Vikings Pro Bowler Could Be Facing Roster Cut
Entering his seventh season in the Minnesota Vikings organization, C.J. Ham may be facing the biggest challenge of his career. The 2019 Pro Bowl selection plays a position no longer valued in either the Vikings’ new offense or in 2022 NFL football. After a run of six solid seasons that made the native Minnesotan a fan favorite, his time may have run out.
In 2021, only six teams utilized a fullback. The Rams, new head coach Kevin O’Connell’s former team, did not carry the position on their Super-Bowl winning roster. Upon arriving in Minnesota, O’Connell was naturally asked what his plans were with his new Pro-Bowl fullback, to which he responded with admiration and affirmation for the Duluth Denfeld graduate: “I think C.J. is going to have a lot of different roles for us […] and the best thing about C.J. is that he can do it all”.
However, as training camp closes, Ham’s opportunities to have any role on this team are getting slimmer.
Practice only reveals so much, but in the two joint practices with the 49ers this past week, Ham hardly saw the field in eleven-on-eleven scrimmages. Potentially O’Connell was looking for his offense to get reps in certain packages against a stout San Francisco defense that didn’t include the fullback, but nonetheless, it is concerning for a once vital part of Minnesota’s strong running attack.
Ham would be a shoo-in to make the roster if Mike Zimmer were still around. One of the main reasons Ham became such a fan-favorite in the Twin Cities was his ability to create massive seams for Dalvin Cook. Under Zimmer, Ham was cut in his rookie year (as an RB), but he became an indispensable player for a team that prioritized a zone running game.
One of the things that O’Connell highlighted was Ham’s willingness and ability to do anything that a coaching staff asked of him. He not only paved the way for an effective running game but was a staple on special teams as well.
If C.J. were to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster come August 30, there’s no question he would find a way to make an impact. However, as the roster sits today, there are position battles and crunches everywhere, especially in the backfield. Dalvin Cook and Kene Nwangwu will make the team as RB1 and KR, respectively. Alexander Mattison has been an invaluable backup in years past when Cook is out with injury, and even he has questions surrounding him and his likelihood of making the team. Ty Chandler, currently RB4, has raised eyebrows with his effectiveness and energy and is making a strong push to survive final cuts.
Last season, the Vikings held three running backs and one fullback on the roster. So for an offense that doesn’t lend itself to requiring the services of a fullback, keeping all five is highly unlikely.
With where Kevin O’Connell seems to be taking his offense and how full the running back room is, the once vital part of an offensive attack may be the odd man out come final cuts. If it is the end of the line for home-grown C.J., it won’t be because he can’t bring it anymore; rather, the modern game is moving away from his skillset. If there’s anyone that will be able to land on his feet, it’s Mr. “Do It All,” C.J. Ham.
Will is a husband, father of two, and a lifelong Minnesotan. He earned an undergraduate degree in Economics (just like Kwesi Adofo-Mensah). He became a Vikings fan in 2009 when Brett Favre stole his heart. Will’s favorite pastimes are water skiing, Minnesota sports, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. He is the co-host of the Load the Box Vikings Podcast with Jordan Hawthorn. Follow him on Twitter (@willbadlose) and find his other sports content at Twins Daily and his very own Bad Loser Blog.