I came across this article from Pat Kirwan of CBS Sports the other day, and I thought it would make for an interesting look at the Vikings' roster. Kirwan was taking a look at roster depth, and had a series of thirteen questions for his evaluation process.
Kirwan said that the first thing he looked at was whether or not a team had a decent backup quarterback, which he defines as "a capable backup that can go at least 2-2 over a four-game stretch." Honestly, I think that the Vikings have that, regardless of whether Teddy Bridgewater or Matt Cassel is the starter with the other being the backup. (Yeah, I'm not necessarily counting Christian Ponder at this point, but I'm pretty sure the team could go 2-2 over a four-game stretch with him, too.)
So, we can move on to the rest of the questions on Kirwan's list.
1) Do the Minnesota Vikings have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?
Unfortunately, at this point, it doesn't look as though the Vikings do. Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt are both rock solid at the tackle positions (Loadholt has missed two games in five seasons, while Kalil has started every game of his two-year career), but if either of them goes down, there isn't a guy on the roster right now that the Vikings could really say is the guy. Frankly, outside of those two guys, I don't see a tackle on the Vikings' roster I'd have any confidence in at all.
2) Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?
I think we can pretty confidently say that Joe Berger qualifies to give the Vikings a "yes" in this category. Berger has played at both guard spots for the Vikings over his time in Minnesota, and he could also play center as necessary. He's not flashy or anything, but a lot of teams have significantly worse options in this category than Joe Berger.
3) Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?
Obviously, you'd feel better about this if it was still Toby Gerhart's name was behind Adrian Peterson's on the depth chart. But it's not. On the other hand, the Vikings do have a guy that delivered a 100-yard performance when called upon last year in Matt Asiata, who ran for 115 yards in the season-ending win over the Detroit Lions. Asiata made two starts in 2013, with the other being what may have been the least-efficient three-touchdown performance in NFL history (he averaged less than two yards per carry against the Eagles). Still, in a pinch, behind Minnesota's offensive line, I think Asiata (and/or Jerick McKinnon) could get the job done.
4) Is there a good second tight end on the roster?
At this point. . .probably not. We all know that Kyle Rudolph is great when he's healthy, but behind him there are a lot of question marks. Chase Ford had some nice moments last season, but is far from a proven commodity. Rhett Ellison is still more of a tight end/fullback hybrid. As I've said before, keep an eye on undrafted free agent A.C. Leonard.
5) Can a third wide receiver step up and start in the two wide receiver packages if a starter went down?
Assuming that the two starting receivers are Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings, I think we'd have to say yes. I think that either Jerome Simpson or Jarius Wright would be able to step into a starting role for the team at wide receiver if they were needed. Simpson has been a starter in the past, and could be the legitimate deep threat that Norv Turner's system likes if he can stop doing stupid things long enough to stay on the field. Wright seems like he could be on the verge of a breakout, too.
6) Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?
Last year, the answer to this question would have been Everson Griffen. However, with the departure of Jared Allen and Griffen's new contract, he's more than a pass-rush specialist at this point. We don't know what the Vikings have in store for rookie Anthony Barr, but at this point you would have to think that more is expected of him, too. It doesn't appear the Vikings have one "pass-rush specialist," but that might not be a bad thing. . .Mike Zimmer's defense in Cincinnati last year collected 43 sacks (two more than Minnesota), but no individual player had more than 7.5.
So, at the halfway point of Kirwan's questionnaire, we've got four "yes" answers (counting the backup quarterback question) and three "no" answers for our favorite football team. The answers to the second half of the questions will be along shortly. What do you think about these questions thus far?