This week on the vikings.com Blog, we’re breaking down the Vikings roster position-by-position to give fans a comprehensive assessment of the team as the first preseason game – this Saturday night in Tennessee – approaches. We’ve already looked at the offensive line, defensive line and tight ends. Up next are the defensive backs and wide receivers.
The DB position, especially as it relates to CBs, is much like the defensive line in that playing time will be distributed among several players this year for the Vikings. Just as the DL has a couple of starters cemented in their positions (DE Jared Allen and DT Kevin Williams), the CB spot has the same with Cedric Griffin (assuming he’s healthy enough to play) and Antoine Winfield. After that, though, there is some intense competition for playing time.
Garnering most of the snaps with the second-team base defense at CB are Asher Allen, Chris Cook and Marcus Sherels. All three of these players have different strengths; Allen is a smart player, Cook might have the most raw ability and Sherels has grit. If you characterize Winfield and Griffin as CBs #1 and #2, then Allen, Cook and Sherels comprise CBs #3-5, in some order. Because Cook gets first-team looks in the nickel package (three CBs on the field), I’ll give the edge to him as being the #3 CB. Allen and Sherels get primarily second-team looks in the nickel package, with Allen playing the slot and Sherels on the outside.
After the five aforementioned CBs, the next guys in line (in my opinion) are Brandon Burton, Cord Parks and Devon Torrence. Burton, a rookie fifth-round pick this year, and Parks got third-team reps on Wednesday morning, so perhaps they are slightly ahead of Torrence. But don’t count Torrence out, either. He’s a tremendous athlete (was drafted to play pro baseball) and will challenge for a roster spot this year. Burton has gotten some run with the second-team nickel, so that puts him in the top six CBs.
Let’s slide up to the safety spot, where it looks like Husain Abdullah will have one starting spot and then Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford will battle for the other. Right now I’d give the edge to Sanford, partly because Johnson is dealing with a hamstring, but this is a close race and won’t be decided for a while. We’re going to need preseason games to figure this one out.
After those three players, I think you’ve got to look at rookie Mistral Raymond. I’ve talked about the eye test on the blog a lot this training camp and Raymond is a guy that passes the eye test. He measures in at 6-1, 194 pounds and he is a fluid athlete. He played both CB and S in college, but with the Vikings I think he’ll be a safety. Abdullah was not at practice on Wednesday morning, and it was Raymond who filled in by taking first-team reps. So I’d put him as the #4 safety right now, with special teams star Eric Frampton right behind. He’s a capable, reliable player, no matter where you put him on the field.
Guys not yet mentioned are Chris Adingupu, Simeon Castille and Ryan Hill. It’s important to not count those guys out because we’ve only seen them for eight days and we haven’t even played a preseason game yet. Adingupu made a great play during 7-on-7 Wednesday morning, displaying great closing speed on a deep pass.
Again, the important thing to remember as we breakdown the roster position-by-position is that the depth charts are not well-defined yet. Coaches are still experimenting with rotations and combinations and we won’t have a clear indication of who will make the roster until we get closer to the end of August.
Let’s move on to the WRs, where we have a bunch of guys competing for what should amount to five or maybe six spots. As is the case with several other areas of the roster, we know a couple of the established starters – Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. Beyond that, though, there is some intense competition for playing time and roles.
Let’s start with Michael Jenkins, who was brought in just before camp and is, in my mind, a sure thing to make the roster because of his knowledge of the offense, leadership and versatility. After that, there’s a deep pool of players battling for depth chart position, including free agent pickup Devin Aromashodu, Greg Camarillo, Juaquin Iglesias and Jaymar Johnson. After those players, it’s Manny Arceneaux, Andre Holmes, Dominique Johnson and Stephen Burton battling for position. Return capability could become an important factor in roster decisions at WR. Camarillo was the Vikings punt returner last season, Johnson has return ability and I’ve also seen Burton take reps at returner during camp.
A lot of fans were worried about the WR position when Sidney Rice chose to leave and sign with Seattle, but I actually think this is a deep position for the Vikings. Do they have an embarrassment of riches? Maybe not. But they do have a deep group of capable players and I’m certain that Vikings coaches and scouts will have to make some difficult decisions that will land some pretty good football players on the street and eventually on other rosters.
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