The Turk is working overtime this weekend to put athletes on the unemployment line. NFL rules require that rosters be trimmed to 53 players by 5 p.m. Central Saturday, meaning the Vikings are preparing for difficult decisions in piecing together their opening-day roster by cutting at least 22 players.
Keep in mind that nearly every year they add a player or two that is released by another team (think Garrett Mills, Greg Lewis, Eric Frampton and others), so as many as 25 players that were in uniform for Thursday night's game could be looking for work elsewhere 48 hours later.
Here is our projection for how the roster could look come Saturday evening, with comments on every player:
QUARTERBACKS (3 in 2009; 3 for 2010)—Brett Favre, Tarvaris Jackson, Joe Webb. Waiver wire? Sage Rosenfels. Analysis: Rosenfels' salary ($2.6 million for 2010), his inactive status for every game in 2009 and the need to find a quarterback for the future could combine to end his days in Minnesota. It's just clear that head coach Brad Childress favors Jackson over Rosenfels and Childress has the final say.
Favre: Unquestioned starter and leader … in salary, too.
Jackson: He had a bad preseason, but being a Childress guy has its advantages.
Webb: Showed enough promise that a poor team with QB problems could snap him up if the Vikings waived him.
Rosenfels: The highest-rated Vikings QB of the preseason is on the outs? Who said life is fair?
RUNNING BACKS (4; 5)— Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Albert Young, Darius Reynaud, Naufahu Tahi. Waiver wire? Ian Johnson, Ryan D'Imperio. Analysis: Peterson, Gerhart and Young should be one, two and three on the depth chart and Reynaud gets the nod as the main punt and kick returner (if Harvin's headaches preclude him from returning kicks) as he transitions on offense from receiver to running back. Johnson is eligible for the practice squad for another season, and raw rookie Ryan D'Imperio, who is making the switch from college linebacker to NFL fullback, is an ideal practice-squad candidate. He flashes ability and desire but lacks consistency. That screams practice squad.
Peterson: He still has some improving to do, but he's still Adrian Peterson.
Gerhart: He's not breaking any long runs, but he'll eventually get to consistently giving them 3- and 4-yard rushes.
Young: A willing blocker on third downs and offers some special teams possibilities.
Reynaud: Return ability keeps him around as he (re)develops his running back skills.
Tahi: Not flashy, but good enough to stay employed over a raw rookie.
Johnson: Great attitude and another year of eligibility on the practice squad.
D'Imperio: Shows enough athleticism and desire to develop on the practice squad.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6; 5)— Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Greg Camarillo, Javon Walker, Greg Lewis. Waiver wire? Logan Payne, Taye Biddle, Freddie Brown, Marquis Hamilton. Analysis: Sidney Rice is already on the PUP list, meaning he's out until late October. Given the concerns with Harvin as well, the Vikings may need to keep six receivers instead of five, increasing the chances for former Gopher Logan Payne. But with a glut of talent on the defensive line and injury concerns at cornerback too, they may have to take their chances with five receivers to start the season. The Vikings already placed Jaymar Johnson on season-ending injured reserve.
Berrian: Will have to elevate his game with Rice out for a couple months.
Harvin: Unquestioned talent, but questionable health.
Camarillo: Could be the surprise of the season with Favre's penchant to make receivers.
Walker: Appears to lack separation abilities after knee surgery, but familiarity and desperation at position smile on him.
Lewis: In a depleted position and with special-teams contributions, Lewis survives.
Payne: A late injury doesn't help his cause and neither do injuries at other positions.
Biddle: Didn't flash enough.
Brown: Late addition was just a camp body.
Hamilton: Early addition proved to be just a camp body.
TIGHT ENDS (4; 4)—Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan, Garrett Mills. Waiver wire? Mickey Shuler. Analysis: At first, Mills' inability to stay healthy was a factor in him not receiving much playing time and he suffered a minor knee injury in practice during the preseason this year again, but he also ended up leading the team in receiving yardage and is the only viable receiving threat behind Shiancoe. Shuler is a more well-rounded tight end who could be headed for the practice squad for a year of development.
Shiancoe: Saints game is his concern now, not roster cuts.
Kleinsasser: The wily old veteran makes it another year.
Dugan: Versatility as an H-back keeps the grinder alive again.
Mills: His continued lingering injuries have to be a concern.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8; 8)—Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera, Phil Loadholt, Jon Cooper, Chris DeGeare, Patrick Brown. Waiver wire? Ryan Cook, Chris Clark, Drew Radovich, Thomas Austin, Adrian Battles. Analysis: Last year's starting five return, but John Sullivan's leg injury may force the Vikings to keep Jon Cooper over Ryan Cook because Cooper is ahead of Cook at center. DeGeare shows enough promise to keep at guard and work as a tackle in the future. Brown shows some promise as a backup tackle, but the Vikings will likely be searching the waiver wire there as well.
McKinnie: Consistency is still an issue, but the talent is still there.
Hutchinson: Continues to be among the best in the league at his position.
Sullivan: Leg injury could be a concerns for some time.
Herrera: Could start the opener at either center or right guard. Back to full strength?
Loadholt: The tough youngster continues to progress.
Cooper: Sullivan's injury may have extended Cooper's time on the 53-man roster.
DeGeare: A promising prospect at the least and potential starter in his rookie year.
Brown: With more experience, could be a decent prospect behind McKinnie.
Cook: Has never really found a home since Loadholt's arrival.
Clark: Was exposed at left tackle this preseason.
Radovich: His pre-draft hype hasn't matched his early returns.
Austin: Didn't ever stand out enough for consideration.
Battles: Big body probably has technique work to improve if the practice squad is an option.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9; 9)—Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Ray Edwards, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Jimmy Kennedy, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion. Waiver wire? Jayme Mitchell, Michael Montgomery, Tremaine Johnson. Analysis: With cornerback thin due to injuries, the Vikings might look to trade away a defensive lineman with the glut of backup talent they have. There are a lot of ways the team can go with this position, but the starting four, plus Robison and Guion should be locks. Evans and Kennedy also seem safe, but an undisclosed injury to Kennedy could alter the numbers. Guion's strong preseason should earn him another shot at the 53-man roster, but Mitchell could be a victim of the numbers through no fault of his own, unless an uninspiring preseason from Griffen has the Vikings giving up on the fourth-round draft pick already.
Allen: NFL's best pass-rushing defensive end. No more needs to be said.
Kevin Williams: "Ticket" can still bring it with a pass rush or stopping the run.
Pat Williams: Would like nothing more than to ride into the sunset with a Super Bowl victory.
Edwards: Is poised for a big year in anticipation of unrestricted free agency (CBA willing).
Robison: Relentless motor will keep him in the rotation all year long.
Griffen: Promising, but appeared to be engulfed once the pads went on.
Kennedy: Could a late preseason injury hamper his chances? Probably not, but it's a deep position.
Evans: His anticipation of the snap has really improved.
Guion: Has made big strides this offseason and appears to have a roster spot. Seems more dedicated to the game.
Mitchell: Every year there is talk about a victim of the numbers game. If Mitchell is cut, submit his name to the special victims unit.
Montgomery: Hasn't shown much since his arrival.
Johnson: Shows promise, but probably isn't ready for the big league.
LINEBACKERS (6; 7)—Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson, Ben Leber, Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson, Heath Farwell, Kenny Onatolu. Bubble bursting: Nate Triplett. Analysis: The first five are easy keepers. After that, it all depends on how much the team values more depth at linebacker versus the special-teams coverage guys. Farwell is always a special-teams leader, but they don't count on him much on defense. The same was true with Onatolu last year after he made the switch from CFL to NFL, but he could develop on the outside with more work. J Leman is already on injured reserve.
Greenway: Could be poised for a breakout year.
E.J. Henderson: Might be the league's comeback player of the year.
Leber: Old reliable, like Greenway, is in the final year of his contract.
Brinkley: A solid backup option to Henderson and good special teamer.
Erin Henderson: Top backup at both outside spots continues to improve.
Farwell: Special teams captain has his role. That's all he does and he does it well.
Onatolu: Became a special-teams beast last year and is progressing his linebacker skills.
Triplett: A possible practice squad candidate that didn't flash much this preseason.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (10; 9)—Antoine Winfield, Tyrell Johnson, Madieu Williams, Lito Sheppard, Asher Allen, Chris Cook, Jamarca Sanford, Husain Abdullah, Colt Anderson. PUP: Cedric Griffin (projected here, not official yet). Waiver wire? Eric Frampton, DeAndre Wright, Marcus Sherels. Analysis: The numbers at other positions and the health of Griffin will be keys to how the Vikings start the season with their defensive backfield. Sheppard, Cook and Asher Allen all have a chance to start games at right cornerback. Eric Frampton is a special-teams-only player and Colt Anderson finished the preseason strong at safety, presenting an interesting decision at the depths of the position. The bigger battle in the defensive backfield could be for the starting spots at safety, where second-year pro Sanford is looking like a candidate to push Johnson. That is really the only spot up for grabs that isn't because of injury.
Winfield: The old man of the secondary still one of the best tackling CBs in the league.
Johnson: Showing concern about possibly losing his starting job.
Williams: Apparently his job in the secondary was never threatened this offseason.
Sheppard: Could be the default starting right CB by attrition.
Allen: A decent nickel corner that contributes on special teams.
Cook: When recovered from meniscus tear, he could be the starter opposite Winfield.
Sanford: Might end up starting in place of Johnson.
Abdullah: Has some backup safety qualities and contributes on special teams.
Anderson: Came on strong during the preseason; could be between him and Frampton.
Frampton: He's good at special teams, but will that be enough value this year?
Griffin: Could end up on PUP to start the season, but he's clearly getting closer to getting back from ACL surgery.
Wright: Still raw, but has potential to be developed.
Sherels: Flashes some, but ultimately his size hurts him.
SPECIALISTS (3; 3)—Chris Kluwe, Ryan Longwell, Cullen Loeffler. Waiver wire? Rhys Lloyd, a lot of coverage guys. Analysis: Lloyd made a valiant effort in the preseason finale, but his lack of touchbacks before that have to be concerning for a one-trick pony on a team with injury concerns elsewhere.
Kluwe: The only punter on the roster has an easy ticket in.
Longwell: Seems destined to be the only kicker on the roster.
Loeffler: Never a doubt with his snaps.
Lloyd: Could be a case of too little too late. Solid fourth preseason game, but kickoffs lacked before that.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
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