Jun 19, 2012; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen (69) laughs at Vikings minicamp at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE
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My apologies for taking a day longer to get back to this than I initially promised. Let's get back into the roster projection by moving on to the defensive line.
Players in camp: Jared Allen (starter), Brian Robison (starter), Kevin Williams (starter), Letroy Guion (starter), Christian Ballard, Chase Baker, Fred Evans, Everson Griffen, Trevor Guyton, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu, Tydreke Powell, D'Aundre Reed, Nick Reed, Terrell Resonno
Let's get the obvious ones out of the way first. Jared Allen is the best defensive end in football. Brian Robison showed in 2011 why the Vikings had no problems with releasing Ray Edwards rather than giving him a ridiculously inflated contract. Kevin Williams, after a slow start thanks to a suspension and a foot injury, had a strong second half of the season in 2011 and has expressed a desire to spend the rest of his career in Minnesota. He has an expensive two-year option for the team to consider picking up next off-season, so he's playing for his 2013 roster spot and beyond.
Now, on to the competition.
The other defensive tackle spot will be up for grabs. Guion is penciled in as the starter for now, but he's far from a lock to start next to Williams on the interior. The stiffest challenge at this point appears to be Evans, but keep an eye on Guyton and Ballard as well. Ballard, a second-year player out of Iowa, got limited playing time in 2011, while Guyton slid to the seventh-round of this year's draft after being rated as highly as a third-round prospect on some boards. While none of the tackles are the sort of space eater that former Viking Pat Williams was, but they all have the ability to be disruptive in the middle of the defensive line. Both Ballard and Guyton have the ability to play end and tackle, and that versatility might help their cause when it comes to making the roster.
One of the more interesting cases in camp to keep an eye on this year will be that of Everson Griffen. Griffen is still listed as a defensive end, but he is going to get a serious look at linebacker in camp. Griffen has freakish athletic ability, and the Vikings need to find a way to get him on the field somewhere. Whether that's lining up at defensive end or linebacker, it appears that the Vikings are committed to doing just that. He's still listed as a defensive lineman for now, and he's a lock to make the team, but when we make our final changes, he might shift to a linebacker spot.
The Vikings will also likely keep D'Aundre Reed around as another backup at defensive end. Reed, like DeMarcus Love on the offensive side, was on the active roster for the entire 2011 season, but was not actually active on game day for any of the team's 16 games last season. The team wouldn't have kept him around for the entire season last year if they didn't think he had some potential, so I'm guessing he will have a bigger role with the team this season.
The rest of the defensive linemen in camp this year have their work cut out for them if they want to make the team. Baker, a defensive end, and Powell, a defensive tackle, both went undrafted in 2012. Powell, a product of the University of North Carolina, weighs in at about 320 pounds and is about as close to a Pat Williams-esque "space eater" as the Vikings have in camp at the moment, and could be a dark horse to make the squad. Baker, at 6' and 300 pounds, is listed as a defensive end, but might be better suited for defensive tackle at the next level.
As far as Jacobs, Latimore, Owusu, Nick Reed, and Resonno are concerned, they're going to be largely playing for other teams and/or a spot on the Vikings' practice squad.
Making the cut: Allen, Williams, Guion, Robison, Ballard, Evans, Griffen, Guyton, D'Aundre Reed
Not making the cut: Baker, Jacobs, Latimore, Owusu, Nick Reed, Resonno
Spots on the 53-man roster accounted for: 39 out of 53
We will continue on tomorrow with the linebacking corps.