So on Wednesday, I took a look at who I thought would stay on the Vikings' roster for Opening Day on the offensive side of the ball. If you'll recall, I had 27 of the 53 spots on the roster reserved.
QB (3) - Brett Favre, Sage Rosenfels, John David Booty
RB (4) - Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor, Albert Young, Naufahu Tahi
WR (6) - Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bobby Wade, Jaymar Johnson, Darius Reynaud
TE (3) - Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Jeff Dugan
OL (8) - Bryant McKinnie, Steve Hutchinson, John Sullivan, Anthony Herrera, Phil Loadholt, Ryan Cook, Drew Radovich, Artis Hicks
Special Teams (3) - Ryan Longwell, Chris Kluwe, Cullen Loeffler
So we need 26 more names in order to fill out the roster, and unlike the offense, there's a chance that this could potentially change due to injuries, since DE Brian Robison and LB Erin Henderson were both carted off of the Metrodome field this evening. But, assuming their injuries aren't that serious, here's who I'd go with if I were in charge of things at Winter Park. Believe me. . .I do not envy Rick Spielman right now.
Starters: Jared Allen, Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, Ray Edwards
Backups: Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Jimmy Kennedy, Brian Robison, Jayme Mitchell
Cut: Otis Grigsby, Antoine Holmes, Tremain Johnson, Martail Burnett
Kennedy is pretty much here for insurance as far as the whole StarCaps saga is concerned. If it were to come out between now and 5 PM Central tomorrow that the trial of the Williams' brothers wouldn't affect their availability for the 2009 season, you can scratch Kennedy off the list. He just hasn't done enough this pre-season, in my opinion, to warrant keeping him around in the event that #93 and #94 are going to be around all season. I originally had Martail Burnett on the big roster, but he unfortunately got caught up in a bit of a numbers game. The Vikings might be able to sneak him back onto the practice squad again, though.
Mitchell has made pretty good progress coming back from a torn ACL that ended his 2008 campaign in the pre-season, and Evans and Guion have shown themselves to be serviceable in the middle of the defensive line. Ten defensive linemen may seem like a lot, but with the way this team likes to rotate players around, particularly at defensive tackle, it might not be such a bad idea.
Starters: Ben Leber, E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway
Backups: Heath Farwell, Jasper Brinkley, Erin Henderson, Kenny Onatolu
Cut: David Herron
If Erin Henderson's injury is serious enough to put him on IR, then Herron makes the team. I think he'd be a bit of a downgrade from Erin Henderson, but hey. . .injuries happen.
If you're of the mindset that the Vikings' special teams will be much improved in 2009. . .and I am. . .then this unit is probably going to be at the heart of that transformation, and that's what you're looking for when you're deciding the back half of the roster. We know that Henderson, Leber, and Greenway are outstanding, and I don't need to drum it into your heads any further. But we saw what losing Heath Farwell did to this team in 2008, and his presence will definitely be felt in 2009. Jasper Brinkley has been regarded as one of the bigger steals of the draft, and his combination of size and speed make him a good candidate to be a special teams demon as well. Henderson the Younger played on special teams last year as well, and should only get better with another season.
The guy that intrigues the heck out of me, however, is Kenny Onatolu. Having played his college ball at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, he went undrafted by the NFL and spent two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League and was signed by the Vikings after the 2008 season. If you saw the final pre-season game, you saw #55 flying all over the place and hitting everything in sight. He might be a little raw, but I think the guy could be great on special teams for the time being and eventually develop into a pretty good outside linebacker as well.
Starters: Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Tyrell Johnson, Madieu Williams
Backups: Asher Allen, Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah, Eric Frampton, Husain Abdullah, Jamarca Sanford
Cuts: Marcus McCauley, Marcus Walker, Colt Anderson, De'Von Hall
I know that keeping ten defensive backs might be a bit excessive, too, but there's also a lot of special teams impact to be had here as well. Frampton was one of the team's leading special teams tacklers last year, and Abdullah is also a capable special teamer. Paymah was brought in, at least in part, because of his special teams prowess as well, and Jamarca Sanford has too much speed and heart (in my opinion) to warrant cutting him. Now, if the team has to flip a coin as to whether to keep an extra DB or keep a d-lineman line Martail Burnett on the roster, I think they'll probably lean towards keeping the extra lineman. In that case, I think either Abdullah or Sanford is most likely to find themselves on the chopping block.
This also closes out the fairly disappointing Marcus McCauley era in Minnesota. After looking promising as a rookie in 2007, the third-round pick out of Fresno State couldn't even get on the field in 2008, and has spent most of this season playing too soft in zone coverage and getting beaten on a fairly regular basis by backup wide receivers on opposing teams. He's officially a disappointment, and it's time for the Vikings to cut their losses with him and move on, in my opinion. Asher Allen has looked really good, and looks to be taking after current Vikings' CB Antoine Winfield when it comes to sticking his nose into the running game and mixing things up. He could certainly have a worse role model, that's for sure.
There you have it. . .my 53-man Vikings' roster prediction for the 2009 season. Obviously there are some unanswered questions after tonight's pre-season finale, and we'll look over those tomorrow before the final cuts come down. Also, we're still awaiting word on the injuries to Erin Henderson and Brian Robison, and we'll pass that info along as soon as we've got it.