2015 Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart Analysis: Defense/Special Teams


Minnesota Vikings Depth Chart Preview: Defense and Special Teams

 Defensive Line
Brian RobisonLinval JosephSharif FloydEverson Griffen
Scott CrichtonShamar StephenTom JohnsonDanielle Hunter
BJ Dubose (Rotational)
Cut:  Caesar Rayford, Justin Trattou, Isame Faciane, Anunoby Chigbo
Practice Squad: Leon Mackey

Dec 7, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen (97) encourages his teammates as they play the New York Jets in the third quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings win 30-24. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Another very settled position group. I see Danielle Hunter coming in for situational defense and maybe getting some opportunities to rush the passer. Hopefully we see something out of Scott Crichton this year. I don’t see any DE’s potentially taking Brian Robison’s position, I have to assume he will play much better in his second year under Mike Zimmer. We’re not sure as to the severity of Robison’s pectoral injury, but I expect him to be 100% at the start of the season, and possibly on a snap count. BJ Dubose has a lot of potential and can play all over if need be. Leon Mackey is too talented to not keep on the practice squad. It’s clear that the defensive line may be an underrated component of Mike Zimmer’s defense. While he is recognized as a cornerback whisperer and a secondary specialist, it appears Zimmer prefers a vast amount of talent at his disposal when it comes to defensive line depth.

Anthony BarrEric KendricksChad Greenway
Michael MautiAudie ColeGerald Hodges
Practice Squad: Edmond Robinson, Brian Peters
Cut: Casey Matthews, Josh Kaddu, Brandon Watts

Dec 15, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway (52) warms up before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Your guess is as good as mine with this group. We know the 2015 second round draft pick Eric Kendricks is currently lining up as the mike. In today’s NFL, an every-down middle linebacker needs to have a nose for the ball and also be strong in coverage. The Vikings have just that in Kendricks. Anthony Barr should continue to be a dominate force on the Vikings defense, while and aging Chad Greenway holds down the right side. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Greenway lose his job to Hodges by the end of the season. Michael Mauti makes the list because of the value the Vikings place on special teams contributors. Audie Cole isn’t going anywhere after his performance in spot duty last season. I could see Brandon Watts making the cut. At 6’2 and running a 4.40,  he might be a project worth keeping around.

Xavier RhodesTerence NewmanCaptain Munnerlyn
Trae WaynesJosh RobinsonMarcus Sherels
Practice Squad: Justin Coleman
Cut: Jabari Price,  Shaun Prater, DeMarcus Van Dyke

Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Trae Waynes (Michigan State) greets NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected as the number eleven overall pick to the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

This is a very full spot at the moment with a lot of hard cuts. Xavier Rhodes is the shining star of this unit, quietly becoming the best corner we have had in a very long time. From an article by Pro Football focus, there was a four game stretch last season where only Revis had a higher grade. I see Trae Waynes learning from the bench when the season opens, with Terence Newman winning the second cornerback spot. If Trae Waynes is as fast of a learner as Zimmer says he is, it won’t be long before he overtakes Newman. Captain Munnerlyn should play the majority of his snaps from the slot this year and hopefully see a big improvement. Josh Robinson will be a solid backup and continue to work on his game. He’s not a guy you like to depend on, but he also wasn’t much of a liability last season either. His size is a weakness at times but for the most part he’s in the right position. Could this be the year that Sherels is finally cut? Doubtful. He’s an elite punt returner, and not a terrible corner either. Justin Coleman flashed a lot in college and will get some time to develop on the practice squad.

Robert BlantonHarrison Smith
Taylor MaysAntone Exum
Anthony Harris
Cut: Andrew Sendejo

Dec 21, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

Once again a star player in the Viking’s secondary, I think this is the year that Harrison Smith is finally recognized and earns a Pro Bowl nod. It’s very obvious that the strong safety position is up for grabs. I think that Blanton gets a chance t earn his spot, but we’ve also heard great things about the development of Antone Exum. If Rookie Anthony Harris is healthy, don’t be surprised if he’s competing for first team reps by the start of the preseason. He was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week twice (Sept. 15 and Nov. 24)  and finished the regular season No. 5 in the ACC and No. 31 in the nation with 108 tackles. Add on 10 interceptions in the last two seasons at UVA and you can see why scouts saw him going in the second round. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury caused Harris to miss his Pro day, dropping him off of draft boards. I think Taylor Mays will have an inside track to playing time as a hybrid LB/SS. Sendejo is the odd man out on this list. He’s a solid Special Teams guy and filled in for Blanton late in the season, but I see too much potential from this group to keep a depth guy like him on the roster.

Special Teams
Blair WalshJeff LockeKevin Mcdermott
Cut: Cullen Loeffler

Dec 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings kicker Blair Walsh (3) kicks a 37 yard field goal as punter Jeff Locke (18) holds in the first quarter against the Chicago Bears at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The last man out of the trio that included Ryan Longwell and Chris Kluwe, Loeffler is on his way out. You don’t just go out and sign a long snapper. You really don’t just go out and sign your punter’s former teammate. Blair Walsh is here to stay and Jeff Locke will look to improve on a tough season.

Next: Minnesota Vikings 2015 Game By Game Previews

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