The Vikings have until Saturday afternoon to trim their roster 53 players, but we'll take our mildly educated day-before stab with our own Turk.
It's a numbers game. It's a puzzle of players as pieces.
Use whatever phrase you'd like to describe the process that the Vikings coaches and personnel department staffers are going through right now, but one thing is certain: At least 22 players will be trimmed from the Vikings roster by 5 p.m. Central Saturday afternoon – and probably more considering they typically sign one or two other players who were waived or released around the league.
Using last year's numbers at each position and the viewing of numerous offseason practices and four preseason games as our guide, here is our glance into the future at the roster after this weekend.
QUARTERBACKS (3 last year)
Dancing with the Vikings: Tarvaris Jackson may be struggling with injuries over the last 12 months, but he looked solid in the two preseason games he did play. Yes, it is preseason, but he seems to be making strides. Behind him, Gus Frerotte has been decent in a backup role, but if Jackson can stay healthy, Frerotte's most valuable contribution during the regular season would be to guide Jackson through the ups and downs of an NFL season. John David Booty struggled at times, throwing three out of the team's four preseason interceptions, but he also showed he can be a decent prospect if he's given enough time to get in a rhythm.
Our Turk takes: Brooks Bollinger has been a very good soldier about keeping things on the positive when he could have lobbied for a release, but at minimum he got a chance to put some more action on film. If Booty is released, maybe he returns to Wisconsin to give the Packers some experience as a backup.
RUNNING BACKS (6)
Dancing with the Vikings: Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor are no-brainers after propelling the Vikings to the league's best rushing attack. Maurice Hicks hasn't had an opportunity to run much behind the first-team line, but he can be a serviceable replacement, as he showed in San Francisco when Frank Gore went down, and his return ability is helpful. Thomas Tapeh and Jeff Dugan shouldn't have a problem giving the team veteran experience at fullback. However, those five seem like a good spot to cut the numbers short of last year and stockpile at another position.
Our Turk takes: Naufahu Tahi and Albert Young could be done, but Young should stand a decent shot as a practice-squad consideration. Tahi's best chance might only be if the Vikings figure him as a special-teams necessity.
WIDE RECEIVER (5)
Dancing with the Vikings: No doubt about Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade and Aundrae Allison being on the squad. The questions start with Robert Ferguson, whose veteran experience should be valued in a young receiving corps. The question is if the Vikings will keep six receivers instead of five. With preseason injuries to Berrian, Rice and Ferguson, and with us cutting back the running backs to five players, we'll use that extra spot here and keep Martin Nance on the active roster.
Our Turk takes: Jaymar Johnson, Darius Reynaud and Nate Jones. Johnson or Reynaud could be considered as a sixth receiver and should be considered for the practice squad. Nance's practice-squad opportunities are behind him, so it's either 53-man or bust for him.
TIGHT ENDS (3)
Dancing with the Vikings: Visanthe Shiancoe will have a year to redeem himself in the receiving game, and Jim Kleinsasser will have at least this year to continue his yeoman career as an in-line blocker. If Garrett Mills is healthy enough to contribute at the start of the season – he did play in the preseason finale, but his ankle didn't appear completely healed – he has endeared himself enough to the coaching staff to make it work in 2008. If not, he could be a candidate for the physically-unable-to-perform list, putting him on ice for six weeks to work his way back while another tight end is signed.
Our Turk takes: Braden Jones has been serviceable, but it's questionable if he's ready to contribute on Sundays yet. He could be a solid practice-squad addition with midseason promotion potential.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Dancing with the Vikings: Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk, Anthony Herrera and Ryan Cook are the starters (unless McKinnie is suspended to start the season). Artis Hicks is necessary because of his veteran status and McKinnie's suspension, and John Sullivan is needed as Birk's backup. Brian Daniels could turn his 14 games on the practice squad and two weeks on the 53-man roster last year into a more extensive tryout on the active roster this year.
Our Turk takes: If McKinnie is suspended, Drew Radovich should receive consideration for the active roster if his shoulder is healthy enough. He would be a risk to try to sneak through waivers and onto the practice squad, so we believe the Vikings will find a way to keep him (maybe that comes at the expense of depth on the defensive line). Marcus Johnson, who offers some versatility at guard and tackle, hasn't been able to live up to his second-round status. It might still be too early to make this move with a very young corps of backups, but he's getting down to his last chance to show consistency. Chase Johnson spent last year on the 53-man roster but didn't play, and he might get that opportunity again this year, but it's looking like he could be squeezed out.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8)
Dancing with the Vikings: Ray Edwards, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Jared Allen and Brian Robison are all easy decisions. So, too, we think, is Otis Grigsby, who continues to show up when given a chance. Letroy Guion has been productive in the preseason and seems to turn it on when it's game time, making him too intriguing to give up on just yet. If the Vikings do keep Guion on the 53-man roster, that probably means Fred Evans and Ellis Wyms are in a battle for the eighth spot. Wyms offers more versatility, but Evans seems to hold more potential down the road, giving him the nod in our mythical personnel meeting.
Our Turk takes: Wyms, Leger Douzable, Chris Norwell and Martail Burnett. Douzable and Burnett are worth considering for the practice squad.
Dancing with the Vikings: The starters are Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson and Chad Greenway. With the rest of the crew being extremely young, Vinny Ciurciu has to be kept around for his experience and special-teams prowess. Erin Henderson's ability on special teams and potential at linebacker are too good to risk on waivers, leaving one more position open. This could be a position that the Vikings fill with a waivered or released player – or even two – from another team, but if not we will give an ever-so-slight edge to Rufus Alexander and expect only six to be kept or a seventh added from "the street."
Our Turk takes: David Herron could be another consideration for a seventh spot if the waiver crop doesn't blossom, but he could just as easily be among the releases. J. Leman could be a consideration for the practice squad as well.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)
Dancing with the Vikings: One of the bigger questions here is the recovery of safety Madieu Williams from a neck injury. If he doesn't go on the PUP list to start the season, thereby taking up his first six weeks of eligibility, he will cost the Vikings a roster spot until he returns. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he is on the active roster to start the season, taking up one spot. Darren Sharper and Tyrell Johnson would be the starting safeties to begin the season, with Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin the starting cornerbacks. No matter how the nickel-back rotation shakes out, Marcus McCauley and Charles Gordon are safe. Eric Frampton also looks like a shoo-in at safety with the coaches' growing confidence in him and his contributions on special teams. If Williams can't play the first few games, that means another safety could be necessary, and we'll give the temporary edge to Michael Boulware and his experience. If that's the case, it leaves only one active spot among the 10, and that goes to cornerback Benny Sapp, who looked sharp early in training camp and could push to be a game-day active player if injuries take their toll in the secondary and he can contribute on special teams.
Our Turk takes: Dee McCann and his potential as he makes the switch from cornerback to safety would be a good candidate to go back on the practice squad, where he spent the final 12 weeks of 2007. Husain Abdullah has the pedigree – with a brother, Hamza, who started with the Broncos last year – but the numbers don't allow anything more than a practice-squad spot for him in our personnel puzzle.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
Dancing with the Vikings: Same three, different year with Ryan Longwell kicking, Chris Kluwe punting and Cullen Loeffler snapping.
Our Turk takes: Rookie kickers rarely fare well against proven veterans, and that will be the case again for Steven Hauschka, who at least got to put some of his best work on tape during preseason action.
Special teams ability is always a consideration for the lowest few roster spots, but injuries and potential suspensions also factor heavily into how the Vikings' roster will shape up over Labor Day weekend this year, making the puzzle even more fluid.