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Projecting the Vikings' 53-Man Roster: Offensive Line

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Well, after pimp-slapping around the resident Packer troll. . .well, former resident, anyway. . .it's time to get back into projecting the 53-man roster.

As the GM here, I've said that I reserve the right to change my mind about things at any given time.  Well, I have decided to make a change to the roster, based largely on comments and on what I've heard coming out of mini camp.  In my infinite benevolence, I've decided that Visanthe Shiancoe is worthy of a second chance to prove himself in Minnesota, so I'm going to include him on the roster.  Sadly, it means I have to cut someone to make that happen, and the guy that has to go is Naufahu Tahi, who I like a lot.  But, if Shiancoe is going to stay, I can't justify keeping that many TEs and FBs on the roster with everything else that's going to be needed.

So, with that change, the 2008 roster to this point looks like this:

QB Tarvaris Jackson
QB Gus Frerotte
QB John David Booty
RB Adrian Peterson
RB Chester Taylor
RB Maurice Hicks
FB Thomas Tapeh
FB Jeff Dugan
WR Bernard Berrian
WR Sidney Rice
WR Bobby Wade
WR Aundrae Allison
WR Robert Ferguson
WR Jaymar Johnson
TE Visanthe Shiancoe
TE Jim Kleinsasser
TE Garrett Mills

This brings us to the offensive line, a group that might be the best unit of its kind in the National Football League.  As with a lot of positions on this roster, there isn't a whole lot of drama at the top of the depth chart, but there could be some interesting decisions to be made at the bottom.  Here's everyone that's listed on the roster as we stand today:

Number Name Height Weight Experience College
60 Drew Radovich 6'5" 305 R (UDFA) Southern California
62 Ryan Cook 6'6" 330 3 New Mexico
63 Brian Daniels 6'4" 305 1 Colorado
64 Anthony Herrera 6'2" 315 5 Tennessee
65 John Sullivan 6'3" 285 R Notre Dame
67 Dan Mozes 6'3" 295 1 West Virginia
68 Tim Mattran 6'5" 300 R (UDFA) Stanford
72 Marcus Johnson 6'6" 320 4 Mississippi
74 Bryant McKinnie 6'8" 335 7 Miami (FL)
75 Chase Johnson 6'8" 330 2 Wyoming
76 Steve Hutchinson 6'5" 315 8 Michigan
78 Matt Birk 6'4" 310 11 Harvard
79 Artis Hicks 6'4" 335 7 Memphis

As I've stated, we know who the starters are, but we'll start by taking a brief look at them anyway.

We'll start at left tackle with big Bryant McKinnie, who's been the subject of some hand-wringing this off-season ever since he felt the need to, allegedly, clubber somebody outside of a night club with a metal pole.  He's entered what's called a pre-trial diversion program, and apparently that could cause all of the charges against him stemming from the incident to be dropped.  Hopefully, for the sake of the Vikings, that's exactly what will happen.  Say what you will about McKinnie's deficiencies. . .and he does, indeed, have them. . .but he's a solid left tackle at the worst, and the prospect of either Artis Hicks or Chase Johnson starting in that spot should, for now, scare the crap out of any Viking fan.  He's been a devastating run blocker since Steve Hutchinson came to town, but is still prone to getting beaten by speed rushers.

Speaking of Hutchinson, the best left guard in the business has continued to prove that he's been worth every penny it took to sign him away from the Seattle Seahawks prior to the 2006 season.  He's an outstanding blocker on both the pass blocking and run blocking fronts, and has proven to be a great leader for this team as well.  I could go on about Hutchinson all day, but there really aren't a lot of platitudes that I could place upon him that you haven't heard a thousand times already, so we'll move on.  In conclusion, Steve Hutchinson is really, really, really, REALLY good.

Moving on to the center spot, we've had some intrigue here this off-season as well, with Matt Birk skipping a lot of Minnesota's organized team activities in protest of not being entirely happy with his contract.  2008 is the last season that Birk is under contract to the Vikings, and (amazingly) he's the last link the Vikings have to the 1998 team that went 15-1 (Birk was a rookie that season).  While Birk is getting a little bit older, he's still among the league's best centers when he's healthy.  He might be the best pulling center in the league, and he manages to make the right line calls the overwhelming majority of the time.  Will he be a Viking after this season?  Nobody knows for sure. . .but, as of now, he's still here, and there's no reason to think he won't continue to be outstanding.

A few weeks into the 2007 season, Anthony Herrera replaced Artis Hicks as the starting right guard.  It was at that point that a running game that was already very good managed to become even better, as Herrera showed a great nasty streak and blew open holes for Vikings running backs whenever asked.  The Vikings clearly feel that he's the long-term answer at right guard, as they rewarded his hard work with a 5-year contract extension last season.  Not bad for a former undrafted free agent that started on the Minnesota practice squad and busted his tail to get to where he is today.  Herrera has proven to be very solid, and will likely continue to get better.

Upon further review, I think that I was too hard on Ryan Cook over the course of the season.  For a guy that was playing his first full season at RT after playing center in college, he actually did a pretty solid job.  He didn't commit a whole lot of penalties, and his pass protection got more solid as the season progressed.  His run blocking, as you'd expect from a Minnesota offensive lineman, was very good throughout the course of the season, and he's also a solid young prospect that should continue to improve as well.  So, Mr. Cook, if you're reading this, I apologize for the majority of the bad things I said about you last season.

So, as I said, the starters are set. . .the question is, now, what are we doing for depth?

First off, I believe that Artis Hicks finds a way to stay on this roster.  Brad Childress imported him from Philadelphia in his first year on the job and, while he's not spectacular by any means, he does bring some versatility.  If you've read the site for a while, you know that I'm not a big fan of Hicks by any stretch. . .it's hard to remember an O-lineman that had as many drive killing penalties in a year as he did in 2006. . .but he's more proven than some of the other guys competing for spots, and Childress seems to like him, so he'll stay around.

Marcus Johnson, on the other hand, needs to go.  The last surviving member of the Vikings' 2005 draft class, he's never really played up to his ability or fit in anywhere in the Minnesota scheme.  When you draft a guy in the second round of a draft and, going into his fourth season, he appears to be a bit contributor at best, it's time to cut your losses.  Maybe he can be traded for a draft pick or something, but I'd be surprised by that.

And, since I'm running a bit short on time here, I'll just cut to the chase.  I might do an edit and come back to this later on, but for now, here's what I've got:

Starters:  Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, Matt Birk, Anthony Herrera, Ryan Cook
Backups:  Artis Hicks, John Sullivan, Chase Johnson, Drew Radovich

That's all for now, folks. . .like I said, hopefully I'll be able to come back to this later and expound on it a little further.  As it is, feel free to discuss, and continue enjoying your Tuesday!