The Vikings will be off for a second consecutive day Tuesday after opening the exhibition season with a 26-20 loss on Sunday at Las Vegas. Kevin O’Connell’s team then will have two joint practices with San Francisco before facing the 49ers on Saturday in their penultimate preseason game.
That means general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell have begun putting together a 53-man roster, knowing that there is still time to change their minds. The Vikings will cut from 90 to 85 on Tuesday, before cutting to 80 on Aug. 23 and 53 on Aug. 30.
So what will the roster look like for the Sept. 11 opener against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium? Here’s one early projection.
- Quarterbacks (2): Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond
- Who’s out? Sean Mannion
- Comment: The Vikings could go with three quarterbacks, but Mannion has shown nothing in training camp or Sunday’s game to prove he should be kept. The 30-year-old is good in the quarterback room but his late-season start last year in Green Bay should have been enough for the Vikings’ new brass to move on. (Note: While I’ve said the Vikings should find a backup quarterback to Cousins, leaving Mond as the No. 3, this is a projection of what I think they will do with the current roster.)
- Running backs (4): Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Ty Chandler
- Who’s out? Bryant Koback
- Comment: The Vikings probably would like to go with three running backs, but getting Nwangwu or Chandler through waivers would be tough. Chandler, a fifth-round pick in April, was impressive in the preseason opener and he and Nwangwu have big-time speed. Mattison is almost certain to leave as a free agent after the season, meaning Nwangwu and Chandler are the future.
- Fullback (1): C.J. Ham
- Who’s out? Jake Bargas
- Comment: I had some questions about whether O’Connell would want a fullback when he arrived from the Rams, but he’s made it clear he values Ham’s skill set and there’s no reason to think he’s blowing smoke.
- Wide receivers (6): Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Bisi Johnson, Trishton Jackson
- Who’s out? Dan Chisena, Jalen Nailor, Thomas Hennigan, Myron Mitchell, Blake Proehl, Albert Wilson
- Comment: Jackson has been impressive throughout camp and caught two passes for 26 yards against the Raiders. Nailor, a sixth-round pick from Michigan State, had two receptions for 22 yards and will probably be the most difficult cut. Ideally, the Vikings will be able to sign him to the practice squad, if he clears waivers. Would there be a chance the Vikings’ initially keep seven receivers? Wilson caught two touchdown passes on Sunday, but the 30-year-old lacks the upside of some of his younger teammates.
- Tight ends (3): Irv Smith Jr., Johnny Mundt, Zach Davidson
- Who’s out? Shaun Beyer, Ben Ellefson, Nick Muse
- Comment: Ellefson is ahead of Davidson on the depth chart, so the Vikings could go with the North Dakota State product. However, it feels as if Davidson has been more noticeable in camp.
- Offensive line (10): Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Ed Ingram, Brian O’Neill, Blake Brandel, Chris Reed, Austin Schlottmann, Jesse Davis, Oli Udoh
- Who’s out? Wyatt Davis, Kyle Hinton, Vederian Lowe, Timon Parris, Josh Sokol
- Comment: A year ago, many expected Davis to compete for a starting job at right guard after being a third-round pick by former GM Rick Spielman. Now, he’s barely seeing any action playing on the third team and you have to wonder if he has a future in the NFL? There are plenty of practice squad candidates among those who will be cut, including Sokol. The center was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Sacred Heart.
- Defensive Line (6) Armon Watts, Harrison Philips, Dalvin Tomlinson, Jonathan Bullard, T.J. Smith, James Lynch
- Who’s out? T.Y. McGill, Tyraise Stevenson, Julian Taylor, Jaylen Twyman, Esezi Otomewo
- Comment: The Vikings’ have switched to a 3-4 defense with Watts, Phillips and Tomlinson starting. McGill, 29, is entering his eighth season and made a few nice plays against the Raiders, but he will need to show more to make the 53. Twyman, a sixth-round pick in 2021, figures to spend the season on the practice squad. This is one spot where it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Vikings add a veteran early in the regular season.
- Outside linebackers (4): Danielle Hunter, Za’Darius Smith, Patrick Jones II, D.J. Wonnum
- Who’s out? Zach McLoud, Andre Mintze, Janarius Robinson, Luiji Vilain
- Comment: McLoud, signed as an undrafted free agent from Miami, has made some plays in camp but the goal will be to get him through to the practice squad.
- Inside linebackers (5): Eric Kendricks, Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah, Troy Dye, Blake Lynch
- Who’s out? Ryan Connelly, William Kwenkeu, Chazz Surratt
- Comment: The depth at this group will be key to the special teams. Asamoah, a third-round pick last spring from Oklahoma, is built like a safety (6 feet, 226 pounds) and figures to make a contribution on defense.
- Cornerbacks (5): Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, Andrew Booth Jr., Akayleb Evans
- Who’s out? Kris Boyd, Nate Hairston, Harrison Hand, Parry Nickerson, Tye Smith
- Comment: Boyd might be considered a surprise cut but Evans, a fourth-round pick, appears to be a player the Vikings like and he also can contribute on special teams. Hand, a fifth-round pick in 2020, is near the bottom of the depth chart.
- Safeties (4): Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum, Lewis Cine, Josh Metellus
- Who’s out? Mike Brown, Myles Dorn
- Comment: These cuts are about as easy as it gets. The only question is whether Cine, the Vikings’ first-round pick, will replace Bynum as a starter at some point this season? Cine also could get on the field in a three safety look.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
- Kicker (1): Greg Joseph
- Punter (1): Jordan Berry
- Long snapper (1): Andrew DePaola
- Who’s out: Punter Ryan Wright