Roster Cutdown Week: Battles to Watch

The Vikings have to trim their roster to 75 players (cutting four) by Tuesday afternoon and to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. Here is a look at some of the top battles this week.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Jaymar Johnson, Martin Nance and Darius Reynaud for the potential sixth receiver job. You might be able to include veteran Robert Ferguson into this group, but considering Ferguson's contributions on special teams and the fact he's seen as a locker-room leader, let's assume he's safe. Johnson might have the edge because he's a sixth-round pick, while Nance and Reynaud are free agents. But Reynaud, signed as a rookie free agent, has come on strong in camp and certainly opened some eyes. There is no doubt the Vikings would like to get Johnson or Reynaud through to the practice squad if they don't make the team. Nance has good hands, but the first-year receiver might get caught up in a numbers game.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Charles Gordon continues to be the front-runner to win the nickel spot ahead of Benny Sapp and Marcus McCauley. McCauley has returned from a knee injury and Sapp continues to make the occasional big play, but Gordon appears to be the safe bet.

  • Rookie quarterback John David Booty and veteran Brooks Bollinger both are getting limited snaps as they compete to win the No. 3 job. The fact the Vikings lost rookie Tyler Thigpen last year on waivers to Kansas City when they had hoped to put him on the practice squad means Booty is probably going to make the roster.

  • Derrick Pope, Vinny Ciurciu, Rufus Alexander, Erin Henderson, David Herron and J. Leman continue to fight for the backup linebacker spots. Heath Farwell, who was vying for one of the top backup spots but already had the roster made because of his abilities on special teams, was lost after suffering a knee injury against the Seahawks. Pope and Ciurciu both have extensive experience on special teams.

  • Aundrae Allison and Jaymar Johnson are among those hoping to land the punt-return job. Allison ranked second in the NFL last season with a 28.7-yard average on kickoff returns, but that job is expected to go to newcomer Maurice Hicks.

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sidney Rice is the second-year receiver most expect to have a breakout season, but another second-year guy, Allison, was more impressive throughout training camp and could be a big-time threat considering his speed and his improving hands. Allison still has plenty to learn — and the coaching staff is still doing plenty of work with him — but there is no doubt he has talent and should improve substantially on the eight receptions he had a year ago.

    ROOKIE REPORT: Second-round safety Tyrell Johnson is the leading candidate to replace injured starter Madieu Williams (neck), who could miss six weeks because of a neck injury.

  • Fifth-round quarterback John David Booty is battling Brooks Bollinger for the No. 3 job. Booty doesn't appear to have a great arm but is a quick study

  • Fifth-round defensive tackle Letroy Guion is fighting for a roster spot. Guion is raw and might be a guy they try to sneak through to the practice squad.

  • Sixth-round center John Sullivan is backing up veteran Matt Birk and also serving as the right guard on the third team. That versatility is extremely valuable and could win him a spot on the game-day roster this season.

  • Sixth-round wide receiver Jaymar Johnson remains in the mix for punt and kick returns. Johnson has made a few eye-opening catches in camp but most came early.

  • Free-agent linebacker Erin Henderson has had solid preseason performances. He is the brother of starting middle linebacker E.J. Henderson.

  • Free-agent offensive lineman Drew Radovich had been working with the second team at left tackle before dislocating his left shoulder.

  • Free-agent WR Darius Reynaud has continued to improve throughout camp and is becoming more of a factor as he adjusts to the offense.


  • Defensive end Kenechi Udeze, who will miss the season after being diagnosed with leukemia last winter, said "everything is working out just fine" after he underwent a bone marrow transplant. Udeze said he's been out of the hospital for three weeks.

  • Running back Chester Taylor, who rushed for 1,216 yards in his first season with the Vikings in 2006, said he isn't upset about playing behind Adrian Peterson. "I'm not frustrated," Taylor said. "I still know my abilities and what I can bring to the table. I'm just going to go out there every year and try to do my best and help my team win."

  • Backup OL Artis Hicks played most of the second quarter of the Vikings' exhibition game against Pittsburgh at left tackle in place of Bryant McKinnie. Hicks is the Vikings' choice to play that position if McKinnie ends up being suspended by the NFL for being a repeat offender of the league's conduct policy. Hicks hasn't played left tackle much during training camp practices but does have some experience at that spot.

  • Second-year CB Marcus McCauley started in place of Antoine Winfield at left corner vs. the Steelers. Coach Brad Childress said the Vikings simply wanted to get a chance to evaluate McCauley.

  • CB Charles Gordon appears to have won the job with the first-team nickel. Gordon can play either the corner or inside in those situations.

  • LB Heath Farwell will miss the season because of a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. The injury is a blow for two reasons. Farwell was battling for a primary backup job at linebacker and already was one of the Vikings' best players on special teams. The injury opens the door for backup linebackers such as Vinny Ciurciu, Derrick Pope and Erin Henderson to make a significant contribution on special teams.

  • DE Jayme Mitchell, who was supposed to serve as the primary backup to Ray Edwards on the left side, suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament in the preseason opener and will miss the season. Otis Grigsby has been getting reps with the second team at left end.

  • OT Drew Radovich, a rookie free agent from Southern Cal, had been working with the second team at left tackle but is out because of a dislocated left shoulder suffered in the preseason opener. Radovich also had been getting third-team snaps at right tackle. Tim Mattran, another rookie free agent and a long shot to make the roster, replaced Radovich with the second team at left tackle. Mattran is a center but has proven to be very versatile.

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