The National Football League's most dreaded day for thousands of players hoping to make a team's roster. Every team had to get down to 53 players before 5 p.m. central Saturday.
The Minnesota Vikings did so by releasing 14 players. The Vikings still have five players that do not count toward the 53-man roster. Greg Childs remains on the physically unable to perform list and Christian Ballard remains on the left squad list while Jerome Felton and DeMarcus Love were placed on the suspended list and Seth Olsen was placed on injured reserve.
On the Roster - QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson, QB Matt Cassel, QB Christian Ponder
Released - No one
No surprise here. Ponder is the starter, Cassel is the backup and Bethel-Thompson is on the third team. As soon as the team cut undrafted rookie James Vandenberg last week, the quarterback situation became pretty much set. The only question the coaching staff had was whether or not to keep three quarterbacks. Leslie Frazier and crew could easily have cut Bethel-Thompson and kept just two quarterbacks. The Vikings could have kept someone at another position.
On the Roster - RB Matt Asiata, RB Toby Gerhart, FB Zach Line, RB Adrian Peterson
Released - RB Joe Banyard
Suspended - FB Jerome Felton
Again not really any surprises. Peterson is the starter, Gerhart is the backup and Asiata is a good special teams player. Line scored a pair of touchdowns and became nearly a lock when Felton was suspended for three games. Line will likely be cut after Felton's suspension is over. Keeping Line may be a mistake. He is not going to carry the ball. He is not going to play on third down. He is a below average blocker. He really doesn't have a role, except as a reserve. Line's roster spot could have gone to someone at another position or Banyard, who had a good preseason and is a better runner.
On the Roster - TE John Carlson, TE Rhett Ellison, WR Greg Jennings, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, TE Kyle Rudolph, WR Jerome Simpson, WR Joe Webb, WR Jarius Wright
Released - TE Colin Anderson, WR Stephen Burton, TE Chase Ford, WR Rodney Smith, WR Adam Thielen
Injured - WR Greg Childs
The Vikings only kept five receivers with each of them serving a specific role. Jennings will be the go-to guy. Patterson will be an all-purpose playmaker. Simpson will be an edge threat. Wright will work out of the slot. Webb will be a red zone threat. Cutting Burton is a mild surprise after his performance in the first two games. However, his steam cooled greatly after he made a few noticeable mistakes over the last two games. Thielen and Smith are candidates for the practice squad.
The tight ends might have been the easiest position to predict entering training camp. Rudolph is the starter. Carlson is the receiving reserve and Ellison is the blocking reserve. Ellison also will fill in as the lead blocker out of the H-back position while Felton serves his suspension. Anderson and Ford may have been the longest shots to make the team as anyone on the roster.
On the Roster - G Jeff Baca, G Joe Berger, G Brandon Fusco, G Charlie Johnson, OT Matt Kalil, OT Troy Kropog, OT Phil Loadholt, C John Sullivan
Released - G Travis Bond, OT Brandon Keith, OT Kevin Murphy
Suspended - OT DeMarcus Love
Injured Reserve - G Seth Olsen
As expected, the Vikings kept three tackles, four guards and one center. The only question mark was who the third tackle was going to be. The two most common names mentioned to fill the role were Keith and Kropog. Keith, despite having to tryout with the team to get a contract, has more experience, but Kropog impressed the coaches last season. Bond and Murphy are practice squad candidates. Olsen was injured with a concussion in the preseason finally on Thursday and will miss the entire season. Love's status with the team will likely be dictated by Kropog's play until his suspension is over.
On the Roster - DE Jared Allen, DT Chase Baker, DT Fred Evans, DT Sharrif Floyd, DE Everson Griffen, DT Letroy Guion, DE George Johnson, DE Brian Robison, DT Kevin Williams
Released - DT Everett Dawkins, DT Anthony McCloud, DE Spencer Nealy, DE D'Aundre Reed, DE Collins Ukwu
Left Squad - DT Christian Ballard
The defensive line spots became intriguing when Floyd was injured in the preseason opener and Williams was hurt in the third game. Floyd is expected to be ready for the opener and Williams could be ready. Those two, combined with Guion and Evans, were locks, but the injuries forced the team to keep a fifth tackle. Baker beat out Dawkins for that spot with Ballard mysteriously absent from the team. It is unknown if or when Ballard returns.
It is not surprising that the team kept four defensive ends. Allen, Griffen and Robison were locks. The second backup was a battle likely between Johnson and Reed. Reed has been on the team's 53-man roster since being selected in the 2011 draft. Johnson was on and off the Vikings' practice squad a year ago. Dawkins, a seventh round draft pick, is likely heading to the practice squad.
On the Roster - OLB Desmond Bishop, MLB Audie Cole, OLB Larry Dean, OLB Chad Greenway, MLB Erin Henderson, OLB Gerald Hodges, MLB Mike Mauti, OLB Marvin Mitchell
Released - OLB Tyrone McKenzie
There were no long shots among the linebackers to make the team. It is surprising that the team kept eight linebackers, but all of them will serve a role. McKenzie, the one guy that was cut, led the team in special teams tackles last season. The biggest battle was between Bishop and Mitchell for the starting weak side spot. It appears as if Bishop won the battle. Whether it be on defense or special teams all eight linebackers will serve an important part in the team's success this season.
On the Roster - S Robert Blanton, CB Chris Cook, CB A.J. Jefferson, S Mistral Raymond, CB Xavier Rhodes, CB Josh Robinson, S Jamarca Sanford, S Andrew Sendejo, CB Marcus Sherels, S Harrison Smith
Released - S Brandan Bishop, CB Brandon Burton, S Darius Eubanks, CB Bobby Felder
The biggest shock was Felder being cut. If he is not signed by another team, he is likely heading to the Vikings practice squad. It appeared that Felder was in a battle with Sherels for the final corner spot. Burton spent a lot of time on the Vikings roster, but never showed enough. Sendejo has been a special teams player since joining the Vikings and could have been beaten out by one of the undrafted rookies. That did not happen and Bishop and Eubanks may need to hope for a practice squad call. The top four players at both defensive back spots were locks; Cook, Robinson, Rhodes and Jefferson at corner and Smith, Sanford, Raymond and Blanton at safety.
On the Roster - P Jeff Locke, LS Cullen Loeffler, K Blair Walsh
Released - No one
The special teams were the obvious easiest predictions to make. No one was challenging any of them.