Subjecting the Vikings to the Pat Kirwan Depth Test


Does your team have enough solid backup players to survive injuries to its first string? Is your team deep enough to make a deep run into the postseason?

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It’s not an easy question to answer, but perhaps Pat Kirwan can help.’s Kirwan has devised 13-point test by which he believes one can determine whether a team has sufficient depth to be considered championship caliber. Kirwan’s whole premise here is that depth is what truly separates the great teams from the merely good and mediocre ones. If you can’t pass this test, you can’t be considered great or potentially great.

So, do the Vikings have what it takes to pass the Pat Kirwan challenge?

Let’s subject the Vikings’ roster to the 13-point Kirwan depth quiz and see how they come out. Keep in mind that there is a heavy subjective element at work here. We’ll try to be as coldly objective as we can about the Vikings’ players and come to an honest conclusion, but naturally there will be disagreements.

1. Does your team have a quality backup quarterback?

Kirwan defines a quality backup as someone who can go 2-2 in a four-game stretch. This is hard to answer for the Vikings because their QB position is up in the air. Right now Matt Cassel is the starter and Teddy Bridgewater is the backup, but Bridgewater is not really a traditional backup, he’s a rookie-in-waiting. This question to me assumes you have a QB set-up with a certain #1 starter and a standard backup. If we take Christian Ponder as the veteran backup, then I guess the answer is yes. I’m sure Ponder if called upon could squeak out two wins in four games. So the answer for this one is yes, sort of.

2. Does your team have a real swing offensive tackle, a guy that can play left or right tackle and has experience?

The Vikings’ top backup tackle is Kevin Murphy, who I wouldn’t really regard as a “real swing tackle” as defined by Kirwan, since he doesn’t have much in the way of experience. Mike Remmers is the only other tackle besides the two starters who has any experience at all. So the answer to this one has to be no. The Vikings are not very deep at tackle.

3. Does your team have a solid inside offensive lineman that can play guard or center?

We have Joe Berger so the answer to that one is a strong yes.

4. Is there a quality second running back that can deliver a 100-yard rushing day if he had to start?

The answer to this objectively is yes because Matt Asiata did start last year and did deliver a 100-yard rushing day. That being said, how confident are we really that Asiata could deliver another such performance in a pinch? Actually I have a problem with Kirwan here; I just don’t think the arbitrary 100-yard milestone is that important. If a backup runner gives you 20 carries for 65 yards and a TD and doesn’t fumble, that’s a good day for a backup. I’m going with a yes because I’m fairly confident that Asiata could do this if called upon. Jerick McKinnon I don’t know about, because he hasn’t played yet.

5. Is there a good second tight end on the roster?

Depends on what you’re asking this tight end to do. Rhett Ellison qualifies as a good second tight end if you’re only concentrating on blocking. Do the Vikings have a good all-purpose second tight end? At this point, we don’t know. A.C. Leonard or Chase Ford could be that guy, but they’re rookies. And Allen Reisner…not really.

6. Can the third wide receiver step up and start in the two-WR packages if a starter went down?

Is either Jerome Simpson or Jarius Wright a solid #3 at this point? Hmm. Good question. I think both are okay #3s, but I’m not sure how good I’d feel about either of them being elevated to #2 for any significant length of time. The Vikings certainly are not blessed with great depth at receiver, let’s face it. They don’t even know for sure if Cordarrelle Patterson can be a true #1 or #2.

7. Does your team have a designated pass-rush specialist who could play the early downs if need be?

To me this means, can your third DE, who we assume is mainly a pass rush guy, play every down if called upon. Who is the Vikings’ third DE right now? Good question. No way to really answer this one. The roles haven’t been defined to that extent yet.

8. Is there a third defensive tackle that not only plays in a rotation but could play the whole game if need be?

Fred Evans. What would happen if Fred Evans had to play the whole game? I think he’d be okay. He’d get called for about four offsides, but I think he’d be…adequate. Depth on the D-line really shouldn’t be an issue considering Zimmer’s emphasis on building a rotation.

9. Is there a quality nickel corner on the roster, since most teams are at least 50 percent sub defenses?

Tricky. The quick answer is to say “Captain Munnerlyn is a good slot corner” but Captain Munnerlyn is also not technically a nickel corner because the plan is to play him outside in the base defense and slide him inside in nickel. He’s really a starting corner who plays the slot. The Vikings’ nickel corner, who in their case will be lining up outside…is yet to be determined.

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  • 10. Is there a fourth corner for dime packages?

    See above.

    11. Is there a third safety for big nickel defenses?

    The Vikings could throw three decent safeties out there at the same time if they wanted to, sure. This is yes.

    12. Is there a return specialist that can either handle both punt and kick returns or contribute as a real position player?

    Both Vikings’ return men have contributed as real position players. And they potentially have a guy in Jerick McKinnon who could handle both kick and punt returns AND play a real position. The Vikings have no issues with their return people.

    13. Does your team have a special-teams linebacker that leads the specials and can play inside linebacker in a pinch?

    Can Larry Dean play inside linebacker? Probably, if he had to. Audie Cole is a sneaky candidate for this role too, since I could see him developing into a special teams leader of the Heath Farwell variety, and we know he can play Mike if called upon.

    My Grade: Incomplete.

    Overall, I can’t say that the Vikings pass the Kirwan depth test, but I can’t say they fail it either. They have so many young players on the roster right now, and so many fringe veterans who are just trying to win a job. We don’t know who will even stick at many positions. We don’t know who will take to their roles and who will fail. We need to get through training camp before the picture will be clear enough to honestly assess the roster.

    There are several areas where they absolutely need to get deeper. They may have some solid starters on offense but their depth is questionable on the line, at receiver and at tight end. Defensively…well it’s all up in the air. Special teams-wise, I think they’re in good shape.

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