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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Position-by-Position: How the Vikings’ 53-man roster was shaped

By Matthew Coller

After six weeks of practice and four preseason games, the Minnesota Vikings released their 53-man roster on Saturday afternoon. Here’s how the decisions were made at each spot:


QB
Sam Bradford, Case Keenum

How it was decided:

At the beginning of preseason, Case Keenum and Taylor Heinicke appeared to be neck-and-neck. Mike Zimmer even said before Game 1 that neither had emerged. That quickly changed when both saw game action. Keenum was solid in every appearance, while Heinicke largely struggled, outside of his game-winning drive against the 49ers. The Vikings talked about the possibility of keeping a third quarterback on the roster, but Heinicke went 9-for-20 in the final preseason game against the Dolphins, which likely secured his fate. When he clears waivers, Heinicke will go to IR because he suffered a concussion against Miami. Once he recovers, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him on the practice squad.


RB
Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham

How it was decided:

It was questionable whether offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur would want a fullback in his offense after scaling back Zach Line’s role last year. But Ham is more versatile. He can be used as running back depth and on special teams if needed. We might see the occasional surprise pass play to Ham when the Vikings line up in heavy packages.


Wide Receivers
Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams. Stacy Coley

How it was decided:

For the second straight camp, Jarius Wright’s spot was in question, but he did a solid job filling in with the first team when Laquon Treadwell was battling a hamstring injury. What Wright provides that neither rookie does is experience. He will be in the right place, right time, even if his upside is merely as a capable slot man. Both Adams and Coley showed signs in practice and preseason that they could make an impact right away. Adams scored two touchdowns on red zone screens and Coley flashed big-play ability in two of the Vikings’ preseason games. While Cayleb Jones had a big final game, the body of work since late July put the two rooks ahead.


Tight Ends
Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Bucky Hodges

How it was decided:

Kyle Carter had a better camp than Hodges, but the Vikings couldn’t risk another team swooping in and taking their high-ceiling rookie. Zimmer and Shurmur both said they appreciated how hard Hodges worked to adapt to a new style and become a better run blocker during camp. The former Virginia Tech star could have a small role in the offense right away as a vertical mismatch. His route running isn’t pristine and he won’t be mistaken for a blocking tight end, but he can go down the field and make plays, as he showed in the Vikings’ second preseason game against Seattle.


Offensive line
Riley Reiff, Nick Easton, Pat Elflein, Joe Berger, Mike Remmers, Aviante Collins, Rashod Hill, Danny Isadora. Jeremiah Sirles

How it was decided:

Alex Boone simply did not fit in the Vikings’ running scheme as well as Nick Easton. The veteran guard may have been a solid pass blocker last season, but Pro Football Focus ranked him 48th in run blocking. He struggled to block on the move as well as Easton. And Part 2 of the equation is Pat Elflein proving he could play. The third-round pick was very good during preseason, giving the Vikings confidence that he can start as a rookie.

The Vikings must have decided Collins’s upside was better than Willie Beavers’s because Beavers was much more competent this year and showed signs of progress. Danny Isidora could be next year’s starting right guard. He flashed a good deal of potential, catching Zimmer’s eye right away in camp.


Defensive Line
Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower, Jaleel Johnson. Shamar Stephen

How it was decided:

For a guy that didn’t put up big numbers in college, Tashawn Bower had an impressive set of stats and highlights at the end of the preseason. He simply played his way onto the team by consistently beating tackles for pressures, sacks, holding penalties etc. and still playing the run fairly well.

Jaleel Johnson, a leader for the Mr. Mankato Award, was dominant in the final three preseason games, routinely finding himself in the backfield blowing up runs. He and Datone Jones were competing for a spot and he won the job outright. Jones is on IR, but it’s likely that he will reach an injury settlement and be released.


Linebackers
Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Kentrell Brothers, Ben Gedeon, Emmanuel Lamur, Eric Wilson

How it was decided:

Ben Gedeon outplayed Emmanuel Lamur and Edmond Robinson in camp and won the starting weak side linebacker job. All the reasons the Vikings liked him in the draft showed up in preseason – his instincts, flexibility, explosiveness against the run. If Gedeon wants to further develop, he’ll need to improve against the pass, but he could add some value in running downs right away.

Wilson is another undrafted free agent who stood out enough to find a spot, likely with his special teams performance. There was a chance that the Vikings would move on from Lamur, but he is the only backup in the group with any experience.


Defensive Backs
Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Mackensie Alexander, Tramaine Brock, Marcus Sherels, Antone Exum Jr., Anthony Harris
Jayron Kearse

How it was decided:

While some played their way into jobs, Mackenzie Alexander appears to have played his way out of one. Despite hyping Alexander’s progress during the offseason, it became clear they weren’t sold when the former Clemson standout played the entire first half against the Dolphins while all the other starters didn’t see a snap. Whether Brock plays right away is yet to be seen, but he has a skill set an experience that could translate into the slot and solidify a questionable position. This move certainly leaves Alexander’s future in question.

As for the rest, it wouldn’t be stunning to see a safety added still. Antone Exum established himself as a capable backup safety, but there’s almost zero experience behind Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith.


Kicker
Kai Forbath

How it was decided:

A guy who can slam one home from 58 yards out is pretty exciting to have, but Forbath is more experienced and more accurate. And he can hit from around 50 as well.

Punter
Ryan Quigley

How it was decided:

It didn’t appear that the Vikings were too pleased with either punter. It’s possible they make a change.

Long Snapper
Kevin McDermott

How it was decided:

Kevin’s the best.

The post Position-by-Position: How the Vikings’ 53-man roster was shaped appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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