On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings made what probably appears, on the surface, to be a minor change to their roster. It certainly appeared that way to me when I first saw it on social media.
The team announced that Dan Chisena, an undrafted free agent from Penn State that signed with the Vikings as a wide receiver this past April, would be switching from receiver to safety.
It may seem a little late in the game for a player to be shifting positions in such a drastic manner. . .after all, the cutdown from 80 players to 55 will need to be done by 3:00 PM Central time on Saturday. But this could be a move that helps Chisena be a part of that final 55.
Why? Because Chisena’s most immediate value to the Vikings is likely not as a regular player, but as a special teamer.
In Chisena’s first year at Penn State, while he was redshirting for football, he was participating in track and field. He was so successful as a sprinter that the school offered him a track and field scholarship. Unfortunately for him, at least from a football standpoint, the NCAA does not allow athletes to compete in football while on scholarship in another sport (though you can have a football scholarship and participate in other sports). So, he had to drop football to continue getting his schooling paid for as a member of the track and field team.
After suffering an injury in 2018, Chisena went to Penn State coach James Franklin and asked if he could have his spot as a walk-on back. He got it, and while he didn’t do much as a receiver. . .he caught just three passes. . .he was an outstanding special teamer on all four of Penn State’s special teams units.
Chisena made the biggest impact, though, while playing on four units of special teams — kickoff, kickoff return, punt and punt return. He excelled as the gunner on the punt team, using his speed to fly down the sidelines and disrupt returns. Chisena was credited with four tackles on the year. Perhaps his biggest moment of the season was recovering a muffed punt in the third quarter of the Nittany Lions’ 28-7 win over Michigan State.
With things being as weird as they’ve been this season with everything being disrupted, if someone like Chisena is going to make the roster, he’s going to have to show that he has value on special teams. I’m not saying that this switch makes him a sure-fire lock to make the final roster or anything like that, but it does help his chances exponentially given that the Vikings’ situation at safety appears to be more open behind the tandem of Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith than the wide receiver situation does.
If I were a betting man, I think Chisena winds up with at least a practice squad spot after this, and he could potentially sneak his way onto the roster as a core special teamer. In a little less than a week, we’ll find out.