Jun 19, 2012; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder (7) gets ready to practice at Vikings Minicamp with tight end Allen Reisner (83) and tight end Rhett Ellison (40) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (82) at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

Roster Analysis: Logjam at Tight End or Fullback or Shall We Say H-back

As training camp moves along we hear the ebbs and flows with current players and how they’re performing. Eventually at TVA we’ll have to make a final 53-man Vikings roster prediction. Over the next few weeks we’ll have a mini-section on the various positions and how it’s likely to shake down before the season begins. Some predictions will be better than others, but that’s the way it goes when speculating. Perhaps the most interesting position battle is at tight end or fullback or shall we say H-back.

The H-back position is very similar to a tight end, but has the ability to play off the line of scrimmage. They must possess the abilities to block, pass protect and run receiving routes from various points in an offensive set. This is not to be confused at all with a standard tight end who plays predominately on the offensive line as both a blocker and receiving threat or the standard halfback who obviously lines up the backfield and carries the ball on most running plays.

The H-back is also a growing trend in football considering they can fill a number of a team’s voids while taking up only one roster spot. A pick your poison sort of threat. Case in point, Aaron Hernandez is listed on the Patriots website as a tight end but when checking his snap count (courtesy of Pro Football Focus), he lined up at wide receiver on 71% of his snaps last season, roughly 26% at tight end and 3% at tailback. That’s extremely challenging for any defense facing the Patriots when seeing Hernandez in the huddle with the uncertainty of where they’ll lineup when the ball is snapped. Not to mention, Hernandez is extremely talented and other teams will try to emulate that even if it’s with a less superior player.

Last year Bill Musgrave ran a ton of two-tight-end sets and grand total of 4 made the roster. Those were Visanthe Shiancoe, Jim Kleinsasser, Kyle Rudolph and Allan Reisner. Looking into this year Shiancoe is in New England, Kleinsasser has retired with Rudolph and Reisner still in purple. It’s also worth noting that Lorenzo Booker made the team as a halfback and is now trying to latch onto the Chicago Bears.

Moving forward into 2012 it’s tough to see them keeping more than 6 and that’s assuming only Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are kept at tailback. This year the locks to make the team are Rudolph who Dan wrote about yesterday and recently signed John Carlson. So what about Matt Asiata, Jerome Felton, Ryan D’Imperio, Mickey Shuler, Rhett Ellison and Reisner? They’re going to end up competing for a total of 3-4 roster spots. Throwing in that Jordan Todman, Lex Hilliard and Derrick Coleman are trying to make the team at running back and it’s going to a major uphill battle for most everyone. Pecking away right now the next most obvious choice to make the team would be Ellison considering the team spent a 4th round pick on him, he’s very good friends with Matt Kalil, has won the approval already of Christian Ponder and he can play a multitude of positions as an H-back. Beyond him Asiata, Felton and D’Imperio are mostly lumped into the fullback role that solely play out of the backfield. Same could be said for Reisner and Shuler as a pass catching tight end. Judging now every tailback currently on the roster would have to have a tremendous preseason and/or show ability to pass block until the final cuts are made.

Then again, the preseason hasn’t started yet. Let’s allow this position to play out. Just know while watching it’s probably the stiffest competition on the roster.

Jon Merckle may be followed on Twitter @thevikingpig

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