Sunday, August 30, 2015

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The Vikings have released their first unofficial depth chart before the preseason. Obviously, some things are fluid while others are obvious and there’s not much in between. As it stands:

Offensive Depth Chart
QB Matt Cassel Teddy Bridgewater Christian Ponder
HB Adrian Peterson Matt Asiata Jerick McKinnon Joe Banyard Dominique Williams
FB Jerome Felton Zach Line
WR1 Cordarrelle Patterson Adam Thielen Rodney Smith Kamar Jorden Donte Foster Andy Cruse
WR2 Greg Jennings Jerome Simpson Jarius Wright Kain Colter Erik Lora Ty Walker
WR3 Greg Jennings Jarius Wright Adam Thielen Kain Colter
TE Kyle Rudolph Rhett Ellison Chase Ford AC Leonard Mike Higgins Allen Reisner
LT Matt Kalil Antonio Richardson  Kevin Murphy
LG Charlie Johnson David Yankey  Pierce Burton
C John Sullivan Joe Berger  Zac Kerin
RG Brandon Fusco Vladimir Ducasse  Jeff Baca
RT Phil Loadholt Mike Remmers  Austin Wentworth


Defensive Depth Chart
RDE Everson Griffen Scott Crichton Justin Trattou
UT Sharrif Floyd Tom Johnson Kheeston Randall Isame Faciane
NT Linval Joseph Fred Evans Shamar Stephen Chase Baker
LDE Brian Robison Corey Wootton Jake Snyder Tyler Scott
SLB Anthony Barr Gerald Hodges Dom DeCicco
MLB Jasper Brinkley Audie Cole Mike Zimmer
WLB Chad Greenway Brandon Watts Michael Mauti Larry Dean
LCB Captain Munnerlyn Josh Robinson Marcus Sherels Julian Posey Robert Steeples
SS Robert Blanton Jamarca Sanford Mistral Raymond Chris Crocker Antone Exum
FS Harrison Smith Kurt Coleman Andrew Sendejo Brandan Bishop
RCB Xavier Rhodes Jabari Price Derek Cox Kendall James Shaun Prater
*SCB Captain Munnerlyn Jabari Price Shaun Prater

* Slot cornerback was not listed in their official depth chart, but it should be useful to include.

On offense, don’t read too much into the quarterback charts. The Seahawks didn’t release a depth chart but treated Russell Wilson as their number two and the Dolphins listed Ryan Tannehill as their second-string quarterback going into the first preseason game and they both started Week One.

The receivers are listed as “WR” instead of Split End, Flanker and Slot, but it’s clear that WR1 is the split end, WR2 is the flanker and WR3 is the slot. Players have been expected to play every position and likely will as the season progresses, but for now there are some interesting overlaps: Greg Jennings, Jarius Wright and Kain Colter are both flankers and slot players, while Adam Thielen is a slot/split end player. There does not seem to be a split end/flanker crossover, so my guess is that WR3 is being treated like I treated the SCB at the bottom of the defensive depth chart.

The first team on offense in three-receiver sets (Norv has not had four receivers on the field in the last two years, according to NFLGSIS) would probably look like this:

QB: ?
RB: Adrian Peterson
TE: Kyle Rudolph
SE: Cordarrelle Patterson
FL: Jarius Wright
SL: Greg Jennings
OL: Same

A lot of that will change, of course, and that specific set may be more uncommon than common, but in general, that may be how the snap count works out. That specific situation doesn’t imply that Jarius Wright is “ahead” of Jerome Simpson on a depth chart that simply lists the receivers all in one go—Jennings is a flanker, so kicking in would mean the next flanker on the chart is ready to go.

I do think, independent of that, that Wright may be ahead of Simpson.

McKinnon may jump ahead of Asiata soon—he’s been taking a number of snaps with the second team. As always, pass protection will be a big determining factor, and #2/#3 designations may not matter as much as situational play.

Expect Chris Crocker to move up the depth chart quickly and for the Vikings to keep more “strong safeties” from this chart into the season than “free safeties” — though the role is less interchangeable in this defense than the Vikings’ old defense, Zimmer still expects versatility out of the safeties.

The linebackers are of course extremely fluid. The nickel set may take out Barr and Brinkley and put in Hodges, though the coaches do like a Barr/Greenway combination in nickel as well. That may be situational, too. The only linebackers I haven’t seen take significant snaps with the first team are Dom DeCicco, Mike Zimmer and Larry Dean. Of those three, I would imagine Mike Zimmer is the most likely to make any leap—he has quick feet and a good reaction time and has shown that in camp.

The cornerbacks may change with Derek Cox flashing in camp, but we’ll see. Marcus Sherels has had a very good, and surprising, camp so far so may make the roster for more than his special teams play.

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(photo by Chris Price)
(photo by Chris Price)

In the second full week of training camp, Vikings players appeared energized and ready to rock during the Monday morning walk-through. The practice was a shorter one, having been adjusted last minute to a special teams’ walk-through only.

Zach Line was the first one on the field.

He appeared calm but energized, taking the field and chatting with fellow fullback Jerome Felton. When coaches sorted the group, pulling guys to participate in various drills, it appeared Line fell most closely into the second-string roster—definitely a positive position for the SMU alum.

The Minnesota Vikings have elected to sign defensive back Chris Crocker, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, to the roster and waive defensive end Rakim Cox. The move doesn’t come as a huge surprise, but may signal that Andrew Sendejo, who just came off of the Physically Unable to Perform list, may not be ready to play int he first preseason game or is progressing slowly.

Sendejo, who had been out all offseason with a back injury, may be less familiar with the system than safety Chris Crocker, who played with Zimmer in Cincinnati and in Atlanta. Crocker, aged 34, has played with Mike Zimmer for 14 years now and served a vital role in the Bengals’ top five defense last year, filling in for an injured Leon Hall at nickel corner.

Though he primarily plays safety, his defensive back experience has given Zimmer a lot of versatility in defensive design, and allowed him to put three safeties on the field at once, something the Vikings have experimented with for a little bit in camp.

Crocker has come up several times in press conferences as the kind of versatile player that gives Zimmer flexibility in defensive design.

Last year, he had two sacks, one hit and five hurries on the quarterback on 26 pass-rushing snaps and grabbed two interceptions, allowing two touchdowns in the process. With Zimmer he has ten career interceptions and has consistently been rated by Pro Football Focus in the past several years as a league-average safety, making him excellent depth or a reasonable starting option.

The Vikings have had injuries to safety Robert Blanton in camp to go along with Andrew Sendejo’s uncertain status, and are left picking between Antone Exum, Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman, Mistral Raymond and Brandan Bishop at safety. Though Sanford has done an acceptable job in the last two years as a starting safety, he may not be a fit for the kind of scheme that Zimmer runs, which emphasizes safeties that have the capability to either play in the box or patrol a deep wide zone with range.

This doesn’t mean that Crocker is a lock to make the roster, but he’ll help teach the system and immediately provide the Vikings with a game-ready player. Over the past three years, he’s started in 28 games, and appeared in 41.

Rakim Cox, an undrafted defensive end from Villanova, started out camp ahead of fellow UDFAs Jake Snyder and Tyler Scott on the depth chart, but had slowly been moving down in favor of the Virginia and Northwestern products. Cox came out of a 3-3-5 defense and needed to add strength in order to make the roster. Despite a reputation for intelligent play and a hard work ethic, he had issues in camp with lane discipline.

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How do you get pumped up for the season? I did it by debating with as many fans as I could about why the Vikings were better than their teams. Evidently, I won those debates! You can, too, by listening in. First, I debated with fans from the rest of the NFC North:

More Sports Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Double Overtime on BlogTalkRadio

Then, you can listen in while I debate a gauntlet of winners from the rest of the NFC, here:

Listen To Sports Internet Radio Stations with Double Overtime on BlogTalkRadio

After that, listen in on a debate about how the Vikings overcome their Super Bowl curse by cementing the Bill’s own curse here:

Discover Sports Internet Radio with Double Overtime on BlogTalkRadio

Do you think there’s an argument for the Vikings to win the Super Bowl? If not, do you at least think the debates went well?

Also, thank whatever deity you believe in (or don’t believe in), because the NFL season is almost here.

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