The Vikings now have 90 players on their roster. This week they added offensive lineman Freddie Tagaloa from Arizona and waived defensive end B.J. Dubose—a sixth-round pick from Louisville in 2015. Does this mean the Vikings are more settled at defensive end and are still searching for an offensive line?
Perhaps, but with all the players on the roster, anything can happen between now and cut-down day, so let’s take a way-too-early (and way-too-cursory) look at the roster and what kind of battles we can expect in the coming months. In this installment, we will look at the offense line.
Using how the players listed on the Vikings roster at Vikings.com and knowing that many of these players can play more than one position, the position battles are fairly fluid. The Vikings keep adding bodies to the offensive line, which makes sense since they didn’t have enough of them last year. But here is how it shapes up currently.
There are three centers in Joe Berger, Nick Easton and rookie Pat Elflein. And from the outside looking in you have the veteran (extreme veteran, rather, at age 34) starter in Berger, the slightly experienced backup and the rookie who can learn. But that doesn’t begin to describe what could happen here. Berger and Elflein can both play guard (which offers the coaches flexibility), and Berger was one of the best Viking lineman over the past few seasons in Minnesota. Head coach Mike Zimmer would like to see the rookie with an attitude get up to speed as soon as possible.
Best Guess: This one is surely going to get worked out in camp as the team determines what Elflein has to offer. But you can’t keep Berger off the field, as he has proven himself to be a valuable starter (and veteran leader) after coming to the team as a backup. I’d say Berger starts at center and Elflein at right guard. If Berger gets hurt, Easton comes in and takes over, and if Elflein gets hurt, Berger moves to guard while Easton takes center like he did last season.
That takes us to guard, where in addition to Berger and Elflein there are three more veterans listed on the roster: Alex Boon, Zac Kerin and Jeremiah Sirles (who is also listed as a tackle). Add to that mix is rookie fifth-round draft pick from Miami Danny Isidora (who is being called a steal being selected that late) and you have more depth and someone to push the starters. Figuring that Boone retains the left guard position and Berger/Elflein start on the right side, Sirles remains a valuable backup for several positions on the line while Kerin backs up Boone. Pretty straight forward—which is anything but what the offensive line was last season.
Best Guess: That should be how the season starts, with Boone and Elflein as your starters. Unless, of course, Elflein needs more seasoning, then Berger starts at right guard (with Easton at center). The Vikings are trying to get younger (and better on the line), so, eventually it should be Easton at center and Elflein at one guard (unless the rookie proves to be the future at the center position) and perhaps Isidora at the other. But I believe the Vikings have learned their lesson about not continually spending high picks on offensive linemen.
The Vikings are certainly acting like a team that was scouring the streets for healthy offensive tackles last season, as the roster currently houses nine tackles. They are veterans Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff, who were picked up in free agency; returning Vikings T.J. Clemmings, Willie Beavers and Austin Shepherd; and then Reid Fragel, Tagaola, Rashod Hill and Aviante Collins with precious little NFL experience under their collective belt. You can also add the flexible Sirles to the list.
The Vikings are going to take a long look at the younger players on their roster to determine which of them have promise, are backups or are ready for the scrap heap. The most curious case might be that of Clemmings, who in two seasons of trial-by-fire and position switching may be on his last opportunity to play for the team. Certainly, he has plenty of competition for a roster spot this season and will have to impress the coaches with more than what he has shown in his first two seasons.
Best Guess: Given their experience and the nice contracts they signed, Reiff and Remmers are slotted in at the left and right tackle spots, respectively. That leaves the remaining seven players in a free-for-all. Isidora will make the team (given his draft status) and Tagaloa will get a long look (given his size at 6-8, 331 pounds). Shepherd should be back, but last year’s rookie lineman Beavers is going to be faced with a make it or break camp. I see the Vikings, after last season, keeping plenty of tackles around (including on the practice squad). The competition for a backup role will be fierce.
Tight end-loving Norv Turner is gone, but not the Purple’s fascination with the position. The Vikings, in lieu of the loss of blocking TE Rhett Ellison in the offseason, have bolstered it with several young players.
Kyle Rudolph, who will be entering his seventh season as the Vikings starter (and coming off one of his best years as a pro), is in the driving’s seat for the lead pass catching tight end on the squad. Second-year man David Morgan has an opportunity to build on what he was starting last season before an injury sidelined him a couple games.
That leaves Kyle Carter, Josiah Price, Knick Truesdell and now, rookie Bucky Hodges battling for backup roles. Plenty of people like Hodges, who was selected later than he had anticipated (in round sixth), and he should make the roster. And Truesdell at 6-7, 252 pounds is an intriguing prospect.
Best Guess: Rudy and Morgan are locks for the pass catching and blocking TE roles, respectively. And Hodges is going to make some noise at OTAs and training camp. The Vikings should keep those three and perhaps stash another on the practice squad (Truesdell or Carter). It should be a great battle for reps all offseason.