Takeaways From the Vikings’ First Unofficial Depth Chart
Yesterday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings released their first unofficial depth chart for the 2021 season. Of course, it must be noted that we are still a month away from the regular season debut against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 12th. There are still plenty of takeaways to be had from this first depth chart, though.
1. The rookies must earn their keep
Similarly to how Justin Jefferson started his NFL career as a backup, it looks like this year’s rookie o-linemen, Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis, are going to have to show the coaching staff more. Darrisaw in particular has spent a lot of time on the sidelines as he recovers from a groin injury. Davis just hasn’t earned enough reps with the first team yet. As Darrisaw continues to recover, I’d expect him to eventually take the LT job. In the same light, Kellen Mond is currently listed as QB4 after coming off COVID protocols.
2. Wide Receiver spots are up for grabs
After the signing of Dede Westbrook, many expected him to be the favorite for WR3 going into the year. That is still most likely the case, but in this first chart Westbrook is listed as WR5 behind both K.J. Osborne and Chad Beebe. Throw into the mix that Bisi Johnson is out with a torn ACL, and there are spots to be had in the WR room.
3. Special Teams looks shockingly similar
One of the Vikings biggest flaws last season was their special teams. They began addressing that issue by choosing not to bring back Marwan Maalouf and instead promoting Ryan Ficken. However, the depth chart to this point does not reflect much change in personnel. Amber Abdullah is listed as the starter for both punt and kick return jobs while rookie RB Kene Nwangwu is the backup kick returner. K.J. Osborne and Chad Beebe are listed ahead of Ihmir Smith-Marsette as punt returners. Of course, this may just be another case of rookies needing to prove their worth, but if the Vikings send the same players out to return kicks as last year, that’s definitely a concern.
4. D.J. Wonnum continues to impress
DJ Wonnum was a pleasant surprise for the Vikings last year at defensive end. The team desperately needed someone to step up in the pass rush, and when Wonnum got opportunities, he showed up. He’s certainly continued to show signs of promise in training camp this year as well. With Danielle Hunter and Stephen Weatherly taking to starting spots (unsurprisingly), Wonnum finds himself as one of the top backups. He currently sits fourth on the Vikings depth chart between Jalyn Holmes and Hercules Mata’afa.
5. Zimmer has to be happy with his CBs
In 2020, the secondary for the Vikings was a disaster about 90% of the time. Between injuries and the lack of veteran presence, Minnesota’s defense was often a step behind. This year though, the squad looks ready to return back to 2019 form. Patrick Peterson and Brashaud Breeland sit atop as starters, while Mackensie Alexander and Cam Dantzler are the primary backups. Remember, Dantzler was stuck at CB1 for large chunks of the 2020 season as a rookie.
6. A great day for Olisaemeka Udoh fans
With lots of questions at the two guard spots going into this season, fans have found their darling in Olisaemeka Udoh. The hype has been confirmed as real with Udoh sitting as the starter at right guard. Consequently, this move switches Ezra Cleveland to the other side of the line at left guard. Much of the money going into this season was that Wyatt Davis would earn a starting gig, but again, he has not played enough first team snaps. We will see what happens moving forward if/when those increase. For now though, Udoh is the man.
7. The kicker saga
Finally, we have to bring up the kicker battle. Dan Bailey was one of the NFL’s historically great kickers, but after a struggle bus of a season, the Vikings have moved on. For now, it looks like Greg Joseph holds the reins as he has made 24 of 30 attempts in camp. Riley Patterson is returning to practice after missing a week, so we will see if he can make the competition interesting.