Precut Roster Analysis

The Vikings have to make some touch choices today and cut more than a dozen players. We give our position-by-position analysis of the starters and the backups we expect to make the team, along with those who should be good practice-squad candidates come Sunday.

The majority of the 65 players plus NFL Europe exemptions on the Minnesota Vikings' roster following Friday night's preseason finale will remain in purple, but more than a dozen players will be released today.

Even some long-time veterans aren't completely safe.

Just ask Steve Martin, a nine-year veteran who injured his ankle in Friday night's game.

"It is what it is," Martin said earlier this week, showing he had enough time in the Vikings' system to pick up last year's favorite purple cliché. "I've been hired enough. I've been fired enough. So it's not like I've never been through it before. It's nothing new to me."

Martin said every time he's been released he's been picked up within a day or two.

"I haven't had the misfortune of being unemployed very long. I know there are guys that do, but this is my 10th year, so you never know," he said.

There are plenty of Vikings that don't know their fate heading into Saturday's roster cutdown to 53 players and Sunday's beginning to building an eight-man practice squad.

Here is a look at the possibilities, position by position, with educated guesses on where those cuts could occur. Keep in mind that a number of the younger players that will be cut Saturday can be brought back to the eight-man practice squad on Sunday if they aren't claimed by another team.

QB (3 of them last year) – Starter: Daunte Culpepper, one of the best in the game, is the unquestioned starter pushing for the NFL MVP. Backups: Brad Johnson is a valuable backup with experience on the field and an important part of the sideline help for Culpepper. Shaun Hill is the only other QB left on the roster, and the fourth-year pro continues to develop.

OL (9) – Starters: LT Bryant McKinnie is starting to work harder on this run blocking and has been a solid pass protector throughout his first three years. LG Chris Liwienski is back at his usual starting position after a number of depth-chart switches in the interior. Cory Withrow is expected to start the season at center with the loss of Matt Birk for the entire campaign. RG Marcus Johnson is showing the ability to learn quickly in his rookie season and is a massive and aggressive blocker. RT Mike Rosenthal returns after a broken foot last season. Backups: Tackles Nat Dorsey and Shannon Snell are in a battle for the primary backup spot. Dorsey has more experience and was a fourth-round draft pick last year, which may make it more difficult to give up on him. Even so, there are indications he still needs to develop a better work ethic, and his three holding penalties Friday night won't help his standing. Snell missed some time at training camp while dealing with the premature birth of his twins but does show some promise. He's more likely a developmental player because of Dorsey's draft status. Adam Goldberg started in Rosenthal's absence at RT last year, but this year he has been moved inside, first to left guard, now to a backup at guard and center. He is shoo-in to make the team and a possibility to be a starter again by midseason. Anthony Herrera was making progress as a backup center, but a staph infection in his leg sidelined him most of the second half of the preseason, and his status is the wild card of the group. Appearing to be on the outskirts are guards Brandon Newton and Chris Jahnke, although Newton has a chance if a move is made with Herrera and Newton's limp off the field Friday night isn't an indication of a lingering injury.

TE/HB (4) – Starters: Jim Kleinsasser's all-around skills and top-notch blocking talent make him an easy starter. While Jermaine Wiggins isn't the blocker that Kleinsasser is, he has a knack for finding the open seam and is another obvious starter. Backups: The two to three roster spots behind them are anybody's guess. Sean Berton is the best H-back left in the group among him, Richard Owens, Jeff Dugan and Richard Angulo. Dugan is a good in-line blocker, Owens has versatility and Angulo is a developing, tall pass-catcher. T.J. Cottrell, the son of defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, might garner an injury settlement.

WR (5) – Starters: While Nate Burleson is an easy No. 1 receiver, the rest of the starting group will depend on who's hot and what package the Vikings open the game with. Travis Taylor has been a pleasant surprise since signing a free-agent contract this offseason, a reliable receiver who has shown he can adequately play all the receiver positions. Marcus Robinson still has deep speed and a big body for the jump ball, and Troy Williamson's deep speed will be an asset throughout the season. Those are the definitive top four receivers. After that, Keenan Howry is likely to make the team on his punt return reliability, especially after Darren Sharper fumbled his first attempt at a punt return this preseason on Friday night. Like Anthony Herrera with the offensive line, Kelly Campbell's lingering preseason injury makes him a wild card in this group. He has deep speed and more skills than the other candidates. They include Christopher Jones, a practice-squad possibility, and Ryan Hoag, a hard worker with speed who might just be a perennial bubble player.

RB (5) – Starter: Michael Bennett may open the season as the starter, but Mewelde Moore has showed continuous talent in a fight for the battle for No. 1. Backups: Rookie Ciatrick Fason has displayed solid ball-carrying moves, but he probably needs to get better in pass protection before he sees much playing time. However, he's a sure thing to make the roster. So is Moe Williams, whose veteran leadership and third-down and short-yardage savvy are intangibles a coach can't part with easily. That leaves probably only one roster spot remaining between "Butchie" Franklin Wallace, Adimchinobe Echemandu and ReShard Lee. Wallace is more familiar with the Vikings' system, which would seem to give him the advantage there.

DL (8) – Starters: Kenechi Udeze is the starting left end and simply appears to be getting better at all phases of his game. Kevin Williams is an athletic freak at defensive tackle and Pat Williams is an anchor at nose. Second-year player Darrion Scott will open the season at the base right end. Backups: Rookie Erasmus James and nine-year veteran Lance Johnstone could be a formidable pass-rushing duo on the ends by midseason and will each make the team. That might just leave two open spot among five players. Scott can play inside on passing downs, but the Vikings will have to find another backup there. Spencer Johnson's three-sack performance Friday night and his solid play as an undrafted rookie last year should assure him a roster spot as a swing man who could play left end or inside. That might leave one spot in a battle between defensive tackles Steve Martin, C.J. Mosley, end Earl Cochran and swing man Matt Mitrione. Mitrione played with abandon to start the preseason but might too much of a fringe player, and Cochran just hasn't shown enough yet. Martin vs. Mosley is a competition of the old veteran versus the green rookie. Mosley didn't look consistent enough early on, but in Friday's game, while fighting for his paycheck, he had one sack and another pressure in showing that he could be more than just a big-bodied, 314-pounder in the middle. It's close, but with proven experience ahead of him in Kevin Williams, Pat Williams and Johnson, the Vikings might be able to take a chance on Mosley's upside.

LB (7) – Starters: The front line of E.J. Henderson on the weak side, Sam Cowart in the middle and Napoleon Harris on the strong side is set. Backups: Keith Newman continued to turn in a good showing in the preseason finale and his veteran presence is too valuable to eschew. Dontarrious Thomas' athletic ability also seems too valuable to give up on yet, and if the game slows down enough for him he still has starting potential down the road. Rod Davis has also displayed the ability to be a big hitter and staunch defender when he's in the right spot. That would leave one spot for Raonall Smith and Heath Farwell. Smith's injury history and uneven play after three full years in the system are disheartening, but being that he's a former second-round pick and Farwell is eligible for the practice squad would still seem to give the edge to Smith. Farwell's interception Friday night couldn't hurt him, but if he's going to make the 53-man roster it will likely be attributable to his ability on special teams.

DB (8) – Starters: Antoine Winfield is probably the best tackler at cornerback in the NFL. Fred Smoot might be the best talker, but he needs to show he can stay healthy in Minnesota. Corey Chavous and Darren Sharper form a dangerous combination of veteran savvy at safety, and Sharper is out to prove he is still one of the top safeties in the game after being jettisoned from Green Bay during the offseason. Backups: Despite a less-than-stellar preseason, Brian Williams is expected to be the nickel back and Ralph Brown is too good as a nickel or dime back and on special teams to give thought of letting him go. But it gets very dicey at backup safety. Willie Offord, Ken Irvin and Will Hunter all have endearing football qualities and drawbacks. Offord is a hard hitter that is developing better football awareness, but he can still make costly mistakes. Ken Irvin is a veteran who can offer cover ability in nickel and dime packages and is trying to make the requested transition from cornerback to safety. Will Hunter is a developing prospect that seems to be on the brink of being a quality, contributing backup. Offord is likely to stick, but the battle between Irvin and Hunter may be too close to call. There are also deserving candidates deep on the chart at cornerback in seventh-round draft pick Adrian Ward and rookie free agent Laroni Gallishaw. Ward might simply be too small to make it long-term in the NFL, but Gallishaw is an intriguing player with size that should at least make a practice squad, if not the 53-man roster. Likely to be on the outside looking in are cornerbacks Ukee Dozier and Dovonte Edwards.

LS (1) – Cullen Loeffler doesn't have any competition for this spot, but if he would be injured Richard Owens is the next in line.

P (1) – Neither incumbent Darren Bennett nor youngster Travis Dorsch have shown enough consistency to think the Vikings wouldn't grab a punter off waivers if a good one is available. They'd love for Bennett to be the guy for the season, but he's been erratic. Nevertheless, he gets the nod in this limited competition.

K (1) – Paul Edinger seems to have sewn up his spot after a hip injury took Aaron Elling out of the competition for the last two preseason games. The fact that Edinger converted seven of his eight preseason attempts is enough to give some measure of comfort at a position that has been a thorn in Mike Tice's side.

KO – The Vikings say they will not keep a kickoff specialist this year, so this extra roster spot will go to one of the aforementioned positions, but they won't be carrying a fourth QB or two punters. It could simply go to the best special teams player, in which case a player like LB Heath Farwell or CB Laroni Gallishaw could stick.

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