In anticipation of the start of the third phase of the offseason program, which kicks off today, we decided to update our projected depth charts from a couple of months ago. Yesterday, we shared our best guess at the pecking order on offense. Today, we will project the defensive depth chart.
- Right defensive end: Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Justin Trattou, Stephen Weatherly
- Defensive tackle: Sharrif Floyd, Tom Johnson, B.J. Dubose
- Nose tackle: Linval Joseph, Shamar Stephen, Kenrick Ellis
- Left defensive end: Brian Robison, Danielle Hunter, Scott Crichton, Zach Moore
Comments: It will be interesting to see if Hunter will be able to unseat Robison as a starter at left end. But coach Mike Zimmer prefers to rotate at least six defensive linemen, so both figure to have big roles and will also play together in some packages. The only significant addition to this group since late March is Weatherly, a seventh-round pick. Can the converted linebacker climb the depth chart and bump someone such as Crichton off the roster?
- Strong-side linebacker: Anthony Barr, Emmanuel Lamur, Edmond Robinson
- Middle linebacker: Eric Kendricks, Audie Cole, Kentrell Brothers
- Weak-side linebacker: Chad Greenway, Emmanuel Lamur, Brandon Watts, Travis Lewis
Comments: With Greenway officially back for one more season, he should be penciled in as a starter at the weak-side spot. But Lamur, a free-agent addition who has a 2016 salary equal to what Greenway will be making, might be able to push him for playing time there. Brothers, a fifth-round pick last month, will try to leapfrog the veteran Cole to back up Kendricks as a rookie.
- Left cornerback: Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Marcus Sherels
- Right cornerback: Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Melvin White
- Slot cornerback: Captain Munnerlyn, Mackensie Alexander, Jabari Price
Comment: The starting job will not be handed to Waynes, but the Vikings are hopeful that their top pick from 2015 will be ready to start in 2016. If not, Newman will be waiting in the wings. Alexander, a second-round pick, will try to unseat Munnerlyn but the veteran slot specialist isn’t going to give up his nickel role to Alexander without a fight. Meanwhile, the addition of Alexander could put Price, a 2014 seventh-round pick, in jeopardy.
- Free safety: Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, Jayron Kearse
- Strong safety: Michael Griffin, Antone Exum, Anthony Harris
Comment: Griffin versus Sendejo will be another battle for us to watch in spring workouts and training camp. We’ll see if a youngster in Exum, Harris or even Kearse, a seventh-round rookie, can play their way into the competition to start alongside Smith. The Vikings are expected to carry four safeties — five max — so they could say goodbye to one or two of these guys in late August.