2014 Minnesota Vikings: Vikings Cut Tracker and Rapid Reaction

The Minnesota Vikings, who typically have made moves late in the day on cutdown day, have made two moves that have inspired the creation of this cut tracker and a rapid reaction. The first is to put Jamarca Sanford on injured reserve (not designated for return) and to cut nose tackle Fred Evans, which is a pretty big surprise.

Sanford’s move to injured reserve was a surprise. What about the other cuts?

Chase FordTight EndHe was injured throughout camp and didn’t take a snap in the preseason. Even though he was available in the offseason, he didn’t showcase his talents in pads. It sounds like he was medically cleared, so it would have been difficult to put him on injured reserve or waive him with an injured designation. Zimmer has been adamant about seeing players play in person under his instruction in order to evaluate them, something he couldn’t do for Ford. Ford was promising, though honestly a somewhat marginal player should he have made the roster.The Vikings are in desperate need of a backup tight end. Ford’s cut was a signal to this effect, though people could see it coming.

Player Position Reaction What This Might Mean
Zac Kerin Center Though I was a fan of Kerin’s coming in, it’s still not shocking to me that he was cut, though I do think he offers more long-term upside than Joe Berger or Vladimir Ducasse, Ducasse’s physical gifts and improvement with the Vikings not withstanding. I think he’s talented enough for a practice squad (and not all ten spots are accounted for), but I haven’t heard anything about him being a target. It means Joe Berger has another year as the backup center and swing guard, and I don’t think either of the other guards are fit at center. Berger’s time is close to done, but it looks like Kerin won’t push him.
Kendall James Cornerback Was never much of a shot to make the roster. Jabari Price rose through the ranks, but James stayed on the third and fourth rotations without tight coverage or impact plays to his name. It was inevitable that a late-round pick got cut, and this time it was Kendall James. So far, the strategy to take several players at a position of need late in the draft is paying off, as it produced at least one quality backup, if not two (counting Antone Exum). James didn’t show athletic potential or improvement in technical refinement, and was burned a few times in camp. Not a huge impact. The Vikings were expected to have a bit of a logjam at corner some time after camp started because of the flat talent level and starting capability from the better cornerbacks. James was not among them.
Julian Posey Cornerback Better than James, but not by enough to be in the mix to play for the 53-man roster. Posey caught on late with better play in the preseason games and at the end of camp. Draft analysts following the Browns liked what Posey did in his limited time for them, and I happen to agree. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Posey on the practice squad or with a team by the time waivers are through. No big impact. See the James analysis.
Justin Trattou Defensive End Trattou is between the surprise/non-surprise stage in terms of cuts. His cut is not as surprising as Fred Evans, but he easily had a better shot than Posey or James. Trattou had a productive preseason both this year and last (in fact, was one of the best 4-3 DEs last preseason) and looked to be more capable than Scott Crichton. I do not believe Trattou is practice squad eligible. There are a lot of good pass rushers getting cut, so it may be difficult to stick. The Vikings are happy with their rotational pass-rusher depth, aided in part by Anthony Barr, who can line up at defensive end if need be from time to time. It looks like that flexibility may have played a role here, because otherwise Trattou is a productive fifth option at DE.
Isame Faciane Defensive Tackle Faciane was a favorite of mine for a period of time, but he didn’t sustain the flashes he showed at camp throughout the practices or the preseason. He’s still transitioning between nose tackle and under tackle and has attempted both roles. A difference for him has been how he attacks blockers and gaps, something he hasn’t nailed down yet. The Vikings are and should be happy with Tom Johnson, surprising as though that may sound. He has had a good preseason and camp, and it was somewhat difficult to displace him. Expect Faciane to be in the discussion for a PS spot.
Jeff Baca Guard He was not a particularly great prospect coming out of college, nor did he show improvement on the field. Aside from being mired on the third team roster, he couldn’t sustainably hold blocks in the run game and create consistent holes. His pass protection was better, but inconsistent, relying more on awareness than technique or physical capability. Entering the offseason, some hoped that Baca would have developed enough to displace Charlie Johnson, much like Brandon Fusco did to Anthony Herrera. It’s a reasonable enough hope that didn’t bear out. Now it’s up to Ducasse or Yankey to take the reins.
Justin Jackson Linebacker We didn’t get to see any of Justin Jackson, which is just as well given that he was unlikely to make the roster at all, after being picked up by the Vikings in response to the Lions waiving him. Jackson immediately became one of the best athletic testers on the roster, and it’s this kind of athleticism that Mike Zimmer loves to see and coach up. I doubted that this directly translated into a roster spot, but I could see a practice squad offering. Lions analysts I talked to argued that waiving Jackson may have been a mistake. No impact. The Vikings are keeping eight linebackers, and if they kept nine Jackson was unlikely to make it. This was simply a short trial period for the Vikings to have better information on hand about available free agents and potentially look at Jackson’s viability as a PS guy.
Mike Zimmer Linebacker An addition made after the first day of rookie minicamps, Zimmer wasn’t expected to make a big impact. He did a much better job than I anticipated, and has a lot of great foot speed and better instincts than I gave him credit for. There were still alignment issues in camp and coverage spots that needed to be reworked, but overall a better player than I thought. Still, not quite talented enough to break into the second-team linebacker corps, which makes sense—they all have more polish and fewer mistakes. As expected. Zimmer doesn’t sound like he’s a PS candidate.
Fred Evans Nose Tackle I’m not a fan of this move. Fred Evans had been unfairly buried behind Letroy Guion on the depth chart, so it’snot immediately apparent, but he was a high-quality backup, even though he was more of a three-technique than a nose tackle. The fact that he never lost hold of the #2 spot in camp is proof of that, and his great preseason is further testament. Shamar Stephen, his presumed replacement, has been good but not as good. On the other hand, he is seven years younger. Shamar Stephen and possibly Chase Baker (doubt it) will see more playing time. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was an indication of a four-man DT rotation and five-man DE rotation, with Trattou the fifth DE UPDATE: Nope, not that either. Stay here for more informed, wild speculation.
Chase Baker Nose Tackle His 2013 camp was better than either his 2012 or 2014 camps, in my opinion, and his ability to play with burst and agility was a big asset. Unfortunately, he seemed a little washed out, though he did fine in the individual drills. Certainly a developmental prospect, this isn’t surprising, and he showed versatility in the 2013 season despite needing more work. He’s a strong player and has a high work ethic. The fact that he added speed to his game speaks volumes to me. Again, no surprise. He’s a practice squad candidate, and I have no issue with that.
Mike Remmers Offensive Tackle I didn’t much like Remmers’ play at camp, and he had moved around at guard and tackle at various times, doing better as a guard, but not significantly enough to inspire confidence, to me. As you’d expect, he’d been beaten by speed rushes, but also didn’t have a great base or technique in pass protection, though was a very good run blocker. This doesn’t change much at all, though I’m a bit surprised to hear he’s a practice squad candidate.
Dom Williams Running Back Good in pass protection, solid agility and good vision, but couldn’t crack the depth chart above Banyard. Though probably a better all-around RB than Banyard, it may be Banyard’s overall athletic skill set that gave him the nod throughout camp.It will be tough for Williams to latch on anywhere, and the issue could be that he isn’t perceived to have “special” qualities from an athletic standpoint, though he was more than capable No changes. Didn’t expect to see him on the PS after the Banyard invite.=, but Tomasson reports that he’s getting a PS invite as well.
Joe Banyard Running Back Banyard is much improved compared to last year, and his patience and vision have improved dramatically. He’s a fast player with elusiveness, but his acceleration has always been an issue (though before it was swallowed up by his decisionmaking). He sticks it between the tackles more often than he did, but he hasn’t been the pass protector that the others on the roster have been. Definitely a practice squad candidate and better than other third running backs on some other rosters. This is expected. It doesn’t so much make room for Dominique Williams as much as take care of necessary business. UPDATE: Looks like the Vikings have indicated that they want Banyard on the PS, which makes sense.
Jamarca Sanford Safety He’s being put on injured reserve, which means the Vikings have enough medical evidence to classify it as a “major injury” per the CBA—otherwise Sanford could challenge it in arbitration. I’ve always been a fan of him. He’s an underrated safety with strong run support skills. UPDATE: He’s been placed on “short-term” injured reserve, which is not the same as Injured Reserve-Designated for Return. All this means is that he will be cut when medically cleared. It is an alternative to an injury settlement, where the player and his agent disagree with the team over how long the player will be healthy. The safety battle slowly turns. This is naturally good news for Crocker, Coleman and Blanton. All of whom are simultaneously looking for a roster spot and battling to start. Also good news for Exum, who wasn’t in rotation to start, but a guy the Vikings (and I) are high on.
Chris Crocker Safety The surprise here isn’t so much that Crocker, Coleman or Sanford specifically were cut so much as all three of them being cut. Individually, there’s a case to cut all of them. In this case, Crocker is familiar with the system and has good awareness, but was largely brought on to help teach the system to the players more than anything else. He’s extremely slow. His starting in the preseason games was not a sign he was the top of the roster, but a way for the rest of the defense to play without worrying about the safety responsibility. Still, he didn’t play poorly, so it’s very reasonable not to expect this sort of thing. Paired with everything else, the Vikings will likely have to find alternative ways to create safety talent, or start Exum early. The fact that they didn’t name Exum as one of the safeties is worrisome in that regard, though.
Kurt Coleman Safety Coleman entered camp with the ghost of his play with the Philadelphia Eagles behind him. Though he started off camp with more talent than his showing in Philadelphia implied, mistakes he made then cropped up over the course of the preseason. Though he was well-positioned in the first game, he gradually put together worse film, and his final two games were big disappointments, especially in run defense. Coleman doesn’t have the range to specialize in pass defense, where he had been better for the Vikings, so his ability to drop into the box was critical to his chances of success. See analysis on Crocker.
Antonio Richardson Tackle Antonio Richardson was sent to Injured Reserve to get surgery on both knees. Darren Wolfson reports that Richardson had loose bodies in both of his knees, which sounds like a Grade II, III or even IV chondral lesion. This is related to the cartilage damage that Richardson is known to have, and evidence of further issues of a degenerative nature. This could point towards the osteoarthritis diagnosis I had heard about shortly after the draft, although the hope is that the osteoarthritis diagnosis was driven by the lesions, and may be misdiagnosed. Either way, it sounds like Richardson is not likely to have a long NFL career. The Vikings really need a backup tackle. I don’t trust Austin Wentworth to do it.
Allen Reisner Tight End Reisner catches everything, but has neither the build, nor chopping blocks to stick. A third tight-end needs to be a jack-of-all-trades, and Reisner isn’t even a complete receiving package. Despite his good hands, he can’t seem to get good separation on a consistent basis and relies on being an outlet option in order to create production, something the Vikings already have in other players with better all-around skill sets. A work-hard player, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him somewhere else. Chase Ford is a favorite to make the roster, but the real favorite is a yet-to-be-named tight end they will grab off the waivers. UPDATE: Yea, nope on Ford.
Donte Foster Wide Receiver Foster improved dramatically over camp and proved he didn’t need separation to be open with a number of highlight grabs in traffic and tight coverage. That said, some of the spectacular work he had isn’t replicable and it is likely his inability to separate as well as missing chemistry that saw him get cut. Should he improve his acceleration out of cuts, he’ll be well-positioned to get a roster spot next year—if that opportunity exists. No big surprise. He was evidently doing better than Kamar Jorden, Andy Cruse and Ty Walker—enough to stick around—but he wasn’t a real roster candidate. May be a PS guy, but I doubt it.
Kain Colter Wide Receiver The “seventh” person on the receiver depth chart, it seemed like—though he did fade over the course of camp. This quarterback/receiver hybrid at Northwestern showed more pop in his routes and softer hands than his background would suggest, and he played with a lot of game speed. He still has route-running mechanics to work on in order to get off the line and increase his suddenness, but his athletic skills translate very well on to the football field. The only real challenge to either Adam Thielen or Rodney Smith’s spot on the roster as receivers, Colter will head to the practice squad if he clears waivers, which is good.

That leaves this potential depth chart, not including IR:

53-Man Roster Prediction 8-30-2014

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  1. fred is dead, or so the song goes. a little surprising, but it saves some dough and he’s what, 30? see ya oct. 2nd

  2. Sorry to see Evans go … I certainly didn’t see that cut coming, given how he’d played in the preseason. I know Stephen was getting good reviews, but not good enough to supplant Evans. But clearly the team is placing more emphasis on long-term value rather than the short-term … which is good for the team (as long as the potential they see is really there to be developed).

  3. Evans is a valuable backup, but Stephen has played really well (especially for being such a late pick), and there’s no way they’d be able to stash him away on the practice squad, not with the amount he’s played this preseason. I hate to see Evans go, but I understand the business side of the decision and the need to build for the future. Given that this team isn’t ready to contend right now, I think they made the right choice. It’s true that Stephen could fail to reach his potential, but it’s also possible that Evans sees a huge drop off in his production within the next year.

  4. You said it: Evans was more of a 3-tech than a NT. Problem is that he played NT his entire career (started as Pat Williams’ backup), hardly ever played more than 10-20 snaps per game even when Guion and Ayodele were the starters, and only had a few splash plays (total of 3 career sacks) despite playing for penetration more than holding his own at the LOS.

    The Vikings needed a backup 2-gap NT to spell Joseph and back him up in case of injury. Stephen earned that spot. He played really well in preseason, especially in the run game.

    Evans was expendable — even if they kept him they’d be trying to replace him again in the draft next year. There was no way he’d be on the team they’re building to be a contender in ~2016. Stephen will.

    I think Exum will stick as the backup to Smith: he looked good in preseason, he’s young and developing, and they’d probably lose him if they tried to get him on the practice squad.

  5. just saw the 53 man Minnesota Vikings….. wow looks awesome…some surprizes…many that we knew of…hoping we can go 9-7

    1. It was obvious for awhile now that Sherels would make the team. A) He was at the least the fourth, and arguably the third, best cornerback on the roster, having improved significantly in the last year or two; B) He is probably the best punt returner in the NFL. It would have been extremely surprising had he NOT made the team.

      1. Sherels is probably the 3rd or 4th best punt returner on the Vikings. And if he is the 3rd or 4th best cb on the Vikings. The Vikings are in huge trouble. Sherels was horrible this preseason at cb.

        1. Not true at all. While Sherels had some moments where he struggled this preseason, he overall performed at least at the league average. I definitely could see him playing in the nickel/dime packages as the 3/4 corner depending on how Robinson does coming back from injury.

          I definitely think he is the 2nd best punt returned for the Vikings (behind Patterson). Thielan has flashed in the pre-season, but Sherels is proven as a returner against starting lineups and has been great both in regular seasons and this preseason.

    2. I agree with you WTFVIKESFAN,although clarify by saying I’m surprised both Sherels and Robinson made the team.I thought one of them would get cut.While our starting corners are better than last year we still have a lot of issues at that position.Zimmer likes to use 3 Safety packages and I expect to see a fair chunk of that.

  6. Your leaving off one key item with Crocker. He’s a vested veteran so his contract would have been guaranteed if they had him on the roster for week one. He already said Zimmer is the only guy he’ll play for so it didn’t make any sense to keep him if he wasn’t starting. There’s a good chance he could be back later this year.

  7. Wonder what Zimmer thinks of Orson Charles, Bengals cut the former TE who they were trying at FB.

  8. Fred Evans was an unfortunate victim of the Vikings “building for the future” mantra.He is clearly worth a roster spot,but this team is in a major rebuild and his age counted against him.It’s sad to see his Vikings career end this way.

  9. Mr. Hasan,

    I’d have to respectfully disagree with you about Wentworth. I heard some people complaining about him but after I saw his PFF grade for the 4th game I decided to watch all his plays in the 4 preseason games. Besides the one bad play in the Chiefs game, he seemed almost flawless in pass protection. Even that one really bad play looked like either a mental error either on his part or the TE missing an assignment. He looked very surprised like the TE was supposed to help but didn’t. That is still bad but an easy mistake to fix. Either way something got him caught off guard but the rest of the preseason he played much better and that was with playing both tackle spots and even guard. I think we struck gold with him as an undrafted free agent.

    I must add though that I really respect your commentary; keep up the good work.