Vikings Defense and Special Teams Roster Projections: Two Weeks Left

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Sep 29, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety George Iloka (43) against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 22-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 29, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals free safety George Iloka (43) against the Miami Dolphins at Paul Brown Stadium. The Bengals won 22-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks remaining before roster cuts and a whole lot of preseason football left to be played. The Vikings made a move this week that could have major implications on the final roster. Here we predict what those implications are with our second-to-last roster projections for the defense and special teams.

Defensive End

On Roster (As of August 23): Tashawn Bower, Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Brian Robison, Stephen Weatherly, Jonathan Wynn

Prediction: DE1. Griffen DE2. Hunter DE3. Robison DE4. Bower DE5. Weatherly

Defensive Tackle

On Roster: Cutris Cothran, Jalyn Holmes, Jaleel Johnson, Linval Joseph, Ifeadi Odenigbo, David ParrySheldon Richardson

Prediction: DT1. Joseph DT2. Richardson DT3. Johnson DT4. Odenigbo 

I am combining both of these groups into one explanation. This is probably the toughest group on the entire team to diagnose. Six guys appear to be locks: the four starters, Robison and Johnson. That leaves, at most, three spots open. If we go off of what we have seen in preseason, then Odenigbo should be a lock. If past experience plays a role, Weatherly and Parry should be in. Once upside comes into it, Bower and Holmes make strong cases.

The injury to Aruna, unfortunate as it was, eliminates one name from this confounding situation. So instead of six names to sort through, there are only five. Holmes is the rookie fourth-round pick. His stock seems high with the team. However, he and Odenigbo effectively occupy the same space, and Odenigbo has unquestionably looked better in preseason. The Vikings could keep both, but then one of the end spots is lost. In the end, I am going with the group I feel is best suited to help this year. That is Odenigbo as the fourth tackle and Bower and Weatherly as fourth and fifth ends. It means taking a risk on losing Holmes, but Odenigbo has simply looked too good in this his second preseason. A lot could change in a couple weeks, but that is where the line stands now in my eyes.

Linebacker

On Roster: Anthony Barr, Kentrell Brothers, Reshard Cliett, Garret Dooley, Devante Downs, Ben Gedeon, Eric Kendricks, Mike NeedhamBrett Taylor, Antwione WilliamsEric Wilson

Prediction: MLB. Kendricks SLB. Barr WLB. Gedeon LB4. Wilson LB5. Brothers LB6. Williams

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Of the second and third group linebackers, no one has looked better than Wilson this summer. He was a great special teams player last year, but this preseason he has shown to be effective as a true linebacker, as well. As for the fifth and sixth spots, Brothers and Williams stand out just a hair over Downs and Cliett. Now, Brothers’ suspension may hurt his chances a bit, but he played in all 16 games last year. He and Williams, who has also shown a fair amount in two preseason games, appear to have a little more to offer right now. Of course, the possibility exists that one of the linebacker spots goes to Iloka, since he has the size and physicality to play a sort of safety-linebacker hybrid.

Cornerback

On Roster: Mackensie Alexander, Holton Hill, Mike Hughes, Craig James, Trevon MathisTerence Newman, Xavier Rhodes, Horace Richardson, Marcus Sherels, Jack Tocho, Trae Waynes

Prediction: CB1. Rhodes CB2. Waynes CB3. Alexander CB4. Hughes CB5. Newman  PR/KR. Sherels

The top four are pretty safe bets to make the roster, as is Sherels as return man. Fifth and sixth spots, however, are up in the air. Newman’s role as essentially a player-coach will help his chances, as will Hill’s immense athletic gifts. But Iloka’s signing makes things uneasy for all defensive backs and linebackers outside of the starters. Either Newman or Hill could easily end up the odd man out once Iloka enters the rotation in the coming weeks.

Safety

On Roster: Anthony Harris, George IlokaJayron Kearse,Tray Matthews, Andrew Sendejo, Harrison Smith

Prediction: SS. Sendejo FS. Smith S3. Iloka S4. Harris

Here is another group that is tough to predict. The addition of Iloka throws a wrench into what it looked like Minnesota would do with their defensive backfield. He will likely take virtually all game snaps from Harris, and Harris is not as good of special teams player as Kearse is. So is his value really as high as Kearse’s if there is no room for him on defense? Then again, as said above, Hill or Newman could end up facing the cut because of Iloka. As a tentative guess, I am saying Hill, Newman and Harris get the nods and Kearse ends up as the odd man out. But I have very little confidence in that prediction.

Long Snapper

On Roster: Kevin McDermott

Prediction: McDermott

Punter

On Roster: Ryan Quigley

Prediction: Quigley

Kicker

On Roster: Daniel Carlson

Prediction: Carlson

Thanks goodness, all these spots are locked in, barring injury.

–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and

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