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Vikings at Denver: Post-Game Thoughts & Depth Charts

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NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings looked impressive for the most part in their first pre-season game - which was not the case last season - getting some good play from some surprising players while the starters took care of business in limited action.

SPIELMAN OUTDUELS ELWAY

This may sound like a strange opening, but based on this game, and maybe a little more, Vikings GM Rick Spielman clearly got the better of Hall of Fame QB and Broncos GM John Elway when it comes to acquiring quarterbacks for their roster.

Cousins looked better than Keenum, Siemian looked better than Lynch, and Sloter looked better than Kelly.

Elway decided to keep Chad Kelly over Kyle Sloter at the end of training camp last season, after having drafted Paxton Lynch in the first-round in 2016. This year he let Siemian go and said he was definitely in the market for Cousins’ services as well - although he was a long-shot to land him given his salary cap situation - and ultimately signed Case Keenum.

Spielman on the other hand won the Cousins derby, traded a 2019 fifth-round draft pick for Siemian and a seventh-round pick, and also won the Kyle Sloter derby after Elway released him at the end of pre-season last year.

Certainly the Vikings defense may have contributed to the Broncos’ underwhelming peformance at QB, but I suspect Elway knows he made some mistakes that he hopes he can hide after the regular season begins.

Spielman by contrast has built some quality depth behind Cousins to replace the wealth of talent (with durability concerns) that he allowed to walk after last season.

DEPTH CHART ANALYSIS

After Saturday’s performance, some players helped (+) or hurt (-) there standing on the depth chart relative to others. And some may have leapfrogged others by their performance as well, which is reflected in their positioning.

QUARTERBACK THOUGHTS AND DEPTH CHART

1. Kirk Cousins +

2. Trevor Siemian -

3. Kyle Sloter +

4. Peter Pujals

Kirk Cousins started his Vikings career with a perfect drive. 4 for 4 with a beautifully thrown deep ball to Stefon Diggs, followed up by converting to Diggs in the red zone for an opening TD. He looked good and that performance will help his confidence.

Trevor Siemian by contrast was a little off. Not terrible, but his accuracy was off on several throws, which led to his interception and some missed opportunities. He was helped by his receivers, who were able to adjust to his inaccurate balls a couple times- and pile on the YAC- thanks Roc Thomas. Overall he looked a little rusty, but not terrible. He needs to improve his accuracy next game though.

Kyle Sloter was impressive. He made plays with his head, with his arm, and with his feet. Working with the third string unit can be a challenge, even going against third stringers, but Sloter looked poised and ready to make plays - which he did. He showed off his arm strength on an out route to Caleb Jones which he gunned to the sidelines from the far hash. He showed his poise and ability to read a defense when he made a one-hand grab of a high snap on a Broncos blitz and turned it into a nice TD pass to Chad Beebe on a corner route in the end zone. And he showed his ability to make plays with his feet on the QB bootleg which he managed to stretch into another touchdown to ice the game.

If Sloter continues as he did at Denver, he could overtake Siemian for the backup QB job. It will be interesting to see if he gets work with the 2nd team in future pre-season games to see how he does with, and against, better players.

I’m not sure how long Pujals needs to be on the roster.

GIVE HIM THE ROC THOMAS - RUNNING BACK DEPTH CHART

1. Dalvin Cook

2. Latavius Murray +

3. Roc Thomas +

4. Mack Brown

5. Mike Boone

Going into Saturday’s game at Denver, Mike Boone was thought to have the inside track for the 3rd RB spot. No longer. Roc Thomas has proven a gamer in his first outing, impressing both as a runner and receiver. He started with some nice runs inside - showing good vision and ability to get small through the hole - and finishing with two impressive TD receptions. He did okay in his blocking assignments as well.

Brown and Boone both did fine, but clearly were overshadowed by Thomas’ big game. It’s gonna be hard for Mack Brown or Mike Boone to overtake Roc Thomas after that game - it’s his job to lose at this point.

Murray had some good runs - taking advantage of some good blocking up front, especially on the right side, while Dalvin Cook watched from the sideline.

C.J. Ham is still nearly a lock at fullback, and Johnny Stanton is a long-shot at best.

GIVING FORBATH THE BOOT ? - KICKER DEPTH CHART

1. Daniel Carlson +

2. Kai Forbath

It wasn’t just that Carlson made a 57-yard field goal with room to spare in Denver’s high-altitude haven for kickers - it was also that he made every field goal and PAT attempt. The coaching staff knows Carlson has the stronger leg, but they are looking for consistency. Carlson scored some points there as well. The fact that he was also given all the field goal and PAT attempts underscores that it’s his job to lose, as Forbath was relegated to kickoffs only.

TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS - OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART

Riley Reiff, Danny Isidora +, Cornelius Edison +, Mike Remmers, Rashod Hill

I’m guessing that at the moment, this would be the starting offensive line - assuming Mike Remmers is healthy and Pat Elflein remains on the PUP. Beyond this starting group, here is a depth chart of alternates:

Brian O’Neill +

Pat Elflein

Josh Andrews +

Aviante Collins +

Tom Compton -

One of the above won’t make the roster, and I don’t see any of these guys making the roster either:

Colby Gossett

Dieugot Joseph

J.P. Quinn -

Storm Norton -

Cedrick Lang -

Nick Easton (IR)

It’s difficult to assess the offensive line depth chart precisely, because several guys can play more than one position, and the need to have backups at every spot, and after one pre-season game, it’s a mixed bag with just about every player in this group. I thought Josh Andrews improved his stock the most on Saturday night, in part because he really hadn’t been in the conversation and showed that he should be. Among starting contenders, Tom Compton did the least to help his cause, Cornelius Edison and Danny Isidora the most.

I realize there is a need for camp bodies to fill out the third string, etc., but I’m not sure how much more evaluation need be done with J.P. Quinn, Cedrick Lang and Storm Norton before they get cut loose. They didn’t look good in practice nor on Saturday night in Denver. I’d just as soon the Vikings let them go now and either not replace them or bring in another free agent to evaluate. Gossett is a candidate for practice squad, and maybe Dieugot Joseph. I suspect it’s increasingly likely that Nick Easton is released, and Pat Elflein starts the season on the PUP.

That would help Josh Andrews’ prospects, as he plays center and guard. The left guard spot is looming as the most competitive spot along the O-line, although Brian O’Neill remains increasingly competitive at right tackle.

TOUGH COMPETITION - DEFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART

DE: Everson Griffen, Stephen Weatherly, Ade Aruna

DT: Sheldon Richardson, Jayln Holmes +, Ifeadi Odenigbo

NT: Linval Joseph, Jaleel Johnson +, David Parry, Curtis Cothran

DE: Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Tashawn Bower +, Jonathan Wynn

This group may be the toughest in terms of getting a roster spot if you’re on the bubble. The starting four plus Johnson and Robison presumably are locks. That leaves 2-3 spots between Weatherly, Bower and Holmes. Nobody else has much of a chance to make the roster here.

There is a chance the Vikings go with nine here at least initially, in part because I doubt whoever doesn’t make the roster will make it to the practice squad. Odenigbo could return to the practice squad.

LINEBACKER DEPTH CHART - DISAPPOINTING DEPTH?

SLB: Anthony Barr, Antwione Williams, Garret Dooley

MLB: Eric Kendricks, Kentrell Brothers -, Devante Downs, Brett Taylor

WLB: Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson +, Reshard Cliett +, Mike Needham

The first four on the depth chart are solid - Barr, Kendricks, Gedeon and Wilson - and I’m guessing Wilson is really the next man up at all LB spots.

But beyond that nobody really stood out in a good way Saturday night. Kentrell Brothers looked slow - not sure if it was injury-related or not - he hobbled off later in the game and had been held out of practice last week with an injury. Whatever the case, he didn’t look good. But nobody else really stepped up to challenge for a roster spot either. Downs and Needham didn’t play, Dooley, Williams and Taylor didn’t look too good, and Cliett was okay for a backup. That being the case, no changes to the depth chart here.

CORNERBACK DEPTH CHART - SOLID UP FRONT, GROWING PAINS IN THE BACK

1. Xavier Rhodes

2. Trae Waynes +

3. Terence Newman

4. MacKensie Alexander

5. Mike Hughes +

6. Holton Hill

7. Marcus Sherels -

8. Craig James +

9. Trevon Mathis +

10. Horace Richardson

Another tough group to break into, as the first five spots are locks. Hughes did pretty well in his first game action, but Holton Hill had some good and bad - more reminiscent of Alexander and Waynes during their rookie pre-season. Craig James and Trevon Mathis did some things to help their cause, but more will be needed to make the roster. Sherels isn’t going to make the roster as a backup CB.

GOOD AND BAD - SAFETY DEPTH CHART

1. Harrison Smith

2. Andrew Sendejo

3. Anthony Harris -

4. Jayron Kearse

5. Jack Tocho +

6. Tray Matthews +

Anthony Harris didn’t help his cause Saturday night, but he’s not likely to lose his roster spot over it either. He missed some tackles he normally would have made, but unless that continues, he’s probably safe as a backup strong safety.

Jack Tocho was really good and really bad it seemed. Those of you who question PFF grading will have a lot to discuss as Tocho was the highest graded Viking on defense Saturday night with a 90.6 grade - elite. Tocho had a hand in both interceptions - breaking up the pass that Anthony Harris intercepted, along with an interception of his own later on. He had a couple other nice pass defenses as well. But he also looked at least partly at fault for two Broncos TD receptions. PFF must have thought only partly at fault - or less - but it’s hard to determine. He may have had a short zone on the first TD pass to the Broncos TE, but on the second one he looked like the primary in coverage. In any case, Tocho did make some key plays, but also looked to have given some up too due to poor positioning and/or missed assignment. From a development standpoint, it’s easier to coach poor positioning and assignments, and more difficult to coach making plays. So, there is something to work with there, but Tocho would have to become much more reliable to gain a roster spot at safety.

Tray Matthews had a couple good plays, and did well on special teams too. But again, tough to break into this fairly well established position group.

Jayron Kearse did not play Saturday night.

RETURN SPECIALISTS

KR: Mike Hughes - , Marcus Sherels, Stacy Coley

PR: Marcus Sherels, Mike Hughes +, Craig James +

Overall Mike Hughes was helped more by successfully fielding his punt return attempts and getting modest returns than he was hurt by dropping a kickoff, but he’ll need to prove consistent throughout the pre-season to displace Sherels. Overall the Denver game was a slight positive for Hughes. But he’ll need to build from there.

STILL UP FOR GRABS - WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH CHART

1. Stefon Diggs +

2. Adam Thielen

3. Laquon Treadwell

4. Stacy Coley +

T5. Chad Beebe +, Jeff Badet +, Kendall Wright

T6. Brandon Zylstra, Caleb Jones, Jake Wieneke, Korey Robertson, Tavarres King

I structured the WR depth chart this way because there really isn’t much to differentiate receivers after Coley at this point. I suspect for the last two spots, they will pick a smaller, speedy guy from the T5 group, and a bigger bodied receiver from the T6 group, unless there are two real, bona fide standouts in one group that are both good at special teams.

Beebe did the most to raise his profile, as he was probably at the bottom of the depth chart before Saturday night. Diggs showed he’s still pretty good, and Coley and Badet had more modest positives as well. I still think Wright needs to show a lot more to make the roster, despite his experience. I’m not seeing the urgency from him. He looks more like he should be given a roster spot rather than earning one. He doesn’t add much on special teams either.

But overall, not much change in the competition for the last couple spots on the depth chart, except that Beebe entered the conversation where he hadn’t been in it before.

TIGHT END DEPTH CHART - THE BELL TOLLS....

1. Kyle Rudolph

2. David Morgan +

3. Tyler Conklin

4. Blake Bell -

5. Josiah Price +

6. Tyler Hoppes

David Morgan solidified his case for #2 TE - not that he needed to. Tyler Conklin didn’t get any favors from Trevor Siemian, whose poor throws made him look worse than he was. Bell dropped both of his targets, which were more catchable than Conklin’s drops. Price caught his only target, and did as well as Conklin and Bell blocking and on special teams, so that’s a modest positive for him. Not much to report about Hoppes one way or another.

Conklin needs to improve as a receiver, but at this point also has more upside in that regard than Bell. It’s not out of the question that the Vikings eventually go with three TEs on the roster, with another on the practice squad. That could leave Bell in a bad place at the end of training camp or once a player returning from suspension or PUP returns...

JOHN DEFILIPPO DEBUT

Lastly, it was a good opening pre-season game for the Vikings new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. He called a good game with a nice mix of run and pass - with a couple well-timed screen passes as well - including the one that went for a long touchdown. Undoubtedly it was more basic plays for pre-season, but it wasn’t too predictable and it gave players a good chance to show what they can do. Bravo.

Poll

Other than Roc Thomas, who among those ‘on the bubble’ did the most to help their chances to make the roster?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Josh Andrews
    (69 votes)
  • 26%
    Aviante Collins
    (600 votes)
  • 3%
    Jayln Holmes
    (70 votes)
  • 20%
    Tashawn Bower
    (460 votes)
  • 1%
    Stephen Weatherly
    (33 votes)
  • 2%
    Marcus Sherels
    (48 votes)
  • 4%
    Holton Hill
    (104 votes)
  • 3%
    Jack Tocho
    (81 votes)
  • 18%
    Chad Beebe
    (406 votes)
  • 1%
    Somebody Else
    (38 votes)
  • 15%
    Absolutely No Idea
    (342 votes)
2251 votes total Vote Now