Vikings have plenty of roster battles ahead

With two preseason games in the books, the Minnesota Vikings still have plenty of spots to be determined.

The Phil Loadholt injury made for a significant shuffling of job duties among the Minnesota Vikings offensive line.

Until the second play of Saturday’s game with Tampa Bay, Loadholt was viewed as a lock to make the 53-man roster. Now he’s gone. It got us thinking, how many players can the Vikings view as a lock to make the final roster?

Here’s what we came up with:

QUARTERBACK – (2) Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill. They are likely to have a third quarterback on the roster, but all options are open after the top two.

RUNNING BACK – (3) Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. This doesn’t include a fullback because it’s not a lock position, rather a likely one.

WIDE RECEIVER – (5) Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Stefon Diggs. Adam Thielen has done nothing to hurt his chance of staying, but Diggs won’t be a roster casualty.

TIGHT END – (2) Kyle Rudolph and MyCole Pruitt. A fifth-round pick drafted with an intention of using him in a specific role, it’s hard to imagine Pruitt not ending up on the final 53-man roster. That leaves Rhett Ellison, Chase Ford and Brandon Bostick fighting for what likely will be two positions. The Vikings likely will keep four tight ends, but which one did you lop? Odds are it won’t be Pruitt, so is may end up being the best blockers who stay, especially with not having Loadholt.

OFFENSIVE LINE – (6) John Sullivan, Matt Kalil, Brandon Fusco, Mike Harris, T.J. Clemmings and Joe Berger. Beyond those six, nobody is safe. Any goodwill that David Yankey built up prior to being drafted has worn thin. The Vikings will likely keep 10, but everyone not listed is either a very late Day 3 draft pick or undrafted player. It makes the problem of losing Loadholt come into better perspective.

DEFENSIVE LINE – (6) Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Sharif Floyd, Brian Robison, Tom Johnson and Danielle Hunter. Hunter is included on this list because he’s a third-round draft pick with upside and it would make no sense to cut him for capricious reasons. Shamar Stephen is very close to the lock category as long as his injury isn’t a factor, but 2014 third-rounder Scott Crichton better be doing good things behind the scenes because fans have seen nothing in his year-plus with the team. Justin Trattou is making a case to make the final roster too, so wiggle room may be thin.

LINEBACKER – (5) Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Audie Cole and Gerald Hodges. The Vikings may only keep six linebackers. If that’s the case, there are many battling for one spot. That could be bad news for guys like Michael Mauti if the Vikings don’t use an extra spot on the final 53 as a seventh linebacker for special teams support.

DEFENSIVE BACKS – (6) Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Robert Blanton and Captain Munnerlyn. Glaringly missing from this list are Antone Exum, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels and Andrew Sendejo, which, if they retain their jobs, would push the list of defensive backs to 10 players. In that scenario, it will be bad news for guys Shaun Prater and Jabari Price, two players making the decision difficult for those who pare down the roster. Price is suspended for the first two games, so he could return in Week 3 at the expense of someone that initially makes the roster.

SPECIAL TEAMS – (3) Blair Walsh, Jeff Locke and long snapper TBD. Cullen Loeffler has done nothing to lose his job, but Kevin McDermott hasn’t made any public gaffes in their competition. One of them has to make the team, so there’s three locks allocated here, even though one has yet to be named.

By our community college math, as things stand right now, 38 players have locked spots on the 53-man roster barring future injuries. With three preseason games remaining, it may be the other 15 spots that make a difference on the 2015 success of the Vikings.

It may not seem like the fortunes of a team can be determined by the back end of the roster, but keep in mind that the number of 53-man locks was at 39 when Saturday’s game with Tampa Bay started. Two plays later, that number dropped to 38 and will remain fluid until Labor Day Weekend, when the final 53 are named.

  • Loadholt had a MRI Sunday that confirmed a torn Achilles tendon, according to ESPN. Surgery is expected to place within the next couple weeks.

  • New Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Sunday he is looking forward to his return to Minnesota to coach against his former team. While it has been a long time since Del Rio came to the Vikings as an infamous Plan B free agent, Del Rio has very fond memories of Minnesota because Denny Green wowed Del Rio with his coaching philosophy and he became close with future head coaches Tony Dungy, Brian Billick and Mike Tice.

    “Obviously, Denny made a huge impression on me,” Del Rio said. “I loved playing for Denny. Tony Dungy, I considered him a mentor. He really was instrumental in me even thinking about coaching, considering coaching. Brian Billick and I met there and we went on, he hired me in Baltimore and we had a chance to get together there. Mike and I met as players there. It’s very deep there. Four really good years there.”

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