The Vikings are in the final stages of assembling their opening day roster.
The trade for Kelly Holcomb was a good one. We needed an experienced veteran on the squad if only to serve as a mentor and advisor to Tarvaris Jackson. Brooks Bollinger has just never really made me comfortable as the primary backup; I expect he’ll descend to the third string Q several games into the season, after Holcomb has become familiar with the offense.
The loss of Tyler Thigpen to the Chiefs sucks. I thought he showed some real potential this preseason.
No surprises here: Chester Taylor, Adrian Peterson, and Mewelde Moore. While Peterson is the number two back for now, I’d expect his workload to increase as the season wears on, especially if he proves capable of picking up the blitz. It’s a wonderful luxury to have the one-two punch of Taylor and Peterson in the background.
I’d think Peterson will be our primary goal line back with his ability to push the pile. It’s hard to see exactly what Moore’s role will be aside from sitting on the bench and waiting for someone to get injured. I could see him being paired or rotated with Adrian Peterson as a third and long back, considering both players have the shake and bake ability to make people miss. I imagine Moore will again be our primary punt returner.
Three fullbacks? Really?!? Tony Richardson and Jeff Dugan were obviously going to make the team, but Naufahu Tahi as well?
I like Tahi a lot, actually; his physique makes him a look like a hybrid RB/FB. He looks big enough to handle the lead blocking duties and plow into the line in goal line situations but not so big that he loses speed as a runner. Retaining Tahi as the third fullback speaks volumes about the weakness of our special teams units.
I’m not ecstatic about our receiving corps but I’m fine with a top three of Bobby Wade, Robert Ferguson and Sidney Rice. Unfortunately, we’ll no doubt start the season with Troy Williamson as the second or third receiver until The Drops return. If they don’t, then great, maybe he won’t be a bust after all.
Aundrea Allison is the fourth receiver, for now. If he remains on the roster, his role will be as the kick returner.
The Vikings could very well pick up another veteran receiver. Keenan McCardell is out there and Quincy Morgan and Az-Zahir Hakim have been cut.
Then there’s the rumors ProFootballTalk.com is reporting that Bill Belichick is shopping receiver Randy Moss, with the Vikings being one of the teams mentioned.
THAT would make me ecstatic! Come home, Randy, come home!
Speaking of Belichick, the Strib‘s Seifert reports today that the Patriot’s head coach tried to intimidate Brad Childress into not claiming Patriots tight end Garrett Mills off waivers.
We know Jim Kleinsasser for what he is, a superb and consistent blocker. Despite an easy touchdown reception from Bobby Wade, Visanthe Shiancoe showed very little during the preseason.
Mills may end up displacing Shiancoe as the starting tight end. He stands 6’1" and weighs 235 lbs. He was the 9th pick of the fourth round of the 2006 draft (106 overall) by the Patriots. He missed last year due to injury. Mills ran a 4.46 40 at the Combine, a 2.74 20, a 1.60 10-yard dash, and has a 35 1/2 vertical jump.
As a senior at Tulsa, he caught 87 receptions for 1,235 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s extremely versatile; he can play fullback, H-back, tight end and can even line up in the slot and he’s an excellent special teams player. His coaches love him, as evidenced by Belichick’s desire to keep him for his practice squad.
Nothing’s really changed here except that Anthony Herrera seems to have beaten out Artis Hicks for the right guard spot. Unless the team claims other O-linemen off waivers (a distinct possibility), it appears the best we can hope for is that after another year and training camp under their belt, the line will have improved significantly.
It remains to be seen whether Matt Birk is past his prime, cause he didn’t look fantastic during the preseason. Rookie free agent guard Brian Daniels was released to make room for Garrett Millls; if he clears waivers, he’ll no doubt land on the practice squad. Fellow rookie free agent Chase Johnson rounds out the squad.
The best development on the defensive line during the preseason was the play of rookie Brian Robison. The guy was unstoppable and should have played his way into the regular rotation. He put in significant time at left end against the Cowboys and did a good job of creating pressure but the moment he was moved back to the right end spot, he stripped the ball from the quarterback and recovered the fumble.
So right end is clearly his natural position. It would be nice, though, if he could develop into as much of a pass rushing terror from the left side as he his from the right.
Erasmus James obviously is not yet ready for prime time; he was a beat late off the ball during the preseason, so his explosiveness is not yet there. But with Ray Edwards and Robison manning the right side, we should have no problems there.
Hopefully, Kenechi Udeze will have a much better year now that he’s able to return to the left side after covering for James on the right side after he went down during the second game of last season. If not, Darrion Scott will be eager and able to replace Udeze.
The little we saw of defensive tackle Fred Evans looked good. He forced a fumble during the preseason. It will go a long way toward improving the D-line’s overall performance if Evans proves to be capable of subbing for Pat Williams during passing downs so Big Pat isn’t absolutely exhausted by the end of the game. Kevin Williams has got to step up this year and prove he can beat a double team and get pressure up the middle. Spencer Johnson and Jayme Mitchell round out the squad.
Chad Greenway has been fantastic. He’s quick, athletic, and a sure tackler. He moves extremely well laterally, can find his way through traffic and sniff out the ball carrier. E.J. Henderson has been in command at the Mike spot and has done a wonderful job against the run and as a pass rusher. Ben Leber is solid at the Sam spot. You couldn’t ask for a better back up than Dontarrious Thomas and Heath Farwell excels as well. Vinny Ciurciu didn’t impress a great deal as linebacker this preseason but he was signed to be a special teamer.
The biggest surprise for me was that cornerback Dovonte Edwards was cut in favor of Ronyell Whitaker. Whitaker was simply awful last season and Edwards looked better this preseason than Whitaker. Edwards got an interception and Whitaker dropped one.
The Star Tribune‘s Kevin Seiftert quoted Edwards at the Vikings Access blog:
â€œI was pretty surprised to say the least. I felt like
I made a strong case for myself in the preseason, bounced back from
Iâ€™m really speechless at this point."
Seifert also quoted Edwards’ agent:
â€œThe kid had a great camp regardless of what the organization said.
I think it was a situation where they knew who they wanted to keep,
I could not agree more. I really thought Edwards had he job locked down. Edwards signed with the New York Giants, where he’ll be able to compete for the nickle spot. The Giants just got a steal.
Nevertheless, with the addition of Marcus McCauley as the nickleback, I think we got a lot stronger at the corner position. And Charles Gordon has a great preseason, so we got stronger at the dime position as well. Let’s just hope we don’t need to use Whitaker on a regular basis.
The other surprise was that safety Greg Blue was let go. Yes, he was battling against two experienced veterans for a spot, but I thought Tank Williams freezing in coverage to give up a touchdown sealed his fate. Blue will not be on the market long.
While Darren Sharper and Dwight Smith kick it, Tank Williams and Mike Doss are relatively unknown commodities in purple. Neither did much to stand out this preseason; I don’t even remember if Doss even played.
But this unit may be subject to change, as the Star Tribune reports that former Jacksonville safety and special teams ace Nick Sorensen could visit Winter Park tomorrow. At the very least, the addition of Sorensen would help to shore up an abysmal special teams unit.
The kicking units were fine. Chris Kluwe punted well enough. He did have a painful shank but then made up for it with a phenomenal coffin corner kick that rolled out of bounds at the five inch line. Ryan Longwell missed a couple of kicks he should have made but did nothing to cause much concern.
It was hard to figure out what the team was doing on kickoffs, with Longwell alternating between normal kickoffs, line drives, and squib kicks. He was able to reach the five yard line and beyond fairly consistently, so that would be an improvement over last year.
It was very impressive to see the field goal unit get out on the field, set up, and get a successful field goal off as time wound down before the half without benefit of a timeout.
The coverage unit, on the other hand, looked very familiar. That is to say, it looked absolutely brutal. So, apparently, Vinny Ciurciu wasn’t the answer. Long snapper Cullen Loeffler missed two tackles that resulted in long gains, and the last one resulted in a touchdown.
In addition to Seppo Evwaraye, the NFL Europe exemption, so far the practice squad includes defensive tackle Conrad Bolston, cornerback Chad Johnson, and wide receiver Martin Nance.