Familiar Vikings will fight for roster spots

With a new scheme and new coaches in place, the old guard of players will have to earn their spots back. In some cases, that might not happen.

With a little over a month before the Vikings head to Mankato in preparation for the 2014 season, there will be a lot of talk about who will win starting spots and roster spots. There are certain realities that take place during the preparation for a season. Among them is that, while the names haven't been filled in yet, there are going to be a certain amount of roster spots devoted to a position.

The result of that is that there will likely only be five spots up for grabs after teams fill out the allocated needs. Based on the established practice set and the need for backups at each position, the positional breakdown is as follows: quarterbacks (3), running backs (4), wide receivers (5), tight ends (3), offensive linemen (8), defensive linemen (8), linebackers (6), cornerbacks (4), safeties (4) and specialists (3).

That comes out to 48 players, leaving just five available roster spots.

Barring injury or enormous surprises (trades, unexpected cuts, etc.) many of those quotas may already be filled. As a brief overview, these would appear to be jobs that can reasonably be expected to be spoken for already:

Quarterback (3 of 3) – Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater, Christian Ponder.

Running Back (4 of 4) – Adrian Peterson, Jerome Felton, Matt Asiata, Jerick McKinnon.

Wide Receiver (4 of 5) – Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright.

Tight End (2 of 3) – Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison.

Offensive Line (6 of 8) – Matt Kalil, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt, Charlie Johnson, Brandon Fusco, David Yankey.

Defensive Line (7 of 8) – Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Scott Crichton, Tom Johnson, Corey Wootton.

Linebacker (4 of 6) – Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr, Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole.

Cornerback (4 of 4) – Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Captain Munnerlyn, Derek Cox.

Safety (3 of 4) – Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Antone Exum.

Specialists (3 of 3) – Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke, Cullen Loeffler.

If these numbers are accurate, there will be a lot of familiar Vikings who may or may not have jobs when the regular season starts in September. That list includes offensive linemen Joe Berger and Jeff Baca, tight ends Allen Reisner and Chase Ford, defensive lineman Fred Evans, linebackers Gerald Hodges, Larry Dean and Michael Mauti, cornerbacks Shaun Prater and Marcus Sherels, and safety Jamarca Sanford.

Considering that new coaches tend to give priority to guys they drafted, this list only includes one of the Day 3 draft choices the Vikings made, Antone Exum, which could diminish the odds of the bubble players even farther.

A coaching staff determining a final roster is a three-dimensional process. Not only is filling positions vital, but deciding what positions will get protected is important. A hybrid tight end/fullback can fill two spots, as can a versatile safety and swingmen on both the offensive and defensive line.

As complicated as it is when you pull back the curtain behind the scenes, the purpose of training camp may well be to determine the dozen or so spots that could be available barring injuries or surprise cuts.

Approximately 50 guys will be competing for about a dozen roster spots. Those aren't good odds, but opportunity creates its own rewards for those who take advantage of it.


  • Vikings rookies Anthony Barr and Jerick McKinnon attended a Twins game this weekend and took part in a celebrity home run derby. Barr also threw out the first pitch at the game. McKinnon tied Twins mascot T.C. with two home runs – launching a pair of softballs into the upper deck. Barr didn't hit any homers in seven tries.

  • Word out of St. Louis is that No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson not only isn't going to be challenging for the team's starting left tackle position, he's probably going to play guard this season if anything. Robinson has apparently been having a very difficult time absorbing the Rams playbook and, barring a drastic change in training camp, he can't be trusted to guard the edges away from pass rushers because he's having difficulty processing the basics – much less having his head on a swivel to make decisions on blitzers.

  • Brandon Flowers, who has been linked to interest from the Vikings, is expected to make a decision on a team. As many as 10 teams have made inquiries, but he left San Diego Saturday without signing a contract. Detroit, Baltimore and Atlanta have also been mentioned as potential frontrunners.

    John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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