Training camp officially has one week in the books and we've got a little better idea which players are making a run at the 53-man roster and which ones could face an uphill climb. Below is our position-by-position assessment of how the roster is shaping up. Last year's season-ending number at each position is in parentheses.
QUARTERBACKS (3) – Tarvaris Jackson opened camp clearly looking like the better option over Sage Rosenfels, but when Jackson got hurt and Rosenfels got increased reps with the first team, the 31-year-old Rosenfels quickly began looking more and more comfortable with the offense and his surrounding cast. Whereas he first couple of days were spent overthrowing nearly every deep pass, he is now mostly on target with those passes, and now that Jackson has re-entered the competition on his way back from a sprained medial collateral ligament it looks like we'll have a serious quarterback battle on our hands for the next several weeks. Jackson has Rosenfels in arm strength and athleticism (when healthy), but Rosenfels' overall experience in the league should give him an advantage in the game-day poise category. Right now, we're inclined to call this a virtual dead heat and the quarterback that plays with the most consistency in the first few preseason games will have the job for the first regular-season game. If Jackson can get and stay completely healthy, he might have a slight edge because of his physical abilities. Without any other quarterbacks in camp, John David Booty is solidly in the third position. He's making progress since his rookie season, but he might not have the arm strength to ever develop into a starter in the NFL.
RUNNING BACKS (5) – Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson is the clear starter, but he can still improve in his ability to pick up the blitzes and be a more consistent receiver out of the backfield. He's already an elite runner, but there is always room for improvement. Chester Taylor is clearly the second choice and his value as a third-down back is unquestioned with all his success in that role last year. Albert Young has a pretty good grip on the third spot and Ian Johnson is running fourth. Young doesn't possess great breakaway speed, but he just seems to do a lot of things fairly well, and Brad Childress called this year's top three running backs the deepest he's had since taking over in 2006. If Johnson doesn't make the 53-man roster, he could be a good candidate for the practice squad. That would leave the team with three running backs, and they would still likely only keep one fullback. Incumbent Naufahu Tahi is the probable choice over challenger Nehemiah Broughton because of Tahi's experience in the system and ability to contribute on special teams. Kahlil Bell's early-camp leg injury doesn't bode well for his chances, and Antone Smith is still an unknown as the injury replacement for Bell.
WIDE RECEIVERS (5) – This is the deepest this position has been since in the Childress era. Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and probably Bobby Wade are locks to make the team. After that, Jaymar Johnson and Darius Reynaud have had solid camps, but if the Vikings only keep five on the active roster, Johnson and Reynaud are in a battle for the last spot. We give the edge to Johnson, who brings more to the receiver position, but Reynaud could earn a spot if he grabs hold of the kick-return role. In the end, the team could very well keep both, increasing the number of receivers on the 53-man roster to six and taking away numbers from another position like running back or defensive line. Glenn Holt's best chance to stick is as a kick returner, but he doesn't appear to be a favorite in that role either. Among the newer, younger players, Nick Moore could be a player to stash on the practice squad and develop. Vinny Perretta and Bobby Williams will have to make up ground in the preseason to continue earning a living here in a month.
TIGHT ENDS (3) – Visanthe Shiancoe is catching everything thrown his way and picking up right where he left off in his breakout 2008 season. Jim Kleinsasser still has gas left in the football tank, so the battle for a roster spot could come down to Jeff Dugan and Garrett Mills, two very different players. As with the wide receivers, the Vikings could opt to keep an additional tight end over last year's season-ending roster number and last year Dugan was classified as a fullback. If it comes down to Dugan vs. Mills, we give the edge to Dugan for his durability and flexibility to line up as an in-line blocker or move to the backfield as a lead blocker. Mills is strictly a pass-catching tight end, and he hasn't proven to be the most durable in his limited opportunities.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8) – The roster locks and likely starters are Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera and Phil Loadholt. Ryan Cooks and Artis Hicks seem like the most valuable and versatile options to backup several positions. That could leave only one spot open for a handful of contenders and the Vikings could be forced to make a choice between guard Brian Daniels and tackle Drew Radovich, both former undrafted rookies who have had their development derailed at times with injuries. We give the edge to Daniels. After that, the question will be which players should be shipped to the practice squad. Tackle Nick Urban, guard Chris Clark and center Jon Cooper could be the leading candidates at their respective positions there. Center Juan Garcia and guard Andy Kemp will need to really show something once the preseason games start if they want to find a spot on the practice squad.
As a whole on offense, the Vikings could switch around the numbers they keep at each position, and running back seems like a likely spot for that to happen. They had five running backs on the active roster at the end of last season, classifying Dugan as a fullback, so it's a matter of semantics and a numbers game between tight end and running back. We see Dugan making the roster either as a fifth running back or fourth tight end, leaving the most intriguing battles for offensive roster spots at wide receiver and offensive line.
Decisions won't have to be made for three weeks, but impressions are formed daily.
Roster rundown: Projecting the players
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