Vikings Insider: Roster gets younger in hopes to get better

  • Article by: MATT VENSEL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 1, 2014 - 7:02 AM

The Vikings will have more rookies than players in their 30s.

hide

First-round draft pick Anthony Barr, a starter at outside linebacker, is part of the Vikings' youth movement.

Photo: Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

After reconstructing the roster in the offseason, then spending the past five months evaluating it, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman have picked their 53 men.

Sure, those 53 men will change, perhaps even before Sunday’s season opener in St. Louis. Heck, it might already have changed since this reporter clicked the send button. But if one thing stands out while skimming the roster, it’s the relative youth of these Vikings.

Spielman has gradually turned over the roster since the team’s run to the NFC Championship Game in 2009, shaving years off the average age of his players in the process.

He and Zimmer took it another step further this offseason, which included Saturday’s release of a pair of 30-somethings in Chris Crocker and Fred Evans. Jamarca Sanford, a 29-year-old, was in danger of being cut, too, but ended up on injured reserve.

The Vikings now have more rookies (nine) than players aged 30 or older (eight), and 60 percent of their roster — 32 players of 53 — is younger than 26.

This time a year ago, the Vikings were near the middle of the pack with an average age of 26.0, according to research by Philly.com. Now it is 25.6, which will make them one of the youngest teams in the NFL. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, though. After all, the Seattle Seahawks, last year’s Super Bowl champions, had an average age of 26.4 in 2013.

And while promising draft picks such as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Jerick McKinnon and defensive end Scott Crichton will start their careers backing up established veterans, not all of the team’s youngsters are patiently waiting in the wings.

The Vikings are expected to start 10 players aged 25 or younger, including outside linebacker Anthony Barr, their top pick in May’s draft. Kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke also are younger than 26, as are several other players who will be asked to take on meaningful reserve roles.

But even today, with the original 53-man roster unveiled and the season opener against the Rams only six days away, a few important personnel decisions remain. While last week Zimmer made the big one, choosing veteran Matt Cassel as his quarterback over the first-rounder in Bridgewater, he still has yet to name the starters at middle linebacker and the second of his two safety spots.

Jasper Brinkley appears to have the edge over Audie Cole at middle linebacker. He is the more experienced of the two, and his downhill style fits what Zimmer is looking for on early downs. And while Brinkley isn’t the most trustworthy player in coverage, Cole is not head and shoulders above him in that regard. Regardless of who starts, the “Mike’’ will play only about 40 percent of the snaps.

Crocker seemed to be Zimmer’s choice to start next to fellow safety Harrison Smith. He had spent the past seven years with Zimmer and came out of virtual retirement to join the Vikings when the injury bug feasted on the hamstrings of their defensive backs. But with his release, along with that of veteran safety Kurt Coleman, it looks as if 24-year-old Robert Blanton is probably going to line up as the other safety.

As for the third cornerback, which is essentially a starting position in today’s pass-happy NFL, Josh Robinson looks like the most likely candidate, though Zimmer likes Shaun Prater and Jabari Price.

Beyond that, there is not much left for us to try to figure out before the officials roll out the footballs for the Vikings and Rams on Sunday. But with a bunch of intriguing prospects and nine new starters, including seven on defense, there still will be plenty of intrigue as the Zimmer era gets underway.

 

Matt Vensel • matt.vensel@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 101 FINAL
Orlando 94
Charlotte 109 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Brooklyn 91 FINAL
Cleveland 95
Washington 105 FINAL
Miami 103
Minnesota 98 FINAL
Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 129 FINAL
San Antonio 119
LA Clippers 93 4th Qtr 4:40
Denver 93
Oklahoma City 34 2nd Qtr 5:19
LA Lakers 38
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 3rd Prd 5:04
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
LSU-Alexandria 71 FINAL
ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 60 FINAL
Creighton 75
Colorado State 85 FINAL
Denver 84
Alabama A&M 49 FINAL
Marquette 83
Ark-Pine Bluff 51 FINAL
Texas Tech 72
Eastern Wash 40 2nd Half 14:25
California 42
Idaho State 34 2nd Half 11:49
Utah State 41
Arizona 15 1st Half 14:02
Texas-El Paso 2
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Chaminade
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 71 FINAL
Southern Ill 55
Pacific 47 2nd Half 16:07
New Mexico St 29
No Dakota State 53 2nd Half 13:24
Cal State Fullerton 60
Utah State 62 2nd Half 10:12
Sacramento St 76
Bethesda (CA) 39 2nd Half 14:25
Fresno State 45
Utah Valley U 32 2nd Half 9:12
Montana 54
LSU 32 2nd Half
UC Santa Barbara 24

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close