5 Areas the Vikings Can Still Look to Improve 

5 Areas the Vikings Can Still Look to Improve 
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O'Connell

On Tuesday, the Vikings finalized their initial 53-man roster for the 2022 season. For the most part, things went as expected.

The one big surprise was defensive tackle Armon Watts’ release, which led to the Vikings trading for another defensive lineman. The only other surprise for me was the Vikings only rostering five wide receivers. The injury to Olabisi Johnson likely played a significant factor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings are looking to add a sixth receiver. With the initial roster in place, here are five areas the Vikings can still look to improve.

Center

Oct 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Miami Dolphins center Austin Reiter. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

The emergence of rookie Ed Ingram at right guard leaves Vikings fans so close to the offensive line they’ve been dreaming about. The one problem position is center.

Garrett Bradbury is still in position as the starter, and I haven’t seen anything during the preseason to suggest he’s going to make the type of progress needed, particularly for a team that is expected to lean more heavily on the passing game under its new coach. Austin Schlottman is a reasonable backup option, but no significant improvement on Bradbury. Chris Reed seems an option, though a niggling injury kept him out of the preseason games, which meant the Vikings couldn’t get a look at him during in-game action.

A few centers were released on Tuesday. A couple of veterans the Vikings might have an interest in are Nick Martin and Austin Reiter. Undrafted rookie Alec Lindstrom is another name to watch. Outside of that, the Vikings will need to find a trade partner.

Wide Receiver/Punt Returner

I believe if Bisi Johnson didn’t get injured, the Vikings have six wide receivers on their roster right now. I expect them to bring a new face in to complete the lineup. There still seems to be uncertainty about the punt returner role. This means a specialist returner could be an option.

Former Minnesota Golden Gopher Tyler Johnson was waived by Tampa Bay — immediately making him the fans’ favorite for a Minnesota reunion. Other names of interest that failed to make rosters on Tuesday include Alex Erickson – an experienced return specialist, Kalil Pimpleton – an undrafted rookie with returning credentials, Keke Coutee, Kendall Hinton, and Keelan Cole, who would be top of my list as a good receiver and returner.

There was also this interesting story on Twitter yesterday suggesting the Vikings are looking to trade for Jalen Reagor. The man who has spent his career thus far in the shadow of Justin Jefferson landing in Minnesota would be a fascinating equation. The Vikings bringing back the recently released Albert Wilson shouldn’t be ruled out.

Tight End

Green Bay Packers tight end Jace Sternberger. © Wm. Glasheen / USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

The Vikings look flimsy at tight end.

We await the Irv Smith breakout season, but after missing all last season with a knee injury, he has been absent for most of the preseason after an operation on his thumb. With backups Johnny Mundt and Ben Ellefson are more noted for their blocking abilities, nervousness around Smith’s injury history is warranted.

The Vikings may decide to add a playmaker to their ranks. Recently available tight ends include the likes of Anthony Firsker, OJ Howard, Jalen Wydermyer, Thaddeus Moss, and Jace Sternberger.

Defensive Line

With Armon Watts gone, the Vikings traded for Ross Blacklock from the Houston Texans. There’s reasonable doubt whether Blacklock is ready to step in as the starter. He is a better scheme fit, having stood out in the 3-4 defense in college sufficiently to be drafted in the second round back in 2020. Playing for a struggling Texans team in a 4-3 defense, he has found life in the NFL difficult. Perhaps a fresh start in a more familiar role is what he needs.

However, if only for a short period, a veteran starter makes sense for the Vikings. Ndamukong Suh and former Viking Sheldon Richardson are the obvious choices.

Nose Tackle

Behind starting nose tackle Harrison Phillips, there is only James Lynch, who has positioned himself as a defensive line all-rounder. If Blacklock needs time to settle and no other player is brought into the mix, Lynch could be the started at defensive end — the position he was expected to compete for before trying his hand at NT during the preseason.

With that in mind, the Vikings may want to bring in some new competition, especially as some interesting names hit the waiver wire. Tyler Shelvin and Marvin Wilson, rookies from last year, became available and would add good depth to the roster.



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