Roster Cut Q&A

Step one is complete in getting to the team's opening-day roster with the initial cutdown to 53 players. Another day of moves lies ahead with the practice squad being formed, but here's our take so far.

As the Vikings – and 31 other teams – scour the waiver wire continuing their search to improve, everyone’s in the same boat right now, reaching the 53-man roster limit by 5:00 p.m. central time Saturday.

Will the Vikings still claim a player or two for their 53-man roster, meaning someone currently “safe” would still be cut?  Are there any trades in the works?  Who will they target for their eight-man practice squad?  A few more questions will be answered in the next 48 hours or so.

Here are some initial questions, followed by observations of what the personnel and coaching staff might have been thinking.

Why keep Whitaker over Edwards at CB?
Two reasons:  Special teams and tackling.  Ronyell Whitaker was the team’s second-leading tackler on special teams last season behind only “Nails” Farwell.  He is also a more reliable support guy and wrap-up tackler than Dovonte Edwards, who will likely get a chance somewhere else because of his speed and cover ability.  But right now this team’s No. 5 cornerback needs to bring something MORE to the table, and Whitaker does with his special teams ability, an area where Edwards is just average.

How can they let Blue go?
Greg Blue held his own in limited action on defense last season but he’s a bit of a one-trick pony.  He’s a vicious hitter.  But he is not a particularly reliable, wrap-up tackler all the time, he is a liability on pass coverage, and he is not a great special-teams player (only 8 tackles there all of last season).  Plus, there were four proven starters ahead of him at safety.

Only 3 running backs?
Releasing Artose Pinner, a steady, productive, all-around running back who can definitely play in the league was indeed a bit of a surprise.  But Pinner’s problem was twofold:  1) Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson and Mewelde Moore are about as solid a trio of running backs as any team in the league might have; 2) Pinner is not really able to stand out on special teams, which is an area the Vikings sorely need addressed.

Tahi makes it?
A mild surprise, but Naufahu Tahi brings a few unique qualities to the table.  He is a bigger back with enough size and power to move the pile and perhaps contribute as a short-yardage runner.  He is also a surprisingly nifty pass receiver out of the backfield, and the fullback is often the most uncovered player on offense in the passing game, a staple of the dink-and-dunk aspect of the West Coast Passing game.  His unique qualities as a running back and his long-range potential behind veteran fullback Tony Richardson would appear to have given him the edge over Pinner in the numbers game.

The Vikings kept only 5 receivers?
No huge surprise here, especially considering that none of the fringe guys can really help on kick coverage.  The five they kept were locks.  With two rookies cracking the top five, it didn’t make sense to keep additional developmental prospects on the active roster.  Now it will be interesting to see if Martin Nance, Chandler Williams, Jason Carter or Todd Lowber (released last week) is brought back for the practice squad.  One or more practice squad spots will be occupied by a wideout.

Only 2 tight ends?
The versatility of Jeff Dugan makes that possible.  He can play fullback and tight end with equal effectiveness.  He can also block on kickoff returns.  A mild surprise that Richard Owens was released, however, as he has traditionally been a solid special teams performer for the Vikings.

Two rookie free agents and no backup center on the OL?
Brian Daniels was probably the most steady and consistent of all the developmental prospects they had in on the offensive line in training camp, and they started with about six of them.  Chase Johnson is more of a long-term prospect than a standout right now.  He could still be vulnerable if additional moves are needed.  The release of Norm Katnik was a bit of a surprise here, because he had some experience and had been pretty steady this summer.  But the Vikings do have other options behind Matt Birk.  It explains the rationale behind having starting right tackle Ryan Cook take some reps at center during training camp now, though, doesn’t it?  Anthony Herrera has also played some center in the past, though that was primarily during the Mike Tice era.  Katnik is still practice squad eligible, as well.

Can they afford to keep 6 DEs?
They couldn’t afford not to.  All six that they kept can play, including Jayme Mitchell who would never have passed through waivers, and they all have some pass-rush potential, so at least until Erasmus James is 100% healthy again, they couldn’t take any chances here.  Khreem Smith, who was cut, is also still eligible for the practice squad and could return.

They must be sold on Evans at DT?
Yes; he is still a little raw but is really a good fit for their defensive scheme.  The team is also confident he will not face any severe punishment for his off-field foolishness while he was with the Dolphins.

Will they be able to get Thigpen back for the practice squad?
The acquisition of Kelly Holcomb pushed Tyler Thigpen to the waiver wire.  Thigpen is a ways off still, but he has a swagger and the tools to develop into something special.  His long-range potential is better than that of Brooks Bollinger, but the Vikings weren’t willing to take any chances with Holcomb being with the team less than a week.  The Vikings are hoping to bring Thigpen back, but a team like Tennessee (who only kept two quarterbacks) could foil their plans.

Who do they target for the practice squad?
To start, a player they might still release to add someone.  Otherwise, Thigpen, Lowber, Nance, Williams, Carter, Katnik, Conrad Bolston, Khreem Smith, Chad Johnson and Seppo Evwaraye (who’s automatic as a ninth international prospect).  But there are probably a few unknown players out there that they might like even better than the players they’ve been working with all summer.

If you’re a hard-core personnel guru, the next 48 hours are still fun, so stay tuned.

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