Yesterday, I took a shot at trying to predict the 53 man roster, and I did the offensive side of the ball. Today, we'll look at defense. The rules from yesterday still carry over: I'm just looking at the guys currently on the roster, and am not taking into consideration any pending free agency moves, simply for the fact we don't know what the final result will be in terms of who will be an unrestricted free agent, what the status of the franchise and transition tags are, etc.
Just a thought: If it turns out Ray Edwards is still an unrestricted free agent, he might take on Roger Goodell in a boxing match, without Goodell knowing it.
Defense and special teams, after the jump.
DT--Defensive tackle is going to be tough to project because of looming suspensions, so don't beat me up too bad over this one:
Kevin WIlliams--Ridiculous. Insane. Unbelieveable. Those adjectives describe Kevin WIlliams' game since he's been here, and it also describes his looming suspension. Not having him in the middle for the first four games is going to hurt the defense, and yet no one can still give me a logical explanation why he's being suspended when there are at least 10 other guys that took Star Caps that weren't suspended.
Christian Ballard--Ballard was described as a mid second round pick who might sneak into the first round coming into the draft, but he dropped because he's afflicted with the Reefer Madness...allegedly. Ballard kind of flew under the radar at Iowa because of all the attention Adrian Clayborn received, but Ballard has the potential to be as disruptive in the middle as Kevin Williams has been, and I see him also rotating in at DE as well, so don't freak when you only see four DE's on my final roster.
Jimmy Kennedy--I really think Kennedy has found his niche in the NFL. He was a first round bust for the Rams, but has done a good job as a rotational tackle spelling the starters, and I see him continuing that role in 2011. Kennedy's never going to live up to his first round hype, but he's very effective coming off the bench for the Vikes. He was slowed by a knee injury last year, but I look for him to be a big part of the defense this year.
Letroy Guion--I used to think that between Fred Evans and Guion, Evans was the better of the two, but Guion passed Evans last year. He got a better push, had more sacks, and just seemed more disruptive when he was in as opposed to Evans. Evans makes the final 53.
Fred Evans--Speaking of Fred, if there were no suspensions looming on the line, I don't think he'd be back. This is just anecdotal evidence on my part, but it seemed when he was in, teams ran right at him, and right over him. The defensive line as a whole slipped in 2010, and Evans was right in the middle of it. But I think he's back simply because they need the bodies early on.
Tremaine Johnson--Normally, Johnson would seem like a victim of numbers, but with the Williams suspension I can easily see the VIkings keeping Johnson.
Pat Williams--I keep going back and forth on whether or not PW will be back in purple. His retirement was almost a certainty at the end of the season, but then Pat started saying he'd like to come back...but not really with the Vikings. Maybe. I don't see him coming back to the Vikings, but I wouldn't be surprised if he was.
Jared Allen--Don't cut the mullet this year, JA. I think it's scientific fact that when you cut your hair, your production goes down. In all seriousness, Allen will need to be the anchor of a line that will be in flux at three positions for at least a quarter of the season, and he'll need to really step it up in 2011.
Everson Griffen--I'm thinking that when your career highlight is NOT throwing a Super Bowl party in Las Vegas, you probably weren't the rookie of the year, and your career might be headed for trouble. Griffen, ironically, had kind of the same rap Ray Edwards had coming out of college--first round talent, but a 7th round head. Edwards matured and became a very good player, will Griffen?
D'Aundre Reed--I'm usually not a guy that gives 7th round picks much of a shot at making the roster, but right now Reed makes it just because the Vikings will need depth at DE. Assuming Edwards goes, I would think they would address depth in free agency, but if I'm going to play by the rules I put myself under, I pencil Reed in as one of the back ups.
Brian Robison--I know I'm in the minority here, but I don't think that Brian Robison is an every down defensive end. Those of you that got fed up with the antics of Ray Edwards wanted the Vikings to cut him and go with Robison, and now you're probably going to get your wish. To me, Robison isn't very good against the run, and although he's a very good situational pass rusher, I have reservations as to whether he can do it on every down. Hey, I hope I'm wrong and Robison blows it up in 2011.
Ray Edwards--I know a lot of you guys are fed up with Ray's antics, but I understand where he's coming from. I don't think Edwards is pissed at the Vikings as much as he's pissed at the changing free agency rules, which have really hurt him, at least in his mind. Will he be back? I hope so, because over the course of the whole 2010 season I thought he was more consistent than Jared Allen was, but if he's an unrestricted free agent, I don't see it.
Adrian Awasom--Um, not to be disrespectful to Mr. Awasom, but does anyone know who this guy is and when the Vikings signed him? Anyone? Bueller?
Chad Greenway--Not sure if the franchise tag will be back with the new labor agreement, but the Vikings put that on Greenway, indicating the value the team places on him. Greenway has become one of the better linebackers in the NFL, and he has become a leader on defense. The Vikings will sign him to an extension, and hopefully he will play his entire career in Minnesota.
EJ Henderson--I'm still mad that EJ didn't win comeback player of the year, and Michael Vick did. Henderson played remarkably well in 2010 considering what he went through just to get on the field, and I expect him to be the heart and soul of the Vikings defense for a few more years.
Jasper Brinkley--Brinkley was pressed into a starter's role when EJ Henderson was hurt in 2009, and I liked the kid's moxie. He didn't play much in 2010, other than on special teams, and he'll keep his roster spot in 2011 as a special teams guy and as EJ's backup at MLB.
Heath Farwell--Farwell is the special teams captain, and a decent backup that might move into Ben Leber's spot. Leber will be a free agent, and with his age and slipping production the Vikings have shown no interest in re-signing him to this point.
Erin Henderson--Henderson stays simply because there isn't anyone else.
Ross Homan--Homan was drafted to take Leber's roster spot. I can see Farwell getting moved off of special teams and into Leber's spot, and Homan takes Farwell's special teams slot.
Kenny Onatolu--Another special teams guy who will stay.
Ben Leber--I don't see Leber coming back, for reasons stated above. I thought he was a good linebacker while he was a Viking, and he'll find a team. Good luck, Ben, and thanks for everything you did while wearing the Purple and Gold.
Antoine Winfield--Really, is there a better all around CB in the NFL? See, this is what we call a rhetorical question. We know the answer is no, but we ask it anyway to reinforce the obvious. Every year I think Winfield will slip a little, but as he gets older, he gets better. The fact he went to Ohio State makes it even sweeter for me.
Cedric Griffin--I feel bad for El Cid. He's been on a run of hard luck, and with two ACL's injuries I will be interested to see how his cover skills are. He was really coming around last year when he got hurt again, and the battle between him and Cook will be a fun one to watch. I give the edge to Griffin, but I think it's going to be a pitched battle.
Chris Cook--I see Cook competing for a starting job with Cedric Griffin, and he might win the job. Until Cook had both the left and right meniscus injuries, he looked sharp. Granted, he looked terrible after that, but I think a lot of that can be attributed to the injuries.
Asher Allen--In the hot mess that was the Vikings secondary in 2010, Allen was one of the few, occasional bright spots. At times he seemed like he was going to be pretty good, then at times...not so much. I see Allen competing for the nickel or dime spot.
Brandon Burton--I think Burton has a great shot to make the team. Cook and Griffen are coming off of injuries, and the rest of the guys might be veterans, but let's face it, they were pretty terrible. Burton is tall, fast, and according to his scouting report, a good fit for the cover-2 scheme that the Vikings run.
Lito Sheppard--I really hope Sheppard doesn't come back.
Frank Walker--He was better than Sheppard, but that's like saying the flu is better than the plague. You still don't want either one.
Cord Parks, Simeon Castille, Marcus Sherels--Maybe if Burton is a complete bust Marcus Sherels might sneak on to the final 53 man roster, but these guys just all seem like training camp bodies at this point.
Husain Abdullah--Not great, but he did okay. The deep secondary seemed to just be mediocre, as opposed to plain terrible, when Abdullah was playing. I know it's not a compliment, but Abdullah got better as the season went along, so maybe he can become a starter.
Madieu Williams--Williams was the worst safety in the NFL last year, but I have a feeling Leslie Frazier thinks it was a fluke, and expects Williams to rebound in 2011. He was hurt for the first part of 2009, but played well once he was in the lineup, and I was pleased when the Vikes signed him as a free agent, so Frazier might be on to something. But if he's wrong, the Vikes will pay for it all through the season.
Jamarca Sanford--Late in the season, the Vikings starting safeties were Abdullah and Sanford, and that tandem looked downright respectable. They weren't world beaters, and you weren't going to mistake them for Troy Polamolu, but they stopped the hemorrhaging, although by then it was too late to do anything but play out the season. Sanford leaped Tyrell Johnson, and can will push for a starting job in 2011.
Mistral Raymond--The talent is so thin at safety I think Raymond makes the team.
Tyrell Johnson--Tyrell Johnson, what happened? You went from promising starter to being inactive for most of last season. The fall continues as Johnson doesn't make it out of Mankato.
Eric Frampton--I can't see the Vikings carrying 5 safeties.
K--Ryan Longwell. When the NFL moved the kickoff back to the 35, that told me Longwell was coming back.
P--Chris Kluwe. He's developed into one of the best punters in the NFL. And a better twitterer, tweeter, whatever.
And that, I believe, adds up to 53. 24 on offense, 26 on defense, and 3 special teams guys, right? I know DT is heavy and DE is a bit light, but when you consider that Ballard might be that floater guy that goes from DT to DE, I hope it makes more sense.
Enjoy your holiday weekend!