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Who’s in, who’s out ?

As I struggle to make sense of it all, I am reminded of my younger days when I was fortunate enough to attend the Temple of the Maharajah Ali Bali Abdalli-Mali. Ali was a wise and venerated sage whose mental gifts were the topic of intellectual lore throughout the vast expanses of the Asian Hindu lands of the Indus Valley. Of course, I would listen intently at his every utterance, hoping to glean just a pittance of “The Great One’s” knowledge.

One day, the Abdalli-Mali told me a story of the time he came across a very intelligent man who’s I.Q. was a staggering 180. “How Wonderful…..we will talk of the secrets of the Universe, of quantum physics and of the origins of man”……and thus it was !

The very next day, the enlightened one came to meet a woman who spoke of such eloquence and poetic beauty that her very words painted a picture so vivid that the Master could only deduce that hers was a mind as deep as a vast ocean. “How Wonderful….we will discuss the distant places and events that have shaped our world into the array of delights and mysteries that man has debated for generation upon generation……and thus it was !

Upon the arrival of the 3rd day, the mighty Ali Bali was greeted by the “Village Idiot” whose complete lack of cognitive ability could be blamed on his Simian like I.Q. of under 60. The Master was rendered nearly speechless at the idea of trying to communicate with one so limited. But then it came to him…..”How bout them Packers ?” ……and thus it has always been.

Anyways, it is time for the team to make it’s final and most drastic cuts. By the end of the weekend, the team needs to have it’s roster set at 53 men. So….who’s in, and who’s out ? Well, my opinion is as baseless and non-insightful as the next guys, so here goes. I wrote this article before the Bronco game so I’ve updated a few things after watching the final pre-season game. That is the reason you will see an update on a few of these, listed below.

( Trumpets blasting ! )

Let’s begin with the offense……..

Quarterback – ( 3 ) – Starter: Brett Favre
Back-up: Sage Rosenfels , Joe Webb
Out: Tarvaris Jackson

The Vikings find Joe Webb’s athleticism just too good to pass up. It is very doubtful that they could slip him through waivers so the choice here is between Rosenfels and T-Jax. My thinking here is that Chili will lean on the man he drafted and spent the last four plus years trying to develop. He still plays like a rookie at times, but he has improved in every facet of the game from year to year. Without Favre, he would be the starter, so it makes sense that the Vikings will hang on to him, despite the mechanical flaws in his delivery. He is much quicker and more decisive in his thought process then he once was and no longer has the constant “deer in the headlights” look about him. As for Rosenfels, he will be scooped up quickly by another team and be a very good back-up and/or starter in the right system. The thing about this, that perplexes me most, is that Jackson is a better fit in a vertical offense, where Sage is a great fit for the West Coast style the Vikings run. Don’t be shocked if I called this one wrong based upon this reason alone.

** Update : After watching the final preseason game, I have changed my mind on this one. T-Jax looked just awful at a time he could not afford to look bad. The nod goes to Sage because he is simply a better passer and a better fit in the West Coast offense. If Favre goes down, I think Rosenfels would be a better solution.

RB – ( 5 ) – Starter(s) – Adrian Peterson – HB
Naufahu Tahi – FB
Back-ups – Albert Young , Toby Gerhart , Darius Reynaud,
Out – Ian Johnson, Ryan D’Imperio

Versatility is a big key here, and the team still hasn’t settled on a third down back. Jeff Dugan makes the team as a tight end but can also play fullback. I am torn between D’Imperio who had several good moments during preseason, and Tahi who isn’t anything special, but does a better job of blocking. My guess is that because of the problems with pass protection, the team keeps Tahi to help in that category while they attempt to sneak D‘Imperio onto the practice squad. As the season progresses, look for Gerhart to get more touches. Reynaud can run the wildcat, and don’t forget that Percy Harvin can also carry the rock. Because of the flexibility of Harvin, Dugan and Reynaud, the team may only keep four of the above and save the extra roster spot for another position. Albert Young is a good cut back runner who waits for the play to develop then hits the hole hard. But he just isn’t very nifty and has little open field speed. Ian Johnson has an uphill battle from the start. He would have to make it on his special teams play. My guess is he is a roster casualty.

Update: I really like D’Imperio !

WR- ( 5 ) – Starters – Bernard Berrian
Percy Harvin
Back-ups – Greg Camarillo, Greg Lewis, Javon Walker
PUP – Sidney Rice
Injured reserve – Jaymar Johnson
Gone – Taye Biddle, Freddie Brown, Marquis Hamilton, Logan Payne

With Sidney Rice out for at least the first six games, the team quickly moved to solidify the roster by adding free agent wideout Javon Jackson, and trading CB Bennie Sapp for slot receiver Greg Camarillo. Other rumors have the team interested in T.J. Houshmanzadeh ( who Seattle would love to move) and/ or San Diego holdout Vincent Jackson. Barring a trade or waiver pick-up, Barrian and Harvin hold the fort until Sidney Rice returns. Camarillo comes with two of the best hands in the NFL. He did not drop a single pass in 09. Walker was less then stellar during the SF game ( dropped passes ) but showed why the Vikes were interested by out leaping a defender to make a circus catch for a touchdown. The play was impressive and probably solidified a roster spot. As for Logan Payne, he is another candidate for the practice squad.

Update: Javon Walker looks rusty and a tad slow to me. But he provides a bid target, and brings experience and leaping ability. I think he showed enough to keep him around at least until Rice returns.

TE – ( 3 ) – Starter – Visanthe Shiancoe
Back-ups – Jim Kleinsasser
Jeff Dugan
Gone – Mickey Shuler, Garrett Mills

Garrett Mills will make this team if the powers that be decide to keep four tight ends. Shiancoe, Kleinsasser and Dugan are givens. Dugan saves the team a slot by doubling as a fullback. I like Mills but the decision here comes down to numbers.

Off. Line- ( 9 ) – Starters – LT – Bryant McKinnie
LG – Steve Hutchinson
C – John Sullivan
RG – Anthony Herrera
RT – Phil Loadholt

Back-ups – Chris DeGeare – G
Ryan Cook – T
Drew Radivich – T
Jon Cooper – C
Gone – Thomas Austin – G
Adrian Battles – G
Patrick Brown – T
Chris Clark – T

Don’t be surprised if the team keeps a slot open as they scan the waiver wire looking for a replacement for Artis Hicks. Herrera is healthy this year, but the injury to Sullivan has him playing center with Rookie 5th round pick Chris DeGeare playing right Guard. Both make the team, but if the team elects to go with 8 instead of 9, then it becomes a choice between Cooper and Radivich. I like Jon Cooper, but the team is using him as a third stringer behind Sullivan and Hererra. So my guess here is that Cooper is expendable. Chris Clark ( all 6’5” and 315 lbs. ) couldn’t block Betty White if you took away her walker. The team usually tries to slip at least one offensive lineman onto the practice squad ( hopefully not Clark) but maybe Cooper sticks if he doesn’t get picked by another team.

Update: This is the most disappointing group to me. The Vikings are in need of a player or two to really step up and fill the back-up positions. I didn’t see anything that really stood out to me with this group. DeGeare is going to make the team on potential. He is raw but very big and strong and Childress loves him. Radovich and Cooper are in the running but both have issues. Radovich is slow like a bad death but works hard and drives the pile on running plays. Cooper is a bit undersized and has potential but seems to be buried in Childress’s doghouse.

Kicker – Ryan Longwell
Punter – Kris Kluwe
Long snapper – Cullen Loeffler
Kick-off specialist – Rhys Lloyd

Unless he has a big game against Denver, my guess is the team cannot afford a kick-off specialist that cannot consistently kick the ball deep into the end zone. It would be a luxury to know that the opponent has to start 50 % of the time following a score on the 20 yard line. But really, is it realistic to tie up a spot if he doesn’t prove he can do the job ?

Update: Rhys Lloyd may have kicked his way onto the team but putting every kick well into the end zone against the Broncos. I think he is the unfortunate, final roster cut as it comes down to him or DeAndre Wright.

Defense –

Defensive Line – ( 9 ) – Starters – Ray Edwards – DE
Kevin Williams – DT
Pat Williams – DT
Jared Allen – DE
Back-ups – Jimmy Kennedy – DT
Everson Griffen – DE
Letroy Guion – DT
Brian Robison – DE
Jayme Mitchell – DE

Gone – Fred Evans – DT
Tremaine Johnson – DT
Mike Montgomery – DE

The first eight are a given. If the team decides to carry 9 defensive linemen then it will be a choice between Fred Evans and Jayme Mitchell who have both had excellent camps and either one could start for about ½ of the teams in the league.

Update: Fred Evans needs a spot on this team ! He is a better player right now then either Letroy Guion or Everson Griffin, both of whom make this team. My choice here would be keeping Evans and cutting Jayme Mitchell. But I believe that the team has made up their mind on Mitchell ( who deserves a spot as well ). That means Evans is the final cut ! I don’t agree with it, but I think that this is how it will play out.

Linebackers – ( 6 ) – Starters – Chad Greenway
E.J. Henderson
Ben Leber
Back-ups – Jasper Brinkley
Heath Farwell
Erin Henderson
Out – Nate Triplett
Kenny Onatolu
Injured Reserve – J. Leeman

The first 5 are easy. But how do you NOT keep Erin Henderson or Kenny Onatolu who have both played very well. Henderson is developing and is an excellent special teamer. While Onatolu is very good against the run and is also a very good special teamer. It’s like splitting hairs here, but I think the team believes that Henderson has more to offer then Onatolu so my guess is he makes it while we bid good-bye to Kenny Onatolu. Nate Triplett is a casualty who the team is hoping can slide onto the practice squad. Farwell makes the teams as a special teams demon.

Cornerback – ( 5 ) – Starters – Antoine Winfield
Chris Cook
Nickel – Asher Allen
Back-ups – Lito Sheppard
DeAndre Wright
PUP – Cedric Griffin
Gone – Marcus Sherels

Look for a trade or waiver deal here to fill out the final spot as the Vikings would like to carry 5 cornerbacks. Also, with Chris Cook missing at least the first two weeks, depth at corner is a major concern. The team may opt to hang on to either Sherels or Wright at least until Cook returns.

Update: The team may opt to hang on to a 5th corner so either Wright or Sherels may still be alive after both showed well in the final preseason game. I’m leaning toward DeAndre Wright here.

Safety – ( 5 ) Starters – Tyrell Johnson
Madieu Williams
Back-ups – Husain Abdullah
Jamarca Sanford
Eric Frampton
Out – Colt Anderson

The team just cannot afford to carry Colt Anderson. He is a good special teamer, but just doesn’t have the speed or range to play safety and is too small to convert to linebacker. The Vikings may opt to carry only eight defensive backs until Cedric Griffin returns. If not, then the team might look to add a corner via waivers.

The final picks come down to weather Brad Childress wants to keep Rhys Lloyd as a kick-off specialist, or opts for more depth in the secondary by keeping 10 defensive backs instead of 9, or goes with 4 tight ends instead of three.

Ultimately, the final 2-3 roster spots are agonizing. I think the team HAS to keep 5 corners especially because one of them ( Chris Cook ) cannot play for the first two weeks. The team could opt to cut either Frampton or Abdullah, but my guess is they will both make it. My guess is that DeAndre Wright makes the final spot and the team cuts Rhys Lloyd. I like the idea of a kick-off specialist, but the numbers just don’t allow such a luxury. Wright will probably be released as soon as Chris Cook returns and hopefully is retained on the practice squad.

That’s my take’ for what it’s worth. I am sure I will be incorrect on several of these as there are always surprises on the final cuts. Trades, waiver wire pick-ups, etc. can change everything here. Let me know what you think – Coach Boynton

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