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On the Roster: A Look at the Vikings Initial 53 for 2020

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings initial 53-man roster announced Saturday includes 26 players on offense, 24 players on defense and three specialists.

The list includes seven receivers and 11 defensive linemen, which are positional records during Head Coach Mike Zimmer's tenure. It also has just eight defensive backs, which is the fewest since Zimmer's hire in 2014.

The 53-man roster was formed when Minnesota made multiple roster moves, cutting 22 players and placing linebacker Ben Gedeon on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List. The former fourth-round pick did not practice during Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

It is worth noting that more moves could occur. All teams were required to reduce their rosters from this year's camp maximum of 80 players to 53, which means more than 800 players were waived during roster reductions across the league.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of September 21, 2020.

Here's a position-by-position look at who made the initial 53, compared to what the Vikings have done in previous years under Zimmer.

(all players listed alphabetical by last name)

Quarterback

Number of players kept:

2020: 2

2019: 2

2018: 3

2017: 2

2016: 2

2015: 3

2014: 3

On the Roster: Kirk Cousins and Sean Mannion

The Vikings will head into the 2020 season with plenty of stability at quarterback, as Cousins enters his third season as the starter in Minnesota.

The 32-year-old arguably had the best season of his career in 2019 when he posted a career-high passer rating of 107.4 and earned a Pro Bowl nod. He also completed 307 of 444 passes (69.1 completion percentage) for 3,603 yards, with 26 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Minnesota has tailored its offense to what Cousins does best — using play action and moving the pocket. The hope is for continuity to help Cousins raise his game even more in 2020.

Mannion will be his backup for a second consecutive season. The 28-year-old made one start in 2019 but is an invaluable resource for Cousins during the week of preparation for games and by offering feedback on the sidelines.

Running back

Number of players kept:

2020: 4

2019: 4

2018: 4

2017: 3

2016: 3

2015: 3

2014: 3

On the Roster: Ameer Abdullah, Mike Boone, Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison

Cook is the focal point of the offense and proved to be one of the league's top playmakers with his Pro Bowl season in 2019. The do-it-all running back racked up 1,654 yards from scrimmage (seventh in the NFL), which included 1,135 rushing yards. He also added 13 rushing touchdowns.

There is plenty of depth behind Cook, however, as Mattison appears poised for a strong second season. He rushed for 462 yards and a score on 100 carries as a rookie and forms a solid 1-2 punch with Cook.

Boone also made plays when called upon in 2019 and can help out on special teams, too. Abdullah was Minnesota's kick returner in 2019 and could be a candidate there again.

Fullback

Number of players kept:

2020: 1

2019: 1

2018: 1

2017: 1

2016: 1

2015: 1

2014: 2

On the Roster: C.J. Ham

Ham has been one of the Vikings most reliable players in recent seasons and was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl honor in 2019. The Vikings want to establish the run early and often against opponents, and the Minnesota native is a vital piece of the offense for his blocking and ability to catch and carry the football.

View photos of the Vikings 2020 coaching staff.

Wide receiver

Number of players kept:

2020: 7

2019: 4

2018: 5

2017: 6

2016: 6

2015: 6

2014: 5

On the Roster: Chad Beebe, Dan Chisena, Justin Jefferson, Bisi Johnson, K.J. Osborn, Tajaé Sharpe and Adam Thielen

The Vikings have kept seven wide receivers on their initial 53-man roster, the most since Zimmer arrived in 2014.

The group is led by Thielen, who looked fantastic in camp and is ready to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2019 season.

There is strong depth behind him, too, as Johnson and Jefferson each flashed in camp. Johnson looks much improved after being a seventh-round rookie in 2019, while Jefferson progressed nicely after he was a 2020 first-round selection.

Sharpe joined the Vikings as a free agent in the offseason and offers a veteran presence with 92 career catches for 1,167 yards and eight scores.

Osborn is a fifth-round rookie who is expected to be a key player on special teams, especially as a returner.

Chisena is the feel-good story of camp, as the undrafted free agent (and former track star) out of Penn State is on the initial 53-man roster. He might be the team's fastest player, which could come into play on special teams.

Tight end

Number of players kept:

2020: 3

2019: 4

2018: 3

2017: 3

2016: 4

2015: 4

2014: 2

On the Roster: Tyler Conklin, Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith, Jr.

As with other positions on offense, the Vikings have continuity at tight end, too. Rudolph is the veteran leader who had 39 receptions for 367 yards and six scores in 2019.

Smith has generated plenty of buzz in training camp and could be in line for a major role in the offense in 2020. He had 36 catches for 311 yards and a pair of scores as a rookie in 2019, and he made plenty of splash plays in camp.

Conklin will also have a valuable role, especially with how the Vikings like to line up in multiple tight end sets. He is reliable in both the run and the pass game and does the dirty work to help make Minnesota's offense go.

Offensive line

Number of players kept:

2020: 9

2019: 10

2018: 9

2017: 9

2016: 9

2015: 9

2014: 9

On the Roster: Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland, Dakota Dozier, Pat Elflein, Rashod Hill, Brian O'Neill, Riley Reiff, Dru Samia and Oli Udoh

The Vikings are returning plenty of familiar faces on the offensive line, as eight of the nine players are back from a season ago.

That includes four starters in tackles Reiff and O'Neill, Bradury at center and Elflein at right guard (he played left guard in 2019). Dozier won the starting left guard gig in camp and has history with Vikings offensive line coach Rick Dennison.

It's worth nothing those five starters played three games together in 2019, with Elflein at left guard and Dozier at right guard.

Hill is a veteran swing tackle and is among the league's top backup options at that spot. Samia and Udoh essentially had redshirt seasons as rookies in 2019, and both showed signs of progression in camp.

Cleveland is the lone rookie of the group. The 22-year-old second-round pick played left tackle at Boise State but spent the entirety of camp at left guard with the second team.

Defensive line

Number of players kept:

2020: 11

2019: 10

2018: 9

2017: 9

2016: 8

2015: 9

2014: 8

On the Roster: Jalyn Holmes, Danielle Hunter, Jaleel Johnson, James Lynch, Hercules Mata'afa, Yannick Ngakoue, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Shamar Stephen, Armon Watts, D.J. Wonnum and Eddie Yarbrough

Hunter has established himself as a premiere defensive end with 14.5 sacks in back-to-back seasons and impressiveness against the run. Although he hasn't practiced since Aug. 14, he'll be joined by a fellow Pro Bowler in Ngakoue, who arrived in Minnesota this week after a trade with Jacksonville.

Ngakoue on Friday explained how he wants to join other Vikings greats. Odenigbo was repping with the first team opposite Hunter (and then Holmes) during training camp. Holmes shed pounds in moving from DT to DE. Odenigbo and Holmes have experience inside and on the edge of the line.

Yarbrough, who joined Minnesota after he was waived by Buffalo late last season, and Wonnum are newcomers on the edge.

Inside, the Vikings have variety and versatility. Stephen is far more appreciated by teammates than anyone might fathom from a stat sheet and is embracing the nose tackle position. Johnson has developed since his selection in the fourth round in 2017 and could be the likely starter at the 3-technique.

Mata'afa brings an interesting dynamic as an interior rusher, and Watts shined under bright lights when he needed to step in as a rookie. Lynch is learning the NFL ropes inside after a highly productive career while usually playing a different technique at Baylor.

Linebacker

2020: 5

2019: 5

2018: 5

2017: 6

2016: 7

2015: 6

2014: 8

On the Roster: Anthony Barr, Troy Dye, Eric Kendricks, Hardy Nickerson and Eric Wilson

Barr and Kendricks have been a dynamic duo since their days at UCLA and for the past five seasons in Minnesota. Barr has four Pro Bowls to his credit, and Kendricks has led the Vikings in tackles for five consecutive seasons, the last of which resulted in an All-Pro designation.

Wilson has gone from special teams demon — he probably will still factor in greatly there — to an impressive third linebacker in base and more-than-capable backup if needed.

Dye was selected in the fourth round, and Nickerson quickly impressed after the Vikings claimed him off waivers in August.

Defensive back

2020: 8

2019: 10

2018: 11

2017: 11

2016: 10

2015: 9

2014: 10

On the Roster: Kris Boyd, Cameron Dantzler, Jeff Gladney, Harrison Hand, Anthony Harris, Holton Hill, Mike Hughes and Harrison Smith

Minnesota has no questions whatsoever about Smith and Harris, who have a strong claim as the NFL's best tandem of safeties, but the roster is bare behind them — for now. Minnesota is likely to comb the waiver wire to add depth.

As for cornerbacks, the youth movement has been a hot topic, but the inexperienced cornerbacks group has garnered plenty of positive assessments from Zimmer and others.

Hughes (five starts) and Hill (four starts) have the most experience. Dantzler handled his own and then some with the first team when the Vikings used three cornerbacks. Fellow 2020 draft classmates Gladney and Hand also had solid first camps, even though Gladney just had meniscus surgery after the combine. Boyd impressed on special teams as a rookie and is continuing to grow.

Specialists

Number of players kept:

2020: 3

2019: 3

2018: 3

2017: 3

2016: 3

2015: 3

2014: 3

On the Roster: K Dan Bailey, P Britton Colquitt and LS Austin Cutting

Colquitt was one of the best post-cut finds a year ago. Minnesota snagged the colorful punter after his release by Cleveland. He turned in a strong season at punter and excelled as a holder, linking the rookie Cutting's snaps to the veteran Bailey's foot.

Bailey closed the regular season with 19 consecutive made field goals and added three more in the playoffs. He was a perfect 20-for-20 on kicks during team periods that were open to the media during this year's camp.

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