The Minnesota Vikings finished the pre-season 1-3 and so a bit disappointed, but Coach Leslie Frazier and GM Rick Spielman feel the team is headed in the right direction and with good reason. As roster cuts loom, here, based on analysis of the three games, is a prediction list of who will make it and who will not.
In: Christian Ponder; Joe Webb; Sage Rosenfels;
PS(Practice Squad): McLeod Bethel-Thompson;
Analysis: Ponder, barring a catastrophic break-down, was always going to be the guy. Webb may still be learning as a passer, but his supreme talent and slow but steady improvement guaranteed him the backup spot. Rosenfels is needed as a veteran mentor to both and his salary made cutting him an unattractive option. Bethel-Thompson, however, was impressive and, provided he clears waivers, is clearly destined for the practice squad. How could he not? He seems destined to eventually earn a spot as the No. 3 on the Vikings squad in the very near-future.
In: Adrian Peterson; Toby Gerhart; Jordan Todman;
Out: Lex Hilliard;
Analysis: Peterson is the face of the team and Gerhart has proven his value and will likely open as the starter until Peterson is fully back up to speed. Todman thinks he may not have done enough, but in fact he just may have. His 76 yard TD run against Houston may have landed him a spot. Hilliard, to be blunt, was awful all pre-season and is clearly on his way out.
In: Jerome Felton; Matt Asiata;
PS: Ryan D’Imperio;
Analysis: Felton was very unspectacular all pre-season and has had run-ins with the law, but considering the Vikings have bent over backwards the last one to two years trying to acquire him, he probably will remain until he becomes a liability. Asiata was impressive all pre-season and is virtually guaranteed a spot. D’Imperio is such a solid special teams player and is showing flashes as a developing fullback so the team, if they waive him, will probably bring him back to the practice squad as the backup plan for promotion when Felton gets let go.
In: Percy Harvin; Jerome Simpson; Michael Jenkins; Jarius Wright; Stephen Burton; Devin Aromashodu;
PS: Emmaneuel Arceneaux;
Analysis: Harvin is the star of the receiving corps and fans will get real excited when Simpson takes the field in Week Four. Jenkins, by taking a pay cut and showing just enough veteran savvy, may have earned himself one more season on the squad. Wright finally broke out big time in the Houston game and the Vikings have to feel good about him serving as Harvin’s backup and substitute. Burton was a bit inconsistent but he is a solid player and may have landed himself a role as a future No. 3 possession receiver. Aromashodu finally showed up against Houston and may have landed himself a spot as Simpson’s replacement, but he will be let go once Simpson comes back. Arceneaux was not given much in the way of opportunity with the first string so he probably gets another practice squad stint with a promotion coming if anyone in the receiving corps gets hurt.
In: Kyle Rudolph; John Carlson; Rhett Ellison; Allen Reisner; Mickey Shuler Jr.;
Analysis: Far-fetched? Not as much as you think. Rudolph and Carlson have injury histories and Ellison had an injury scare during the pre-season. Reisner and Shuler have really flashed and the guess here is that the Vikings will not risk losing either of them. It will be a bit of a strain on the roster, but considering how important the tight end is in Bill Musgrave’s offense, this seems to be the safest route for the Vikings to go, and all five guys are young.
In: Matt Kalil; Charlie Johnson; John Sullivan; Brandon Fusco; Phil Loadholt; DeMarcus Love; Joe Berger; Geoff Schwartz;
PS: Quentin Saulsberry;
Out: Patrick Brown; Chris DeGeare; Tyler Holmes; Kevin Murphy; Austin Pasztor;
Analysis: The starting five seems set. Love is a solid backup tackle but needs to get over his injury issues. It looked like Love might be relegated to injured reserve with Patrick Brown filling in for him, but Brown was hideous against Houston and may have cost himself a potential spot. Berger and Schwartz are good because of their versatility in filling in all along the line. Saulsberry was a pleasant surprise in camp and may have earned himself a practice squad spot with his hard work and talent.
In: Jared Allen; Kevin Williams; Brian Robison; Letroy Guion; Everson Griffen; Christian Ballard; D’Aundre Reed; Fred Evans; Trevor Guyton;
PS: Nick Reed;
Out: Chase Baker; Jeff Charleston;
Analysis: Tough to part with anyone here. The Vikings have one of the best eyes in the league for defensive line talent. Allen and Williams are All-Pros, Robison, Griffen, Ballard and D’Aundre Reed have Pro-Bowl and All-Pro written into their future, Guion looks like he might indeed be the answer at nose tackle and Evans and Guyton provide depth. Nick Reed is a definite candidate for the practice squad. Charleston played well, but was simply stuck behind a bunch of very good defensive linemen and is too old for the practice squad.
In: Chad Greenway; Erin Henderson; Jasper Brinkley; Audie Cole; Marvin Mitchell;
PS: Larry Dean
Out: Tyrone McKenzie; Corey Paredes;
Analysis: Starting spots seem set with Greenway, Henderson and Brinkley, but if Cole plays like he did in the pre-season and Brinkley struggles, do not be surprised to see the rookie thrown into the mix. Mitchell has proven to be a solid pickup and provided he stays healthy could challenge for playing time. Dean, a great special teamer, is a candidate for the practice squad only because the Vikings have more pressing needs at the moment. McKenzie played well, but the numbers just do not seem to be working out in his favor.
In: Antoine Winfield; Chris Cook; Chris Carr; Josh Robinson; Zackary Bowman; Marcus Sherels;
PS: Brandon Burton;
Out: Bobby Felder; Reggie Jones;
Analysis: Winfield and Cook are the starters though Robinson could challenge for Winfield’s spot if he can stay healthy. Carr and Bowman did not look spectacular in the pre-season, but they provide a veteran presence in the secondary which is something the Vikings did not have last season. Sherels is only good in the slot, but his return abilities are what help him stick around. Burton goes to the practice squad because he is a large corner with developmental skills and with Winfield’s injury history, may be looking at a promotion sometime during the season. Jones ruined his chances of sticking with a costly fumble on a punt and Felder simply did not show enough to stick around this year though he may get invited back to training camp next year.
In: Harrison Smith; Mistral Raymond; Jamarca Sanford; Robert Blanton;
PS: Andrew Sendejo;
Out: Eric Frampton;
Analysis: Smith has begun showing John Lynch-type abilities which should excite Vikings fans. Raymond has worked his way to success all his life so why doubt his ability at free safety now? Sanford is mainly a special teamer but he does have starting experience and a knack for recovering fumbles and recording interceptions. Blanton suffered setbacks with his injuries during the pre-season but he has better abilities then all the other safeties besides Smith and Raymond. Sendejo was a surprise with his trong play and may have earned a practice squad spot and a potential promotion if anybody in the top four gets hurt. Frampton was good with special teams, but getting burned on a deep pass against Buffalo was a killer blow to his roster hopes.
In: Cullen Loeffler; Chris Kluwe; Blair Walsh;
Out: Ryan Longwell;
Analysis: Yes Longwell is not and was never on the roster during the pre-season, but his ghost always stalked the special teams talk. He remained on the free agent market always as a looming spectrum watching to see if Blair Walsh would produce or not. Walsh was spectacular on kickoffs, pretty solid on field goals and perfect on extra points. He gets the nod going into the season but he has to do what Doug Brien and Aaron Elling never did for the Vikings of the last decade and actually make it all the way through the season without struggling spectacularly and then being replaced. Kluwe is still good as punter but needs to improve his holds on field goals and extra points for the rookie Walsh. By the same token, Loeffler needs to shake off the rust coming from finishing last year on injured reserve and improve his snaps so he does not shake Walsh’s confidence either. If they can all do well then the Vikings special teams group will no longer be just solid, but also young and so destined to remain around for a while.
What can we take out of the 2012 pre-season? Hard to say; The first team looked like it was finally coming around but depth still seems like an issue in some spots. The Vikings will probably use this year to get the young players experience while looking forward to next year and another potentially good draft class to help turn this team around more quickly and so help the Detroit Lions displace the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers as the class of the NFC North division in the very near-future.
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