Vikings

Surprises From the Minnesota Vikings' Initial 53-Man Roster

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel (USA Today Sports)

The Minnesota Vikings completed roster cuts Saturday afternoon, landing on 53 names that now comprise what seems to be a fluid roster.

With hundreds of players now floating on the free agent market, the Vikings will likely make a handful of moves before their week of Packers preparation. There were still some surprises among their initial cuts, but before we get into that, let’s look at how the roster was put together.

QUARTERBACK (2): Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
Cut: Jake Browning, Nate Stanley

RUNNING BACK (5): Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, C.J. Ham (FB)
Cut: Tony Brooks-James, Jake Bargas

WIDE RECEIVER (7): Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Bisi Johnson, Tajae Sharpe, Chad Beebe, K.J. Osborn, Dan Chisena
Cut: Dillon Mitchell, Quartney Davis, Alexander Hollins

TIGHT END (3): Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin
Cut: Brandon Dillon, Nakia Griffin-Stewart

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (5): Garrett Bradbury, Pat Elflein, Dakota Dozier, Dru Samia, Ezra Cleveland
Cut: Brett Jones, Jake Lacina, Aviante Collins, Kyle Hinton

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Riley Reiff, Brian O’Neill, Rashod Hill, Oli Udoh
Cut: Blake Brandel

DEFENSIVE END (6): Danielle Hunter, Yannick Ngakoue, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jalyn Holmes, D.J. Wonnum, Eddie Yarbrough
Cut: Stacy Keely, Anthony Zettel

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (5): Shamar Stephen, Jaleel Johnson, Armon Watts, Hercules Mata’afa, James Lynch
Cut: David Moa

LINEBACKER (5): Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Eric Wilson, Troy Dye, Hardy Nickerson
Cut: Blake Lynch, David Reese II, Jordan Fehr
PUP: Ben Gedeon

CORNERBACK (6): Holton Hill, Mike Hughes, Jeff Gladney, Cameron Dantzler, Kris Boyd, Harrison Hand
Cut: Nevelle Clarke, Mark Fields

SAFETIES (2): Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris
Cut: Nate Meadors, Steven Parker, Myles Dorn (injured), Josh Metellus, Brian Cole II

SPECIALISTS (3): Dan Bailey, Britton Colquitt, Austin Cutting

TOTAL OFFENSE: 26
TOTAL DEFENSE: 24


SURPRISE NO. 1: DAN CHISENA

It’s hard to believe that Chisena’s stay on the Vikings’ roster will last all year — maybe even into the Packers game on Sept. 13. But clearly the Vikings are enamored with his special teams prowess, especially after he showed off his gunning ability at U.S. Bank Stadium in the team’s scrimmage. Chisena had a lousy camp as a wide receiver and even transitioned to safety for a couple practices. The team obviously loves Chisena’s upside, considering he participated more in college as a track and field athlete than a football player. The shocker is that he made the roster instead of simply the practice squad.

Not only did the Vikings keep Chisena, but they kept seven wide receivers — one year after keeping just four initially. Tajae Sharpe and Chad Beebe both made it, along with another rookie that’s likely to be an exclusive specialist K.J. Osborn. Unfortunately, this writer’s Mr. Mankato pick Alexander Hollins got waived.

SURPRISE NO. 2: TWO SAFETIES

The Vikings cycled through safety after safety during training camp in pursuit of quality backups for Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. They landed on: Nobody. Rookie draft picks Brian Cole II and Josh Metellus were cut, as was UDFA Myles Dorn. Nate Meadors and Steven Parker had NFL experience and neither of them made it either. Back to the drawing board?

Minnesota usually goes with four safeties on the roster, and though the Vikings don’t typically rotate Smith or Harris out during games, they’ve always had a reliable backup in case of injury (i.e., Andrew Sendejo, Jayron Kearse, George Iloka). Reportedly, Iloka worked out for the Vikings in August, so maybe that’s the move. It seems unlikely the Vikings would roll into the season without at least one backup at safety. Well, except Chisena I suppose…

SURPRISE NO. 3: ALL THE DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

The Vikings clearly didn’t feel like making any hard decisions on the defensive line, so they kept everybody on the bubble. Six defensive ends might seem excessive, but it also seems likely that fourth-round pick D.J. Wonnum will have something resembling a redshirt year. Jalyn Holmes made the transition to end, but he still has inside flexibility, and Eddie Yarbrough got some first-team work with Danielle Hunter out before the Yannick Ngakoue trade.

The unsettling aspect of this for Vikings fans could be what it represents for Hunter’s health. Although he wasn’t placed on the PUP list, which means his injury isn’t long-term, loading up on defensive ends is exactly the move a team would make if it’s star piece is going to miss some time. Hunter is only doing light rehab one week out from the Packers game.

The Vikings also kept five defensive tackles, including fourth-round rookie James Lynch, who seemed to have a rough camp and might be in the same boat as Wonnum with a redshirt season. Head coach Mike Zimmer has said he’s hopeful some of the rookies can develop as the season goes and that he didn’t want to “give up on a guy too soon.”

SURPRISE NO. 4: O-LINE CUTS

Minnesota went a little lighter on the offensive line than some suspected, but there’s a good chance they’ll load up the practice squad at that position. New rules allow for team’s to call-up two practice squad players on gameday if desired, and offensive line reinforcements are always in demand.

It still was a surprise to see Aviante Collins waived after he vied for a starting job against Dakota Dozier. At age 27, he could qualify for the new veteran’s practice squad spot. Backup center Brett Jones was also cut and could also qualify for the practice squad, but he’s 29 years old and overqualified. In his third season with the Vikings, Jones has typically been overlooked in favor of younger talent. It may be time for him to move on if he can.

SURPRISE NO. 5: AMEER ABDULLAH STICKS AROUND

The Vikings seem to be placing a great emphasis on special teams with this roster construction, which largely explains how Ameer Abdullah stayed on board for a third season in Minnesota despite being fourth on the running back depth chart. The veteran back has only played 141 snaps on offensive with the Vikings the last two years, but as a kick returner and a staple on other special teams units he can still make an impact. Abdullah played over 250 special teams snaps in 2019. Presumably he’ll continue returning kicks as Osborn handles punts.

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