The Vikings’ 53-man roster showed an interesting mix of status quo and an eye on the future. Some productive veterans unexpectedly saw their Minnesota career end this weekend. Other players, young and experienced alike, made the final cut, against projections. Overall, it was quite the eventful couple of days for one of the league’s leading contenders.
Let us have a look at some of the more interesting moves the Vikings made over the weekend.
A Viking Lifer Gone
Brian Robison was a lock to make the roster by all accounts. He had been with the team since 2007; he has 60 career sacks in purple; and even in his age-35 preseason, he was taking first team snaps when Everson Griffen sat out. Yet, here we are. For the first time in over a decade, the Vikings will head into the regular season without number 96 in the rotation. The move was clearly a combination of money-saving and talent-building. Minnesota has a number of young defensive linemen who have shown they have what it takes to play regularly on Sundays. Still, the move stung many a fan of the purple and gold.
Mix of Upside and Proven Production to Replace Robison
Speaking of those young defensive linemen, one surprise was the cutting of Ifeadi Odenigbo. The second-year combo lineman from Northwestern was all over the field this preseason. When the news dropped that Robison would be gone, the prevailing wisdom was that Odenigbo had a spot waiting for him. Alas, the Vikings instead went with rookie Jalyn Holmes and veteran David Parry for the back end of the tackle rotation. Additionally, Tashawn Bower and Stephen Weatherly, in their second and third years, respectively, will both likely see a major uptick in snaps this year without Robison. Bower looked the part in preseason as a pass rusher, while Weatherly’s combination of length and run stopping ability make him a versatile piece to spell starters Griffen and Danielle Hunter.
Newman’s Curtain Call, Quick Turnaround to Coach
This would have been Terence Newman‘s age-40 season, and likely would have been his last anyway. As it turned out, rookie Mike Hughes took to the NFL quicker than expected, and frankly, there was not a spot for Newman in the rotation anymore. His spot was a valuable one, as bubble guys Jayron Kearse and Holton Hill both are big, athletic defensive backs with potential as both defenders and special teamers. At this point in time, they simply offered more than Newman would both in the here-and-now and down the road. So in that regard, Newman’s retirement, while unexpected, makes a lot of sense. It makes even more sense now that we know that he will join Mike Zimmer’s coaching staff. Newman played in the league for 15 years, nine of which he teamed with Zimmer. No one knows Zimmer’s scheme better than Newman, and he should prove a valuable asset to the young secondary.
Both Enticing UDFA Running Backs Stick
Through one preseason game, Roc Thomas was the star of the Vikings’ offense. The third running back job looked his, given his change-of-pace, classic third-down back style. Well, there were still three more preseason games to be played. And in every one of those, Mike Boone looked the part of a legitimate NFL back in both the run and the pass. It seemed open-and-shut; Boone would be the third back and Thomas would be cut. As luck would have it, the Vikings saw enough from each to retain both for the 53-man roster. Essentially, with the Vikings also retaining fullback C.J. Ham, they have five running backs to open the season. But Boone and Thomas both provide enough variety that each should be able to contribute in some form.
Quigley’s Preseason Struggles Cost Him
Punter Ryan Quigley‘s 2017 season was a surprising bar stool debate. On the one hand, he pinned the ball inside the 20 as well as any punter in the league. On the other, he had one of the worst net averages in the league. Still, his job seemed safe as no other punter competed with him in preseason. But after a poor four-game stretch, including a blocked punt in Tennessee, the Vikings put in a claim for journeyman Matt Wile. Though Quigley initially made the 53-man roster, Minnesota let him go after winning their claim for Wile.
Wile has played for the Falcons and Cardinals since entering the league in 2015. He spent this preseason with Pittsburgh, putting up some solid numbers despite being cut. Ultimately, it seemed the Vikings preferred his stronger leg (46.1 gross average in his NFL career) over Quigley’s accuracy.
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