Predicting the Final 53-Man Vikings’ Roster: The Defense

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 18: Cornerback Trae Waynes #26 of the Minnesota Vikings is congratulated by teammates after making an interception late in the fourth quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers on September 18, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 18: Cornerback Trae Waynes #26 of the Minnesota Vikings is congratulated by teammates after making an interception late in the fourth quarter during the game against the Green Bay Packers on September 18, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

So, yesterday I released my 53-man roster keeps on the offensive side of the ball. If you need to catch up, you can read that here. Tonight, we move over to the defensive side of the ball. Will Marcus Sherels make the team? Let’s find out!

DL: (10): Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Sheldon Richardson, Danielle Hunter, Brian Robison, Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower, Jaleel Johnson, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes

This position group is deep. Deeper than any other group on this roster (yes, more than defensive back) and it could compete with any defensive line in the league. The team may opt to only keep 9 of these guys, but cutting any of them will be gut-wrenching. Odenigbo showed his versatility along the line against the Jaguars and Holmes has proven time and time again that he is ready for NFL competition. Bringing Richardson into this mix just doesn’t seem fair to opposing offenses.

Brian Robison is the heart and soul of this defense. Don’t be surprised when that “C” shows up on his jersey again even though he isn’t a starter. Andre Patterson has to be one of the best position coaches out there and each and every one of these guys is proof.

Jayln Holmes would be the name that is one the chopping block though. If Zimmer and Co. decide to keep more LBs than I predicted or another offensive lineman, he could slip to the practice squad or find himself on another team.

LB: (4): Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Ben Gedeon, Eric Wilson, *Kentrell Brothers

Linebacker depth was one of the biggest concerns going into camp. Barr and Kendricks are still one of the best LB pairings in the NFL, but beyond those two is where the question marks lie. Gedeon and Wilson are battling for that last starting spot. They have both improved greatly, even since last season. But the inexperience of this group as a whole is still worrisome.

Kentrell Brothers may have the last spot, when all is said and done, but his 4-game suspension may be his downfall as well. With Barr sitting out the first preseason game, it was Antwione Williams who got the nod for the starting role, in his place. He could be the one to stick if the Vikings decide to keep 5 linebackers. However, with the recent addition of George Iloka, keeping just 4 linebackers makes a bit of sense but also makes them weak in the depth department. This may be a position that is addressed after other teams make roster cuts, but with the versatility of our safeties, we can make it work with just four.

CB: (7): Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Mike Hughes, Terence Newman, Marcus Sherels, Holton Hill

This group should scare opposing QBs. Not only are they deep, but their top guys will match any in the NFL. Mike Hughes has looked better right out of college than any corner Mike Zimmer has drafted. Think about that for a second…. Hughes will make an impact early.

Don’t sleep on Trae Waynes either, who should take huge strides this year. He already looks improved in camp and he should get targeted a lot again this year, with the Rhodes on the other side of the field. Alexander has made strides too, but this injury may open the door for Hughes to take his starting spot in the nickel.

Terrance Newman isn’t human. He should have hit that age wall at least 4-5 years ago, but has found a way to stay relevant even at 39 years old. Sherels will stay on this team. Mike Priefer has already stated that he is the go-to punt returner, but his presence on kickoff and punt coverage is also invaluable. He’s not just a returner, but one of the best all-around special teams players in the NFL. Holton Hill may be more of a project than many had hoped, but he has the skill-set and traits to be special, and management won’t chance losing him by exposing him to waivers on his way to the practice squad.

S: (5): Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, George Iloka, Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse

So, anyone taking bets on whether Smith will actually be voted into the Pro Bowl this year? Anthony Harris has made more strides than any other player on this team, from last year. His improvement may push Sendejo for a job next year, especially with Andrew’s contract getting expensive next season.

The signing of George Iloka on August 22nd could mean many things. He allows the Vikings to keep only 4 linebackers if they desire (as I mentioned above), but it could also mean one less DL makes the roster. In Zimmer’s defensive scheme, we could see any of the top three safeties act as a pseudo-linebacker in nickel packages. This addition will make this defense even more stingy than it already was.

We could also see sub-packages that kick Everson Griffen into the inside of the line next to Sheldon Richardson. In this scenario, we could have Hunter and Barr come off the edge, naturally Waynes and Rhodes on the outside, and either Hughes or Alexander in the nickel. We could see Kendricks and Sendejo in the middle of the field with Smith and Iloka up top. This is just one scenario that signing Iloka makes possible. Opposing offenses will struggle to keep up with the constant rotation on our defense.

Kearse’s punt and kickoff coverage will aid in him making this team. Zimmer still sees starter potential in him as well and a cut would be shocking.

Specialty: (3): Daniel Carlson, Ryan Quigley, Kevin McDermott

The kicker battle has now ended with Kai Forbath being cut. Carlson’s big leg was just too hard to pass up. The new kickoff rules also assisted Carlson in making this roster, as he may be able to kick it into difficult spaces for return units.

Also, don’t sleep on punter, Ryan Quigley. He didn’t allow a single touchback last year until the NFCCG. He also had the 4th-highest punt hang time average just last year.

Practice Squad: (10): (RB) Roc Thomas, (OL) Colby Gossett, (LB) Devante Downs, (S) Tray Matthews, (WR) Chad Beebe, (DL) Jonathan Wynn, (CB) Horace Richardson, (WR) Jake Wieneke, (CB) Trevon Mathis, (LB)Antwione Williams —— Player Profiles at

Ian Parrague @SuperSkolFan
Minnesota Sports Fan

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