The rebuilding Vikings will have plenty of tough decisions to make as the coaches remake the roster, and a spate of training camp injuries will keep things interesting right up to final cut-down day.
The secondary and wide receiver positions may be the most difficult choices, while linebacker and offensive line depth will be worth watching. The cuts will ultimately demonstrate whether the emphasis will be on youth or keeping veterans around to be more competitive this season. The biggest battle could be between the GM (rebuilding with youth) and the head coach (needs to win now).
QB -- In: (3) Christian Ponder, Joe Webb, Sage Rosenfels. Out: McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Analysis: In the first preseason game, Ponder looked confident and poised and solidified the starting position he was given before camp. Webb looked just the opposite, rattled and sometime lost. He was under a rush often, but when he had time he still missed open receivers. He will have to play better the rest of the way out to retain his backup spot. Rosenfels makes the team by default -- they need a veteran presence at the position, but the rookie Bethel-Thompson has a stronger future and an arm to match. He may be put on the practice squad.
RB -- In: (4) Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Jerome Felton (FB), Lex Hilliard. Out: Derrick Coleman, Jordan Todman, Ryan D'Imperio (FB), Matt Asiata (FB). Analysis: There is still a battle between Hilliard and Todman, and Hilliard is winning. Hilliard is similar to the bruising Gerhart, while Todman is a speedy, change-of-pace back. But Todman has been hampered by a sprained ankle and could land on the practice squad. D'Imperio, who was the fullback last season and a decent special teams player, has an outside chance to stick, but the numbers might get him.
WR -- In: (6) Percy Harvin, Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Jarius Wright. Out: Emmanuel Arceneaux, Kerry Taylor, Bryan Walters, Kamar Jorden. Analysis: On paper, this decision became easier when rookie Greg Childs' season ended with torn patellar tendons, but Arceneaux has looked good in camp and Walters' return ability will earn him a long look. Jenkins' age (ninth season) is a concern, but his experience and reliability has value for a young squad. The coaches are giving second-year wideout Burton every chance to stick (starting him for Harvin in the slot in the Niners game, where he made a big 52-yard catch), so Aromashodu, who has also looked good in camp, needs to make a big impression in the coming preseason games to solidify his spot.
TE -- In: (4) Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison, Allen Reisner. Out: Mickey Shuler. Analysis: Shuler is close to Reisner, but was slowed early in camp by a heel injury. Reisner has very good hands and that will give him the edge on a team that favors two tight end sets. Ellison came in as an H-back/tight end and could eventually spend time in the backfield as a blocker -- which makes him valuable and gives the coaching staff more flexibility with the roster. If Carlson doesn't return soon from a sprained MCL, Shuler could hang around.
OL -- In (8): Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt, Geoff Schwartz, Joe Berger, DeMarcus Love. Out: Chris DeGeare, Patrick Brown, Levi Horn, Austin Pasztor, Bridger Buche, Grant Cook, Quentin Saulsberry, Tyler Holmes, Kevin Murphy. Analysis: The first-string offensive line appears set, and coach Leslie Frazier was pleased by their performance in San Francisco, but several injuries have jumbled the depth, forcing the team to sign a couple camp bodies. Though they were Vikings in 2011, DeGeare and Brown are the odd men out, but they might not go too far (practice squad), as this unit has limped through much of camp thus far.
DL -- In (7): Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans, D'Aundre Reed, Christian Ballard. Out: Trevor Guyton, Nick Reed, Jeff Charleston, Chase Baker, Tydreke Powell, Anthony Jacobs, Ernest Owusu. Analysis: The Vikings have depth at the defensive line, so it will be tough for players such as the rookie Guyton, Reed and Charleston to make the team. They won't part with seventh-round pick Guyton easily, so they may try to sneak him through waivers and onto the practice squad.
LB -- In (7): Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson, Marvin Mitchell, Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Everson Griffen. Out: Tyrone McKenzie, Corey Paredes, Solomon Elimimian, Tyler Nielsen. Analysis: The linebacker unit is not deep and after the first preseason game there are concerns. The team might try to put one or two (McKenzie and Elimimian) onto the practice squad, and then scour the waiver wire as other teams cut down their rosters.
DB – In (11): Chris Cook, Antoine Winfield, Josh Robinson, Mistral Raymond, Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Chris Carr, Brandon Burton, Robert Blanton, Zack Bowman, Eric Frampton. Analysis: Marcus Sherels, Andrew Sendejo, Bobby Felder, Chris Stroud, Reggie Jones, Corey Gatewood. Analysis: The Vikings have upgraded the first-string secondary with the addition of rookie Smith and the return of Winfield and Cook. Special teams will play a big part in which backups make the team, thus far giving the nod to Frampton, Sanford and Bowman. Sherels is a known commodity as a return man, so he will complicate the decisions in this unit.
Special teams -- In (3): K Blair Walsh, P/H Chris Kluwe, LS Cullen Loeffler. Out: Nobody. Analysis: All three have come to camp with no competition (unless DE Jared Allen decides he wants to try his hand again at long snapping). So far, the decision to cut K Ryan Longwell and draft Walsh has been a good one.
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