Vikings 53-Man Roster Preview: Difficult Decisions

July 14, 2022
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The pre-season is now just a month away and the anticipation is mounting. Rosters still feature 90 men competing for just 53 final spots. Sure, every roster has its shoe-ins, but many back-up positions on each team will feature ongoing competition until August 30th, the deadline for teams to cut down to 53 players.

For our Minnesota Vikings, there are some fun camp battles to keep an eye on such as the final spot(s) at wide receiver, linebacker and on the offensive line.

I decided to go through this exercise by position group:

Offense

Quarterback (2)

Starter: Kirk Cousins

Backup: Kellen Mond

Missed the cut: Sean Mannion and Nate Stanley

Kevin O’Connell strikes me as a forward-thinker and those who think forward will undoubtedly come to the conclusion that Kellen Mond is a superior long-term asset to Sean “The Man”nion. All indications point to O’Connell having been satisfied with Mond’s performance in early practices and he’s on record praising Mond’s mobility. Sean Mannion can be easily recovered if the coaching staff wants a safe bet in the event of a Kirk Cousins injury.

Running Backs (5)

Starter: Dalvin Cook and C.J. Ham

Backup(s): Alexander Mattison and Ty Chandler

Rostered: Kene Nwangwu

Dalvin Cook is hardly worth mentioning here and fan favorite C.J. Ham will be key to the running game and may be used a bit more creatively under this staff than in years past. Mattison holds his spot at RB2 and as a pure ballcarrier, I like what Ty Chandler brings just a bit more than Nwangwu. However, Nwangwu is too valuable a special teams’ piece to discard and he could bring some dynamism to the offense with his speed if any of the other backs misses time.

Wide Receivers (7)

Starters: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, KJ Osborn

Backups: Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Jalen Nailor, Albert Wilson, Dan Chisena

Missed the cut: Bisi Johnson, Blake Proehl, Thomas Hennigan, Trishton Jackson

The same three starters return as the main weapons in this passing game. Ihmir Smith-Marsette looks to build off of his late-season momentum from last year and secure a bigger role. The rest of this group was difficult – mainly the Bisi Johnson cut.

Poor injury luck has curtailed his promising young career to this point so health is a bit of a concern; but further reason for the Vikings to part ways now is that Johnson is in the final year of his rookie deal meaning he either gets an extension or is off the team after this season. The latter scenario would see Minnesota sacrificing more years of team control over a player like rookie Jalen Nailor. My most wishful prediction is punt-gunner extraordinaire Dan Chisena making the roster as the (technically) seventh wide receiver.

Tight Ends (3)

Starter: Irv Smith Jr.

Backups: Ben Ellefson, Johnny Mundt

Missed the Cut: Zach Davidson, Nick Muse

Irv Smith Jr. returns to the team this season after a meniscus injury last season and expectations are high. He looked electric in camp by all accounts before suffering that injury and he could have a massive role in the new offense.

Perhaps not the sexiest selections to make the roster but Ben Ellefson is a phenomenal blocker and will bolster heavy personnel sets in the run game.

You may remember Johnny Mundt as an early signing made by the team in this year’s free agency. He spent the last two seasons working with Kevin O’Connell and the past three working with Wes Phillips, Minnesota’s new Offensive Coordinator was Mundt’s position coach with the Rams. He’s simply going to make the team.

Muse and Davison will hopefully be safe from poachers on the practice squad.

Offensive Line (9)

Starters (left to right): Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Jesse Davis, Brian O’Neill

Backups: G/C Chris Reed, T Blake Brandel, T Vederian Lowe, G Ed Ingram

Missed the cut: Oli Udoh, Wyatt Davis, Kyle Hinton, Austin Schlottman, Josh Sokol, Timon Parris

The only debatable starting spot on the offensive line is Right Guard, where Jesse Davis currently holds the job. His main competition here will be veteran Chris Reed, and rookie Ed Ingram.

The difficult decision was cutting second-year man Wyatt Davis. I hope he makes the team because he still has good upside but this unit is just too deep, which should be a welcome problem for Vikings fans.

Defense

The Vikings will have an exciting new scheme on defense to go along with several new pieces. If you’re interested in how this will look on the field, you can check out the long-winded version here.

Interior Defensive Line (6)

Starters: Dalvin Tomlinson (Nose Tackle), Harrison Phillips, Armon Watts

Backups: James Lynch, Jalen Twyman, Esezi Otomewo

Missed the cut: Jullian Taylor, Tyarise Stevenson, T.Y. McGill, T.J. Smith

Fingers crossed for Ndamukong Suh. This third interior spot out of base 3-4 is one of the most questionable positions on the roster and Ndamukong Suh would fit perfectly as a penetrating 3-technique in a front that will function very similarly to the Todd Bowles defensive fronts to which he was integral with Tampa Bay.

For now, we look for a breakout year from one of the younger guys like Twyman, who missed his rookie year due to injury, or 2022 draftee, Otomewo.

EDGE (4)

Starters: Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith

Backups: D.J. Wonnum, Janarius Robinson

Missed the cut: Patrick Jones II, Zach McCloud, Andre Mintz

Behind the best pass-rushing duo in the league, D.J. Wonnum and “J-Rob” have excellent length and athleticism; each could take significant leaps rushing the passer under the guidance of linebackers coach, Mike Pettine.

Patrick Jones II could very easily make this roster and he will be a potential practice squad call-up during the season.

Linebackers (4)

Starters: Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks

Backups: Brian Asamoah, Troy Dye

Missed the cut: Chazz Surratt, Blake Lynch, Ryan Connely, William Kwenkeu

A lot of great veteran leadership comes from the middle of this defense with Kendricks and Hicks, one of whom will surely don the green dot this year.

Asamoah feels like another shoe-in but I had a difficult time distinguishing between Dye, Surratt, and Lynch. I ultimately decided to keep Troy Dye because he has the best blend of strength to shed blocks and pass coverage skills.

Cornerbacks (6)

Starters: Patrick Peterson (outside), Cameron Dantzler (outside), Chandon Sullivan (slot)

Backups: Andrew Booth Jr. (outside), Akayleb Evans (outside), Harrison Hand (slot)

Missed the cut: Kris Boyd, Nate Hairston, Parry Nickerson, Tye Smith

Of course, the hope is Andrew Booth Jr. wins a starting job outright but Cam Dantzler has more experience and could easily win more snaps. Kris Boyd is a tough leave but I prefer the way Harrison Hand has played over the length of their respective rookie contracts.

Safeties (4)

Starters: Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum

Backups: Lewis Cine, Josh Metellus

Missed the cut: Myles Dorn, Mike Brown

Lewis Cine is going to get plenty of playing time and it should be all over the field. We’ll likely see plenty of three-safety packages. Metellus sticks around another year as a rock-solid backup.

Special Teams

Kicker

Greg Joseph

Joseph has yet to hurt me deeply. Arizona week 3 hurt for a few days but he has been largely adequate.

Punter

Jordan Berry

If you didn’t know, Jordan Berry is fantastic.

Long Snapper

Andrew DePaola

Another unsung cog in the machine, DePaola can absolutely snap that football.

This deep dive reinforced to me how strong this roster is from top to bottom. Let me know what you think of my season prediction!