The Minnesota Vikings are undefeated! Well, in the preseason that is, as many hope the early found success will translate smoothly to the regular season, when they take on the St. Louis Rams their first game of the year. Roster cuts were due by Saturday afternoon by all NFL teams, and the harsh reality for a few came as Minnesota cut 17 players to drop their roster total to 53. There were a few surprise cuts, to go along with some pretty predictable ones. Minnesota sported quite the safety depth throughout the preseason, but will only carry just four heading into the regular season. This review will go over some of the notable players, while giving credit to some who impressed just enough to win a spot for themselves.
Home grown prospect Adam Thielen makes the 53 man roster. – Just about everyone on the Vikings roster was rooting for one hard-working man to make this roster, and that guy was wide receiver Adam Thielen. Young stud wide receiver, Cordarrelle Patterson, spent the last two weeks clamoring for a position for his roommate and for whatever the case may be, his voice was heard, as Zimmer decided to keep the Mankato prospect. Thielen proved throughout preseason and training camp that he deserved to be on the Vikings’ roster. Not only can Thielen be used all around the offense in each wide receiver spot, but he also excelled on special teams. Thielen had a 75-yard punt return against the Arizona Cardinals, and made numerous tackles running down on special teams covering punts. With Jerome Simpson’s three game suspension, this may just give the young man a chance to make an impact for Minnesota early in the season.
Minnesota chooses youth over experience for the safety position. – The Vikings brought in some experienced veterans to compete for the starting safety position opposite Harrison Smith, but wound up passing on the veterans they picked up and keeping three youngsters at the position. Smith has become a cornerstone at his free safety position, and will play a pivotal role in the progression of this Minnesota defense. The opposite side of the field seems to be Robert Blanton’s to lose. Minnesota kept three safeties on the roster besides Smith; Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendajo, and Antone Exum will all get a chance to contribute on the active roster. Blanton had seemed to be leading the position battle early in camp, but was hobbled by an injury, which caused him to miss a few games during the preseason. Surprisingly, the Vikes cut Kurt Coleman, Chris Crocker, and Mistral Raymond, with Crocker being the most significant due to his rapport with coach Mike Zimmer. Last season’s starter, Jamarca Sanford, was also put on Injured Reserve. Sanford has been battling injuries throughout the whole offseason and has not been able to showcase much for the new head coach.
Zimmer heaps praise for rookie, Shamar Stephen. – It was curious early on when Minnesota continuously put the 7th round rookie in during first team reps. Zimmer must have known something no one else did, as the young man can hold his own in the trenches. The Vikes gave a one-year extension to Fred Evans early on in March, practically handing him the backup role to newly signed free agent Linval Joseph. Stephen continued to progress at a rapid pace, eventually beating out Evans for the position, leading Minnesota to cut Evans. Defensive line coach, Andre Patterson, has been adamant about the Vikes getting a steal in the 7th round with Stephens, as the rookie has been moved in and out of the nose tackle position and the three technique thus for this offseason.
Minnesota brings one of their own back in tight end, MarQueis Gray. – Welcome back to Minnesota, MarQueis, as the former quarterback/wide receiver for the Minnesota Golden Gophers was claimed off waivers by the Vikes. Gray has transformed his game into a tight end, and could become a viable option if anyone were to go down in front of him on the depth chart. Gray was a former standout as a Gopher, considered a dual threat as a quarterback, and later became more of a wide receiver option, when the starting quarterback position was handed over to Philip Nelson. Gray’s ability to adapt to multiple positions on offense makes him an asset as a backup going forward.
The preseason is now over, and after an undefeated four games, Minnesota has started to form some high hopes for first year coach Mike Zimmer and crew. If Cassel can prove he is a capable quarterback, and the defense continues to show flashes of brilliance as they did in the preseason, the Vikings can very well become an NFC team be reckoned with.
Commentary by Justin Huffman
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