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Predicting The 53 Man Roster--Defense And Special Teams

Jun 19, 2012; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; A general view as Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen work on drills with a blocking sled at Vikings minicamp at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE
Jun 19, 2012; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; A general view as Minnesota Vikings defensive linemen work on drills with a blocking sled at Vikings minicamp at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Yesterday, we looked at the offensive side of the roster, and today, I want to look at the defense and special teams. So far, we have 25 offensive players identified, and like yesterday we'll be using the roster off of the Vikings official team website.

When I did this yesterday, I really didn't explain my methodology as to how I come up with the players. For example, in the comments section, a few folks mentioned they like Stephen Burton at WR, and think he'll beat out Michael Jenkins. When I rack and stack the players, I almost always give the edge to the incumbent veteran, for a couple reasons. For one, they've been a starter and have a body of work, good or bad, to help form an opinion. And they usually have an inside track heading into camp.

Secondly, it's tough to unseat a veteran if you're a fringe roster guy from last year, a late round draft pick, an undrafted free agent, or an off-season free agent signing. I mentioned in the comments portion of the offensive roster break down that a guy like Alan Reisner, who won the last TE job coming out of camp last year, is really the exception and not the rule. But there's one story like that almost every year, so could a guy like Burton win a roster job? Sure, anything is possible, but stuff like that is a longshot.

So, on to the defense.

Defensive Line (9):

On The Roster:

Defensive Tackle: Chase Baker, Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, Tydreke Powell, Kevin Williams

Defensive End: Jared Allen, Jeff Charleston, Everson Griffen, Trevor Guyton, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu, D'Aundre Reed, Nick Reed, Brian Robison

You Like Me, You Really Like Me: Williams, Evans, Allen, Robison, Ballard, Guion, Griffen, D.Reed, Guyton

Grab Your Playbook. The Turk Wants To See You: Baker, Powell, Charleston, Jacobs, Latimore, Owusu, N. Reed

Rationale: Williams, Allen, and Robison are locks. As for the other starter at tackle, you could talk me in to Guion over Fred Evans. Neither one really impressed me last year, and this is one of those spots where, depending on who might step up in Mankato, a guy like Tydreke Powell could make a name for himself, or a guy that can play both the end and tackle position, like Christian Ballard can, can grab that last roster spot.

But whither Everson Griffen? Right now he's listed as a defensive end, but as we've said here before, he'll go to Mankato looking to win a linebacker job, or maybe be a DE-LB hybrid type player. Until that happens, we'll list him as Robison's backup on the left side. And I know Arif disagrees with me on this (seriously, go read that article Arif wrote on Ev over at Bleacher Report--great article), I'm intrigued to see what Griffen can do as a LB.

And why 9 defensive linemen and 8 offensive linemen? Well, the initial 53 man roster from last year had one more defensive lineman than o-lineman, and barring injury, you rotate more defensive players in and out of a game than you do offensive guys. So I'm going with 9 d-linemen.

Linebackers (6):

On The Roster: Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, Larry Dean, Solomon Elimimian, Chad Greenway, Erin Henderson, Marvin Mitchell, Tyler Nielsen, Corey Parades

You Like Me, You Really Like Me: Brinkley, Greenway, Henderson, Mitchell, Dean, Elimimian

Grab Your Playbook. The Turk Wants To See You: Cole, Nielsen, Parades

Rationale: Brinkley (assuming he's healthy), Greenway, and Erin Henderson are locks as starters, and I don't have a problem with any of those guys. Marvin Mitchell and Larry Dean are a decent backup/good special teams players, so I think they make it. And when you combine the hard hitting play and complicated spelling of Solomon Elimimian, he's probably a lock, too. If he makes it, I'm just going to call him King Solomon M and M, or King Solomon the Eliminator. Are we all good with that? Going once, going twice...motion carries by unanimous consent.

Cornerbacks (6):

On The Roster: Zackary Bowman, Brandon Burton, Chris Carr, Chris Cook, Bobby Felder, Corey Gatewood, Josh Robinson, Marcus Sherels, Antoine Winfield

You Like Me, You Really Like Me: Winfield, Cook, Carr (nickel), Robinson/Sherels (Dime), Burton

Grab Your Playbook. The Turk Wants To See You: Bowman, Felder, Gatewood,

Rationale: I like the direction the Vikings are going in the secondary. Antoine Winfield, God Bless Him, only has a couple years left, but if he's healthy, he's still pretty good. Chris Cook was having a very good season until he had his off the field issues, and Chris Carr was the John Carlson signing of the defense--talented but injury prone guy that could be a big asset if he can stay healthy. Pencil him in for the nickel job, or put him on the outside and move Winfield inside in nickel situations. And he can also spot start if injuries hit the secondary again like they did last season. I would be stunned if third round pick Robinson doesn't make the final roster, and he will push Marcus Sherels for the dime spot. And I still like Sherels and Burton for depth and special teams play, as Sherels will be in the mix for kick and punt return duties.

Safety (4)

On The Roster: Robert Blanton, Eric Frampton, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sandejo, Harrison Smith

You Like Me, You Really Like Me: Smith, Sanford, Blanton, Raymond or Frampton

Grab Your Playbook. The Turk Wants To See You: Frampton or Raymond, Sandejo

Rationale: The safety play has been atrocious the last couple years, as we all know. That's precisely why I think Smith will be the opening day starter, and Robert Blanton, a 5th round pick, makes the final 53. Jamrca Sanford wasn't terrible, but I don't see Blanton, Raymond, or Frampton overtaking him. Because I think Vlanton makes the team, that makes Mistral Raymond or Eric Frampton expendable. Right now, I'm leaning towards Raymond, Frampton, as I thought he played better than Frampton in spot playing time last year.

The special teams guys round out the 53 spots, as long snapper Colin Loeffler, Chris Kluwe, and rookie kicker the Blair Walsh Project © Christopher Gates) locks for those three special teams spots.

So, I think we've got 53 when it's all said and done. I'm not sure about the 6/4 split between cornerback and safety; I could see Brandon Burton supplanted by either Raymond or Frampton, with the Vikes keeping both of those safeties and going 5/5 between the two DB positions.

Granted, this is just a wag, and a lot can happen between now and then. And even after the initial 53 man roster is announced, there'll be wheeling and dealing as other teams drop players and the Vikes look to improve weak areas. But I think this is in the ballpark, and when the Vikes do convene in Mankato, I'll be looking at the defensive backfield and the offensive line.

Nine days, folks. Nine days.