The Vikings cut down to 53 players. There were not too many surprises. Again this season we learned that success vs. back-ups in preseason does not equate to a roster spot. CB Bobby Felder looked good at times. RB Joe Banyard provided the only speed of the preseason. So did WRs Rodney Smith and Stephen Burton. LB Tyrone McKenzie made some plays as well. All gone.
A few players were placed on lists that were neither cuts nor the active roster. Jerome Felton, the team's Pro Bowl fullback is suspended along with OT DeMarcus Love. DT Christian Ballard is presently (un)-excused from the team. OL Seth Olsen was placed on injured reserve following a scary hit during the final preseason game. WR Greg Childs will be on the PUP list.
Rick Spielman stated during the final preseason game that he was going to keep the best players, whether or not that meant loading certain positions at the sake of others. Minnesota kept an abundance of defensive linemen and linebackers. Included in these extras might be linemen: Chase Baker and George Johnson; and linebackers: Gerald Hodges and Mike Mauti. Not really surprises, though nine DL and eight LB might be considered a wealth.
Spielman said the club would look to trade from their abundance to improve at weaker positions. In terms of numbers, there were only four RB kept and five WR. Joe Webb beat out the others for the last receiver spot. His play on special teams being the difference possibly. Zach Line's impressive preseason meant he will stay at least three more weeks until Felton returns. Argument could be made for need to upgrade at either spot.
But to this fan the biggest need is easily cornerback.
In researching top CB rankings you will be hard pressed to find any list that has a Viking in the top fifty or sixty. With the departure of Antoine Winfield, there is no cornerback respected well on the Minnesota roster. Our top CBs include Chris Cook, Josh Robinson, and rookie Xavier Rhodes. Last year teams had a great deal of success against Cook, Robinson, and backups A.J. Jefferson and Marcus Sherels. In the preseason Cook was injured and Robinson struggled. Rhodes probably was the strongest of the top three. Sherels, playing against reserves, had a strong preseason culminating in a highlight reel final game. Jefferson played well enough to make the roster again.
The final two games vs. the Packers last year, both the season-ending win 37-34 in the Dome and the subsequent 24-10 wild-card loss in Green Bay, showcased the Vikings biggest problem defensively. In both games Green Bay spread their receivers. JerMichael Finley lined up outside, with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones. A three or four receiver spread offense was too much for the Vikings to handle with the present DBs. Aaron Rodgers was 51 for 73 passing, for 639 yards and five touchdowns, with no interceptions. Jennings caught 12 passes for 181 yards and two TDs. Jones 10 catches for 113 yards and a TD. Nelson six receptions for 138 yards and a score. It was too much for Minnesota to cover. And Randall Cobb was unavailable due to injury.
True, Rodgers is one of the best. There is no shame in being beaten by his arm. But his receivers are not exactly Jerry Rice or Randy Moss. Finley is renowned for his drops. They can be slowed... see Packers playoff loss to 49ers. Rodgers was intercepted once, no Packer gained 100 yards through the air, and he finished with 257 yards. Still good, but survivable given Green Bay's defense.
And therein lies Minnesota's biggest need. Shutdown corners.
Fans are hell-bent on vilifying QB Christian Ponder, meanwhile they settle for second rate corners. Not that the Vikings have been a hot-bed for great corners over their history, but Antoine Winfield's image is still burned into our memories. His run-support was unparalleled. Given that our division also includes Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, it would make sense that we strengthen this position.
And Minnesota did this year by drafting Xavier Rhodes. He is physical and should be part of the solution in slowing the Northern Division's passing attacks. But those that remain have not set themselves apart. Cook has had issues with injuries and conduct. Robinson's speed has not equated into strong coverage, demonstrated by his opponent's passer rating. A.J. Jefferson joined at this time last year, but during games was burnt as frequently as Sherels when Minnesota's secondary became depleted.
Hopefully, Spielman can find a way to upgrade, or that each of our corners can improve enough to warrant no action. But with a schedule full of top-level passers, some are worried that is our true Achilles heel.
Not necessarily quarterback.