The Minnesota Vikings have passed the deadline to cut their roster down from 90 players to 75. With Christian Ballard receiving a roster exemption and some uncertainty regarding Jerome Felton and his suspension, the Vikings have chosen to cut thirteen players—eight offensive players and five defensive players.
These cuts rarely produce practice squad candidates, although some players have been claimed on waivers.
The 24-hour waiver period has expired and none of the Vikings players have been claimed, although that's not the end of their careers. Derrick Coleman being a good recent example
For those who can't recall, he was the UCLA running back that grabbed our attention by virtue of playing at a high level despite being deaf. The Vikings invited him to training camp, but he was among the first round of cuts. He cleared waivers (as far as I could tell), but signed with the Seahawks and ended up on their practice squad.
For what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the 13 players the Vikings parted ways with, and a rough 53-man roster projection without any explanation below it.
QB James Vandenberg
I don't think this comes as a surprise to anybody. Last year, Sage Rosenfels and McLeod Bethel-Thompson battled it out fairly intensely and the Vikings didn't come to a decision until the final round of cuts, but Vandenberg was well behind Bethel-Thompson in terms of ability and development.
Vandenberg flashed a little his junior year and could reasonably be argued as having been ruined by his offensive coordinator his senior year, but he neither had command of the huddle nor effective play. I didn't find him to have any interesting physical tools in his arms or legs, good ball placement or solid decisionmaking.
WR LaMark Brown
Brown "won" the #90 award from me during training camp at least once, and I think part of it is because it is difficult for him to navigate the fact that he is a TE/WR 'tweener that didn't really flash the ability to fulfill the back end of his responsibilities in tight end duties (blocking, largely) or separate as a receiver.
He's been a step behind for most of camp, but I did notice that he generated much more over the course of the last half of camp in terms of separation and production. Never a "favorite" target or a "reliable" one for any quarterback, he was nevertheless more and more useful as camp went on. His strength and size served him well, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him working out for a different team next year. I still don't think he has the baseline talent to do well, though.
WR Chris Summers
The most recent Bears receiver acquisition, I'm sure Summers will be replaced by another speedster. That's not to say that Summers' only abilities consisted of his size and speed, but he didn't bring much else to the table. He didn't have much lateral agility, but he could shake a defensive back off route on occasion.
That said, I didn't like how much he left on the table—he didn't leverage his physicality like he could have given his frame and he also isn't as refined as a receiver with his experience should be.
WR Erik Highsmith
One of my favorites heading into camp, Highsmith has been disappointing in his lack of production and technique. He didn't stand out from a physical perspective and didn't seem to use any of the route-running he had displayed at North Carolina.
More than that, there didn't seem to be a lot of effort into what he was doing and because of this ran at variable speeds, and not in a way that helps with route-running. Without a lot of flash or production, it was easy to see Highsmith go.
A lot of folks were pulling for the 5'7" Bradley Randle, who was a prototypical "space player" with pass protection skills, to boot. Unfortunately for Randle, he couldn't quite crack the depth chart as the fourth running back much less earn himself a spot on the fast track to the roster as the third back on the roster.
It's true that coaches praised Randle's pass blocking ability—one that he displayed with adroitness in the preseason—but his consistency as a runner left some to be desired. 4.3 yards a carry in the preseason is nice, but runs of 8, 5, 3, 1, 1, 4, and 8 provide a decent foundation for why an inconsistent runner might want a higher yards per carry total.
Moreover, he showcased more inconsistency in camp and could not generate significant yards after contact (in camp). Running backs who do well in space are nice, but the Vikings offense wants its running backs to do just as well in traffic as anywhere else.
His natural skill set, pass blocking capability and work ethic should get him another look, but like anyone else at this stage, will be a long shot.
Jerodis Williams did very little to stand out and even moved down the depth chart, not up, over the course of camp. As someone who displayed a little more vision than Randle, he had an opportunity to make waves, but he couldn't take advantage of small creases to generate yardage.
Wiliams was also not the most skilled pass blocker on the roster, although he did not really have an opportunity to prove otherwise (as he only had three pass blocking snaps in games). He wasn't the liability that Asiata seemingly was, but he did have his mistakes in camp. Without the agility of Randle or the instincts and experience of Banyard, there wasn't much that Williams could do to earn a spot.
OG Tyler Holmes
Tyler Holmes was the "ninth" man on the practice squad last year for the Vikings, as he and Ernest Owusu kept on getting released and re-signed to the practice squad throughout the season at alternating times. He was a late addition to the roster in 2012, too, having only signed on after the Vikings released Kris Adams in May.
Holmes problem the year previous was matching his performance in drills—where he displayed perfect form and solid fundamentals—to his performance against live play, where he never matched up. That provides a reason that he was included on the practice squad over other candidates who had better performance, but without significant improvement over the course of a year, it's easy to see why the Vikings parted ways with him.
He's a much better run blocker than pass protector, and is late off the snap at times, with communication problems, too. Holmes didn't have overpowering strength, but was perhaps ill-suited to playing guard for a team that needed both strength and agility in its scheme.
By all accounts, Camden Wentz had a solid preseason. A relatively forgettable outing against Houston was followed by a very good performance against Buffalo (despite Buffalo's complex defensive scheme) where he didn't get beat all too often and was effective in the run game.
But I didn't see the same things in camp, and I don't feel as if Wentz was better than Quentin Saulsberry, the third-string center from last year. Saulsberry was cut in the final round of cuts (and was just cut from the Broncos). Saulsberry, by the way, was CBS' sixth-ranked center. Wentz was 28th.
He was beat quite a bit in one-on-ones at camp, only really holding his own later in camp. Perhaps others will give him a look, but I doubt it.
DE Lawrence Jackson
This was the biggest surprise to me, especially after Jackson moved up the depth chart for a brief period of time above D'Aundre Reed near the end of camp.
But in preseason games, Jackson struggled to get off of his blocks and make plays. This most recent game saw a few hurries in his limited snaps—which is good for him—but he didn't display the run-defending prowess he's had with the Lions.
More often than not, he was blown off of blocks and moved around, although a small force in the pass rush game. He was pretty effective in camp, and this is the only cut I really disagree with. There could have been cuts elsewhere that would have allowed Jackson to compete directly with Reed for the backup defensive end spot.
LB Stanford Keglar
This is perhaps the least surprising cut, as Keglar didn't spend much time with the team after re-signing on the heels of Nathan Williams' release. I didn't see much of Keglar in camp, but nothing he did stood out in a big way.
I suspect it's a combination of two poor preseason games and unfamiliarity with the system that did him in. Cole and Mauti clearly outperformed him, and there weren't spots on the outside for him, either.
DB Greg McCoy
Throughout camp, McCoy was inconsistent throughout coverage, although was much better than the worst CBs of the previous year. He had some good moments in coverage but also made mistakes both in coverage and as a tackler.
With only 37 snaps on the field and one target by my count in the preseason, he didn't get tested very much in actual game play. This may seem good, but without All-22, we won't be able to tell if he was actually blanketing receivers or was the recipient of good circumstance.
Overall, he's not as comfortable in press coverage and doesn't have the skills suited for the nickel corner role, which would make his 5'10" size a liability.
Roderick Williams, to me, is an unfortunate cut even if I agree with it. Williams had flashes of brilliance at times, cutting off or locking down second and third-string receivers throughout camp. He logged more than one interception and did a good job making sure he stayed within range of receivers.
But allowing a 22-yard gain in the preseason against San Francisco didn't do him any favors, and for every time he locked down Cordarrelle Patterson, he would provide Lamark Brown with a large receiving window. Williams is instinctive enough to deserve some attention, but his potential physical limits and a missed tackle in the preseason could limit his opportunities.
From here, the Vikings have until the end of August 31st to decide on their final roster. Think that's a short amount of time? A Senior Bowl scout doesn't think so:
#NFL teams ask college scouts to visit campus for a practice, watch 3 tapes, talk to coaches/staff and write report for next draft that day.— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) August 27, 2013
College teams conduct training camp, show up and play for real week 1. #NFL players are pros and need 4 prac games to get ready? C'mon, man.— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) August 24, 2013
Now, without any explanation whatsoever, my projected 53-man roster.
QB: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, McLeod Bethel-Thompson
WR: Jerome Simpson, Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson, Joe Webb, Rodney Smith
LT: Matt Kalil
LG: Charlie Johnson, Jeff Baca
C: John Sullivan, Joe Berger
RG: Brandon Fusco
RT: Phil Loadholt, Brandon Keith
TE: Kyle Rudolph, John Carlson, Rhett Ellison
HB: Adrian Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Joe Banyard
FB: Jerome Felton*, Zach Line
RDE: Jared Allen, Everson Griffen
UT: Kevin Williams, Christian Ballard*, Sharrif Floyd
NT: Letroy Guion, Fred Evans
LDE: Brian Robison, D'Aundre Reed
SLB: Chad Greenway, Gerald Hodges
MLB: Erin Henderson, Audie Cole, Michael Mauti
WLB: Desmond Bishop, Marvin Mitchell
CB: Chris Cook, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson, Brandon Burton, Marcus Sherels
S: Harrison Smith, Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo