bounced around since.
Sendejo, 24, is a former United Football League safety who appeared in three games for the Vikings amidst a slew of injuries down the stretch last season.
"We get time to go back and watch all the tapes and make sure we're making the right decisions, because that's the key," Priefer said. "Schematically, we're going to be simple, and (performance will be) the key is our personnel decisions that we make throughout the next four or five weeks."
Priefer is rolling three groups on each of the four primary special teams -- punt, punt return, kickoff and kick return -- during the extended work allotted at the start of each practice.
The way those groups evolve over the next 2½ weeks in Mankato and on through the preseason will say a lot about how coaches are feeling about players on the bubble.
The following is a three-deep depth chart based on how the Vikings have been ordering reps on offense and defense as they enter their first padded practice on Monday. It is unofficial and does not account for such nuances as Pat Brown and DeMarcus Love alternating at the tackle spots or rookies such as Jarius Wright and Rhett Ellison who figure to make the team but at the moment are working behind more experienced players. (Players in parentheses are injured.)
LT Matt Kalil / Pat Brown / Kevin Murphy
LG Charlie Johnson / Chris DeGeare / Tyler Holmes
C John Sullivan / Joe Berger / Quentin Saulsberry
RG Brandon Fusco / Geoff Schwartz / Austin Pasztor
RT Phil Loadholt / DeMarcus Love / Levi Horn
WR1 Jerome Simpson / Devin Aromashodu / Greg Childs
WR2 Percy Harvin / Michael Jenkins / Kerry Taylor / (Stephen Burton)
TE Kyle Rudolph / John Carlson / Allen Reisner
QB Christian Ponder / Joe Webb / Sage Rosenfels
RB Toby Gerhart / Lex Hilliard / Jordan Todman / (Adrian Peterson)
FB Jerome Felton / Ryan D'Imperio / Matt Asiata
LE Brian Robison / D'Aundre Reed / Ernest Owusu
UT Kevin Williams / Christian Ballard / Trevor Guyton
NT Letroy Guion / Fred Evans / Chase Baker
RE Jared Allen / Nick Reed / Jeff Charleston
SLB Chad Greenway / Marvin Mitchell / Solomon Elimimian
MLB Jasper Brinkley / Tyrone McKenzie / Audie Cole
WLB Erin Henderson / Larry Dean / Everson Griffen
LCB Antoine Winfield / Brandon Burton / Zackary Bowman
RCB Chris Cook / Chris Carr / Marcus Sherels / (Josh Robinson)
FS Mistral Raymond / Eric Frampton / Robert Blanton
SS Jamarca Sanford / Harrison Smith / Andrew Sendejo