Vikings

Taking a Look at the Vikings’ 75-Man Cut-Down

Credit: University of Minnesota

Cuts are a part of any NFL offseason, but they’re gut-wrenching anyway. As the Vikings cut down their roster to 75 players before the final preseason game, we’ll be keeping track of who’s out and adding our takes to those cuts.

These players were going to be out one way or the other, so this round of cuts is typically not as surprising or disappointing as others, but potential practice squad hopefuls will be upset as the first round of cuts rarely produces practice squad signees.

We’ll keep you updated throughout the day as more cuts roll in.


Injury

Teddy Bridgewater went down in practice with a serious non-contact injury in his left knee. We don’t know the complete severity of the injury, and there’s more details here.


Rumors

John Sullivan might be traded.

This essentially confirms that Joe Berger is the starter at center, but it also means the Vikings are trying to fit as many developmental offensive linemen onto the roster as possible.

Sullivan had an up-and-down training camp, and mixed good days with bad. Unfortunately, his biggest weakness was strength, and he couldn’t hold up against nose tackles one-on-one, like Berger did several times in camp and in the preseason.

It opens up the running game a bit more and though Sullivan seemed to have a better understanding of the protections and running schemes (Mike Zimmer characterized the difference as one between physicality and intellect), it wasn’t enough to keep him without getting some compensation for a starting-quality player.


Cuts

John Sullivan

My thoughts on John Sullivan are well known. While I do think his contract plays a role (the idea of paying over five million dollars to a backup center is not palatable), I think it’s overplayed; the Vikings have overpayed for players they’ve relegated to backup status before (in John Carlson’s case, it was immediate). But it is relevant, as is the fact that Sullivan might be in a place where he would rather retire than ride the bench—if so, cutting him early frees him up to seek another team if another team has room for him.

Sullivan performed well enough in the preseason and in training camp, though it’s clear he had strength issues. His ability to get to the second level and hold double teams at the point of attack shouldn’t go unnoticed, and hopefully a team signs him. Perhaps he could go to the Chargers, where Jeff Davidson is, or to one of the several zone-blocking teams who lack a center, like Chicago, Houston or Washington.

Read more here.

Sean Hickey

Hickey took 18 official snaps in the preseason, all in the first game. Despite the Vikings playing a little short-handed at tackle, with Matt Kalil injured in the third game, Hickey couldn’t crack a tackle group that included Carter Bykowski and Jeremiah Sirles. Hickey was a late signing who had a little more potential than most late signings, but evidently not enough for the Vikings to play him in a preseason game.

Generally speaking, he has played tackle and guard in his recent NFL past, but had leverage and second level blocking issues. Though possessing adequate athleticism and play strength, his late arrival to the roster and inability to impress early doomed his nascent Vikings career.

Thieren Cockran

Cockran played three snaps in the preseason, all on special teams. He did not (according to official NFL gamebooks, anyway) see the field as a member of the defense over the past three games. That’s not surprising as he had a pretty abysmal camp in the rare instances he saw reps at all.

Originally recruited as a receiver for the University of Minnesota, Cockran switched to linebacker and then to defensive end, where he made some waves in preliminary draft talk. He didn’t follow-through after a surprising sophomore season of 7.5 sacks and accumulated 7.0 sacks in the next two years combined. He didn’t have the flexibility to be a speed-rusher or the power to be a bull-rusher.

Terrance Plummer

Not surprising, though he did have a splash play in the most recent preseason game. He was a late signing, picked up after undrafted free agent Jason Whittingham decided to retire. He had been on the Vikings’ roster earlier in the offseason, but he was waived in order to give the Vikings room to sign safety John Lowdermilk.

Prior to the third preseason game, the only statistic he logged was an assisted tackle on special teams and took four snaps. As it was, he was a smaller linebacker who specialized in run support without much in the way of speed or coverage capability. The Vikings already have a better version of that in Kentrell Brothers.

Austin Shepherd

It’s disappointing to hear that Austin Shepherd’s been cut, to me. I think he was much more versatile than the Vikings gave him credit for, and pigeonholing him into the guard position didn’t help him. Regardless, he seemed to do better in one-on-one reps than half of the offensive linemen, even after accounting for his opposition.

I wrote more about Shepherd in this notebook, but the point is that he’s showcased strength and athleticism in his limited reps. I hope he gets picked up, because he deserves it.

Claudell Louis

After recently having earned his U.S. citizenship, it would have been a nice followup for Claudell Louis to make an NFL roster. Unfortunately, without seeing a single snap in three preseason games despite being healthy, Louis couldn’t make his case in live play. It’s a shame, because I thought Louis actually had a good camp despite being a late camp signing who found himself on the roster after Heinicke found his foot in a door.

Still, he was behind several rounds of defensive tackles—not just the starting pair of Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd, but Tom Johnson/Shamar Stephen, Kenrick Ellis/Toby Johnson and nickel rotations that included Scott Crichton and Zach Moore.

Brad Sorensen

He did not throw in the preseason and was only brought in so that the Vikings had another arm throwing the ball in practices while Teddy Bridgewater nursed a sore shoulder and Shaun Hill took consecutive “veterans days.”

If you want to learn more about Sorensen, read this. Mostly, he’s a strong-armed quarterback with accuracy issues and was slow to move in his progressions.

Marken Michel

Michel looked good in spurts at camp, but his cut was easy to predict just from his playing time. He took two snaps on offense all preseason, behind the rarely seen Moritz Böhringer and Isaac Fruechte. His eight special teams snaps didn’t make up for the difference.

An interesting athletic talent that looked good with the ball in his hands at Massachusetts, Michel couldn’t generate that same quickness as a route-runner and he doesn’t have the size or speed to hang his hat on another trump card.

Brian Leonhardt

The gap between the top three tight ends in camp—Kyle Rudolph, MyCole Pruitt and David Morgan—and the bottom two—Kyle Carter and Brian Leonhardt—is enormous. Add to that the fact that Rhett Ellison is expected to contribute as early as week one (once taken off the PUP list in the offseason, one cannot be PUP’d for the regular season for the same injury), and it’s difficult to see how Carter or Leonhardt could have contributed.

Leonhardt may have grabbed some attention from Sparano, who was familiar with him in previous stints, but didn’t do enough to earn even a glancing shot at the roster.

Leonhardt took more snaps in the first two preseason games than Carter did, with 32 on offense and 12 on special teams, but Carter took snaps in the final game whereas Leonhardt did not. Leonhardt carried the advantage of being much more assignment-sound, but may not have baseline NFL athleticism.

Terrell Sinkfield

Sinkfield is nearly as athletic as Böhringer, and they both serve as a reminder that athleticism isn’t enough. While everybody best remembers Sinfield’s 4.19 pro day, more important is the fact that he was dynamic as an athlete and dominated each of the workouts.

Still, that doesn’t mean much without base receiver skills. Sinkfield bounced around the CFL for some time before sticking with the Hamilton Ti-Cats and though that was enough to earn another invite into the NFL, he couldn’t impress enough to even get regular work with the threes and Joel Stave. At issue were his catch technique as well as his intermediate route-running. He only saw snaps in the first game (11) with one target, and otherwise was relegated to special teams work—work he was not particularly good at.

Antone Exum

With Antone Exum gone, the safety battle has clarified itself a little bit more. We don’t know any details about Exum’s injury, but a waived/injured designation at this point is a precursor to putting a player on injured reserve.

At any rate, Exum wasn’t doing well in the preseason and consistently had issues staying on assignment or attacking with proper tackling angles. His coverage in man-to-man looked excellent and he had a highlight play in the preseason, but generally speaking did a poor job staying disciplined and avoiding mistakes. Zimmer has mentioned Exum several times over the past two years in press conferences, and they’re usually accompanied with implications about his consistency and ability to stay assignment-sound.

Scott Crichton

Also waived with an injury designation, Crichton did not appear in the final preseason game for the Vikings.

Crichton, along with David Yankey, serves as an example of how “steals in the draft” are not necessarily steals and carry their own flaws—some of them evidently fatal to their NFL careers. Even a player with a nearly unassailable athletic profile and an impressive college film resume, can be subject to the pressures of the NFL and required to perform at a level they cannot.

Asked to switch from defensive end to defensive tackle, the writing has been on the wall for Crichton for some time. Despite flashing occasionally in training camp, it’s clear that a player taking defensive tackle snaps behind three pairs of interior defensive linemen—Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen and Toby Johnson, & Kenrick Ellis and Toby Johnson—didn’t have much opportunity to make the roster despite carrying the capital of a third round pick. Add his recent injury, and there’s not much to speak for him.

He could compete next year on the team after going through the IR process, but it seems unlikely he would stick.

Troy Stoudermire

I honestly thought Stoudermire would survive through the first round of cuts given how able he looked as a punt returner. Evidently it wasn’t enough, and his struggles throughout camp and in the preseason as a pass-catcher certainly showed up. He had issues with drops in Minnesota, though was a surprisingly competent route-runner.

More an athlete than a football player, Stoudermire’s best chance to stick was as a punt returner. With the Vikings carrying one of the league’s best in Marcus Sherels, that was always a tough road to hoe.

Mike Harris

We… don’t really know what the deal with Mike Harris is, but he’s been put on reserve/non-football illness. It’s a “head thing” as far as we can tell and did not feature for the Vikings in any capacity this offseason.

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