Updated: Minnesota Vikings projected 53-man roster
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The Minnesota Vikings start the penultimate training camp practice on Wednesday afternoon, so this seems as good a time as any to update the team's projected 53-man roster we posted in July.
Quarterbacks (3) *Unchanged*
We wrote on July 29: "The charade about a three-horse race at quarterback didn't carry over into training camp as Cassel and Bridgewater have taken the lion's share of throws during practices. Cassel has unequivocally taken first-team reps, with Bridgewater commanding the second-team offense so far. There's the possibility Ponder could be moved before he becomes a free agent. If not, it'd be surprising to see him serve any role outside of emergency quarterback."
Update: Well, we found out Teddy Bridgewater bleeds and makes mistakes like any other human being. The rookie's adjusted passing line in Friday's preseason opener would be 7-for-12 for 70 passing yards if you remove one throwaway, one dropped pass and add his 21-yard completion to Greg Jennings that was removed due to illegal formation. However, the box score shows 6-for-13, which included a couple broken screen passes as Bridgewater appeared tentative at times. Outside of the throwaway, he attempted just one other pass longer than 10 yards as he kept his targets shallow. At this point, on Aug. 13, it would be surprising to see Bridgewater usurp Cassel for what is a tough September schedule.
Running backs (4) *Unchanged*
- Jerick McKinnon
July 29: "Asiata has been one of the surprises for the Vikings and Norv Turner, who brought him up unprovoked when asked about rookie McKinnon last week. Turner and Zimmer praised Asiata both as a ball carrier and pass protector, which could be they key for him if he wants to be the main man to spell Peterson in third-down situations. McKinnon has worked behind Asiata and figures to make the team as a special teamer and utility back that can also throw the ball. Zach Line could also push Felton for the fullback spot if he shows more value as a receiver out of the backfield."
Update: McKinnon showed his speed -- and toughness -- at times in Friday's preseason opener as he carried the ball 12 times for 48 yards. McKinnon even laid out a Raiders defensive back on a crossing route by Patterson. However, the Vikings need adequate pass protection to complement Peterson's role in the offense and that seems to be Asiata's best asset at this point. However, Asiata has looked noticeably thinner on the field, which has made him uncharacteristically elusive as a ball carrier.
- *Rodney Smith
July 29: "With Simpson facing a potential suspension to start the season, the Vikings may need to carry six receivers on the 53-man roster to make up for his absence. Adam Thielen had already impressed general manager Rick Spielman before training camp and the Mankato graduate continued to shine in camp. Both Thielen and Kain Colter have fielded returns in practice and could find added value as a returner as the team looks for fill-ins for Patterson, who will become a focal point of the offense. Rodney Smith, a practice squad holdover, could be in contention for the final spot as a 6-foot-5 downfield threat in Turner's offense."
Update: Rodney Smith has taken Kain Colter's place as the sixth receiver. Colter has done little to stand out among 90 players at practices, while Thielen has done the exact opposite. Thielen made a few plays in the return game on Friday, as well as a tackle on kick coverage to go along with his one catch on offense. While Smith hasn't necessarily been a stand out, his 6-foot-5 size would provide more versatility and a decent replacement should Simpson start the season on a suspension.
Tight ends (3)
July 29: "The spot to backup Rudolph opened when Chase Ford showed up to training camp with a broken foot. Ford will likely start the season on the physically unable to perform list, which gives rookie AC Leonard an opening as a secondary pass-catching tight end to Rudolph. Leonard has already seen first-team reps in two tight end sets. Ellison should make the final roster as the team's primary H-back."
Update: AC Leonard is cut, Chase Ford is nearing a return from a broken foot and the backup tight end position is as cloudy as it has been this offseason. Reisner's spot is merely a placeholder as the Vikings added Kory Sperry, a guy Mike Zimmer said is 'more like Chase' in terms of a pass-catching threat. Sperry, Reisner and Mike Higgins have three preseason games to sort that out.
Offensive linemen (8)
- *Antonio Richardson
- David Yankey
July 29: "Antonio Richardson could push Murphy for the team's swing tackle spot, but so far the undrafted rookie has worked behind the practice squad holdover. Yankey may be Johnson's biggest threat as the starter at left guard, but so far Johnson hasn't given up any top snaps. Vlad Ducasse and Jeff Baca are on the outside-looking-in so far in camp. Berger's versatility as a center/guard should secure his role as the veteran backup interior lineman."
Update: Richardson and Austin Wentworth have taken over the second-team tackle spots as Murphy has faded into the background. Richardson, an undrafted free agent, played through a left knee ailment in practice and during Friday's game. Though you could see Richardson's gait clearly altered, he fought it out and was without a brace during the team's walkthrough on Wednesday. Should he impress this preseason, he could be a swing tackle candidate or at the very least a practice squad addition. However, the Vikings could elect to take Vlad Ducasse and rely on he and Yankey's ability to play tackle (or make additions after roster cuts). At this point, there's no reason to believe the Vikings won't start the same starting five for the third straight season.
Defensive linemen (8) *No changes*
July 29: "The Vikings tied up a lot of money into their starting defensive line in the past year when re-signing Griffen, Robison and adding free agent Joseph at nose tackle. Wootton and Crichton could serve rotational roles in what is the team's deepest position on the roster. The most pressure to improve falls on Floyd's shoulders as he replaces Kevin Williams. Rookie Shamar Stephen has a tough hill to climb to be Joseph's backup at nose, with veteran Evans in his path."
Update: Though Joseph's injury certainly throws a wrench into the defensive line plans, I don't see any changes taking place as he's expected to make a full recovery by the season opener. Rookie Shamar Stephen will see plenty of opportunity in the preseason, but he'll find it tough to replace Evans as the backup nose. What Stephens can do now is make a great push for a practice squad bid or make himself noticeable to the other 31 teams, some of which may not have as many bodies at nose.
Linebackers (7) *No changes*
- Anthony Barr
July 29: "Dean and rookie Brandon Watts should compete for the final spot in this group. Both Dean and Watts have served roles on special teams so far, but Dean's experience as the special teamer has given him the leg up."
Update: The competition has widened between Dean, Mauti and Watts. Through his production on special teams, Hodges has pulled ahead at this point in training camp. However, Dean is still featured on most, if not all, special teams units -- as is Mauti. Right now, the rookie Watts is on the outside looking in as he runs with second-team units on special teams. However, that can all change after a single preseason game or injury.
Defensive backs (11)
- Jabari Price*
- Derek Cox
- Chris Crocker*
- Shaun Prater
- Kurt Coleman*
July 29: "As of right now, rookies Jabari Price and Kendall James are on the outside looking in. Fixing the defensive secondary was a primary focus in the offseason and the Vikings will likely carry many bodies into the season. Blanton has been a surprise riser as he's taken first-team reps alongside Smith, while Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman are the fallers so far. Zimmer hasn't seen Sendejo, who could start the season on the PUP, practice once since his offseason back surgery, while Coleman has mostly worked with Exum and behind Raymond at safety. Sherels' value as a returner, and an improving defender, should keep him on the roster, while Prater figures to be Munnerlyn's backup in the slot. Keep an eye on Price, who has worked in all four phases of special teams and has seen some top snaps in place of Munnerlyn, who is on the PUP. Without seeing Price in a preseason game, it's too early to move him above Prater, who appeared in eight games for the Vikings last season."
Update: The 7/4 split of cornerbacks and safeties will raise some eyebrows, however Zimmer has noted his preference to carry more cornerbacks than safeties. As Zimmer said: 'They're probably playing safety because they can't play corner.' I removed Sanford, Blanton, Exum and Raymond to add Crocker, Sendejo, Coleman and Price. Though, I could see Blanton taking Price's spot as the Vikings may try to sneak the rookie cornerback onto the practice squad. The coaching staff liked Blanton's game to fit Zimmer's system, but he's not doing himself any favors by watching from the sideline. The Vikings would eat about $700,000 by cutting Sanford, as opposed to just $25,000 for Raymond. Sendejo has returned from back surgery and mainly worked with the second-team defense. The Vikings could try to sneak Exum onto the practice squad and keep a veteran like Raymond, Sanford or Coleman -- right now I have that veteran being Coleman after his outing with the starters on Friday.
It's a stretch to say both Price and Prater will make the team, as both play the backup nickel role. But if the roster were pegged today, it'd be tough to see Raymond, Sanford or Blanton make it with their lack of involvement thus far due to injury.
Specialists (3) *No changes*
These positions are unchallenged and unchanged from last season as this group prepares for 13 of 16 games outdoors in 2014.