6 Takeaways from Vikings Cutdown Day

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The cutdown day is over, and the initial roster is 53 players. To achieve that, Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah released 35 athletes over two days to be done before the deadline hit on Tuesday.

Although some moves were surprising, for the most part, the Vikings did the expected. While the original 53-man roster is complete, the team is not done making moves.

6 Takeaways from Vikings Cutdown Day

We have learned some things on Tuesday.

1. Only 4 RBs

There was a lot of confusion when the Vikings kept five running backs last season despite the expectations to become a pass-heavy offense that features many sets with three wideouts. And those expectations were correct. The Vikings had one of the top three highest pass percentages in the NFL.

6 Takeaways From Vikings Cutdown Day
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One year later, it is expected that head coach Kevin O’Connell wants to feature the running game more than in 2022, and the signing of Josh Oliver and the contract extension of C.J. Ham indicated the same thing. They also added running back DeWayne McBride in the seventh round of the draft, but he didn’t make the team.

Despite the changed emphasis, the Vikes employ the same running back group as last year but without Dalvin Cook — Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, Kene Nwanwgu, and C.J. Ham.

2. Special Teams Matter

Coaches always preach about the importance of special teams, but many fans don’t want to listen and just want the best players from scrimmage without paying attention to the third phase of football. But the Vikings value those guys who are excellent in that part of the game, and the roster shows it.

Georgia Southern receiver NaJee Thompson (26) celebrates with cornerback Monquavion Brinson (4) after intercepting a Clemson pass during the 1st quarter Saturday, September 15, 2018, at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium. © BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff.

Undrafted rookie NaJee Thompson came into the league as a cornerback, in theory. He has always known his role as he wants to be great at one thing: special teams. His punt-gunning brilliance was showcased in the preseason, and he earned a spot on the roster as far and away, the best man for the job.

Minnesota also rosters arguably the best kick returner in the game, although Kene Nwangwu hasn’t shown any value on offense. Special teams matter, and some players make careers out of it.

3. It’s Worth Listening to the Guys in Charge

Sometimes, the general manager and the head coach just say stuff to wiggle out of questions without really saying something. But at times, they are telling the truth. O’Connell mentioned after the final preseason game that the Vikings might keep all six safeties on the roster.

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Most teams keep four or five. Keeping six is highly unusual. Still, the Vikes kept Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum, Lewis Cine, Josh Metellus, Theo Jackson, and Jay Ward. Defensive coordinator Brian Flores likes to play with three or even four safeties simultaneously, and now he can do just that.

4. More Moves to Come

The roster as it stands right now is not a finished product. After trading away Vederian Lowe to the Patriots and cutting a plethora of linemen, there are only eight left on the team, and the Vikings are perhaps one short. Oli Udoh is also the only backup tackle if Blake Brandel counts as a guard.

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Even more brutal is the cornerback group. Byron Murphy, Akayleb Evans, Mekhi Blackmon, Andrew Booth, and NaJee Thompson are the five rostered guys, and the organization must acquire one more to have enough depth for the season.

On the flip side, trading away one of the safeties or one of the six wide receivers is also possible.

5. Preseason Doesn’t Matter

Fans always look at the preseason games as deciding who makes the team and who doesn’t, but that isn’t true. Sheldon Day was arguably the best defender, but the defensive tackle is looking for a job.

Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) recovers his fumble next to Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Day (52) during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minn., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Edge-rusher Benton Whitley had a phenomenal final preseason game, and guess what? He was waived. At the end of the day, it is part of the evaluation, the part every fan can watch, but it isn’t more important than training camp and joint practices.

6. Rookies Everywhere

Adofo-Mensah entered the draft with only five picks, made six selections after trading down a couple of times, and signed a bunch of undrafted players. Fast forward four months, he turned those five picks into eight rookies on the roster.

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McBride was cut, but the three undrafted rookies Ivan Pace, Andre Carter, and NaJee Thompson made it, in addition to Jordan Addison, Mekhi Blackmon, Jay Ward, Jaquelin Roy, and Jaren Hall. Blackmon, Pace, and Addison are expected to play significant roles in their rookie campaigns.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt