Practice squad analysis

Starting one's NFL career on the practice squad isn't entirely uncommon for a player who may eventually make it and potentially even develop into a starter someday.

Vikings fill out practice squad

This could be one of the strongest practice squads the Vikings have ever had, quite frankly, with every one of these guys capable of eventually contributing on Sundays.

Here's a player-by-player look at why they didn't make the 53-man roster, what they need to do to get there, and what they have to offer if they do:

John David BootyQB John David Booty showed improvement in his second training camp, but there's no question he still has a ways to go in terms of learning the nuances of the West Coast Offense and the precision of the passing game within Minnesota's system. While most point to the "pick six" he threw against Dallas in the preseason finale as the back-breaker for Booty making the team, his fate was likely already sealed prior to that, anyway. He has progressed. But there remain some things he still needs to get better at - namely quicker, more accurate and decisive reads with where to go with the football. If the light ever goes fully on for Booty in that regard, he may be able to overcome marginal arm strength and athleticism to be a capable player in the NFL.

Ian JohnsonRB Ian Johnson was not able to pass Albert Young on the depth chart for the No. 3 running back spot. Young was simply better, more decisive, more physical and more consistent. That said, Johnson had a productive training camp and preseason and has the look of a potential third-down, utility-type back who could be effective on draws, screens and spot duty from scrimmage if he can continue to develop his feel for the passing game, both on blitz pickup and as a receiver. He'll never be very flashy as a runner, but you can't discount his toughness, balance and determination.

Nick MooreWR Nick Moore might have pressed for a 53-man roster spot in previous seasons with the Vikings, but the addition of Percy Harvin and the emergence of Darius Reynaud and Jaymar Johnson had him pegged for the practice squad early on. Moore has good natural pass-receiving skills, deceptive speed and fluid athleticism. If he continues to respond to the mentoring of receivers coach George Stewart and refines the precision of his pass routes and attacks the weight room and conditioning the way Jaymar Johnson has over the past year, he stands a solid chance to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Lance Moore (Saints), who also made the jump from being an undrafted rookie free agent on the practice squad to a key contributor on Sundays.

Garrett MillsTE Garrett Mills got squeezed out in the numbers game of trimming down to 53 players. He can definitely play in this league, but he's been limited by injuries throughout his professional career to this point, including training camp this summer. It also hurt him that he is primarily a one-dimensional pass-catching tight end and that he does not make a significant contribution on special teams. However, there is little question that he would excel in the team's offense as a receiver if he were ever called upon. If he improved his blocking, perhaps he could push for playing time at fullback. But to this point, he has not done that.

Drew RadovichOL Drew Radovich also got caught up in the numbers game, with former starters Artis Hicks and Ryan Cook landing backup spots and having the ability to play multiple positions. However, Radovich can also play just about anywhere except center and would be a logical call-up from the practice squad if ever needed. To bring his game to the next level, however, he could show more dedication in the weight room and develop a slightly nastier disposition on the football field. If the Vikings can hang onto Radovich for another full season, it wouldn't be surprising if he is in fact filling that swingman role or even eventually competing for a starting spot, perhaps at right guard.

Chris ClarkOL Chris Clark is probably the least-known by most fans. He finished last season on the team's practice squad as well and originally went to camp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago. Since joining the Vikings he has primarily worked at left guard, but can also play left tackle. Clark doesn't truly stand out in any one area of his game but he has gotten better as he's spent more time in the Vikings' system and possesses a nice overall blend of size and athletic ability for a bigger man. He's not huge, but he moves his feet pretty well and appears to be showing increased intensity and movement in his blocks as he becomes more and more comfortable with the scheme and the pace of the pro game.

Tremaine JohnsonDT Tremaine Johnson is another player a lot of fans are probably not all that familiar with. But Johnson is a decent one-gap, penetrating-type defensive tackle that fits the team's scheme pretty well. He's quick off the ball and has a non-stop motor. It remains to be seen for sure how much upside potential he still has, but he's a hard worker who could very well respond under the coaching of defensive line guru Karl Dunbar, who has a knack for developing young prospects at the position. Johnson is the kind of player who could show significant strides in training camp a year from now if he can just keep working at the finer points of his game in practice every day.

Colt AndersonS Colt Anderson did not get a lot of playing time during the preseason and was behind a lot of other players throughout training camp, but he's a guy that caught my eye on the practice field early on. While it's clear that he has some limitations in man-to-man coverage and might be a half-click late with his reactions at this point, he's a kid who plays 100 miles an hour and flies to the ball. He might be too short and too slow, but he plays the game with reckless abandon and could develop into more of a playmaker once he develops his overall understanding of the defensive scheme and his reactions become more second nature. He also possesses the mentality and the toughness to eventually emerge as a key special teams player for coordinator Brian Murphy.

Worth noting is that starting right guard Anthony Herrera, third-string running back Albert Young and wide receivers Jaymar Johnson and Darius Reynaud all began their NFL careers with the Vikings on the practice squad.

Three of those four have made the jump from the practice squad last year to the 53-man roster this year. What's similar about all three is that they worked extremely hard, developed in the weight room, and became more and more consistent in many of the finer points of their game.

 


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