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Analysis of the Vikings' First Unofficial Depth Chart of 2020

This isn't set in stone, but it should give you a good idea of who will play a lot against the Packers on Sunday.

The Vikings have released their first unofficial depth chart of the 2020 season ahead of a huge divisional matchup against the Packers on Sunday. 

If you've been following my articles throughout training camp, there shouldn't be anything here that comes as much of a surprise. Let's run through the team's depth chart, and I'll give my thoughts and observations at the end.

Quarterback

Starter: Kirk Cousins

Backup: Sean Mannion

Running back

Starter: Dalvin Cook

Backup: Alexander Mattison

Third-string: Ameer Abdullah

Other: Mike Boone

Fullback

Starter: C.J. Ham

Wide receiver

Starters: Adam Thielen, Bisi Johnson

Backups: Justin Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe

Third-string: Chad Beebe, Dan Chisena

Other: K.J. Osborn

Tight end

Starter: Kyle Rudolph

Backup: Irv Smith Jr.

Third-string: Tyler Conklin

Offensive line

Starters (left to right): Riley Reiff, Dakota Dozier, Garrett Bradbury, Pat Elflein, Brian O'Neill

Backups (left to right, no backup center): Rashod Hill, Ezra Cleveland, Dru Samia, Oli Udoh

Defensive end

Starters: Danielle Hunter (LE), Yannick Ngakoue (RE)

Backups: Jalyn Holmes (LE), Ifeadi Odenigbo (RE)

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Third-string: Eddie Yarbrough (LE), D.J. Wonnum (RE)

Defensive tackle

Starters: Shamar Stephen (NT), Jaleel Johnson (3T)

Backups: Armon Watts (NT), Hercules Mata'afa (3T)

Third-string: James Lynch (3T)

Linebacker

Starters: Anthony Barr (SLB), Eric Kendricks (MLB), Eric Wilson (WLB)

Backups: Troy Dye (MLB), Ryan Connelly (WLB)

Safety

Starters: Harrison Smith (SS), Anthony Harris (FS)

Backups: None

Cornerback

Starters: Mike Hughes (LCB), Holton Hill (RCB)

Backups: Cameron Dantzler (LCB), Jeff Gladney (RCB)

Third-string: Harrison Hand (LCB), Kris Boyd (RCB)

Special teams

Kicker: Dan Bailey

Punter/Holder: Britton Colquitt

Long snapper: Austin Cutting

Kick returner starter: K.J. Osborn

Kick returner backup: Ameer Abdullah

Punt returner starter: K.J. Osborn

Punt returner backups: Chad Beebe, Mike Hughes

Offensive Takeaways

  • Abdullah being listed above Boone as the No. 3 running back is interesting to me because I thought Boone had a much better camp. But we saw last year that if Cook and Mattison stay healthy, Abdullah is the one who will receive a few snaps on passing downs as the third option. If one of Cook or Mattison go down, I bet it would once again be Boone, not Abdullah, who would take the lion's share of that player's carries.
  • People who haven't followed the team during training camp might be surprised to see Bisi Johnson listed as the starting WR2 over Jefferson, but that was entirely expected. Johnson had a fantastic camp and refused to give up that job. The question becomes whether or not he holds onto it all season. Jefferson should be in line for most of the snaps when the team goes to three-receiver sets.
  • Rudolph is listed as the starting tight end, but I'd expect him and Smith to split playing time pretty evenly. Plus, there will be plenty of times when Ham isn't on the field and both tight ends are out there. I've been saying for a while that I think Smith will be playing more than Rudolph by mid-season, though the veteran will remain an important weapon in the red zone.
  • No surprises on the offensive line. The team doesn't currently have a backup center on the 53-man roster, but Brett Jones could easily be called up from the practice squad if something happens to Bradbury. The big question here is whether or not Cleveland and Samia will get chances at guard if Dozier and Elflein struggle, and how long it would take for that to happen.

Defensive Takeaways

  • While Holmes is listed as the backup at left defensive end, I'd expect Odenigbo to step into that role if Hunter can't play on Sunday. Hopefully, we won't have to find out. Mike Zimmer said on Monday that he thinks Hunter will be ready to play. “Yeah, I expect so," he said. "We’ll just have to see.”
  • Similarly, if Jaleel Johnson were to miss time at the three-technique spot, I think Watts would step up for the early-down work instead of Mata'afa. It'll be interesting to see what Zimmer and Andre Patterson do with the rotation at defensive tackle. Will it be Watts and Mata'afa on passing downs, or could Odenigbo and/or Holmes do some interior rushing?
  • One of the obvious surprises from the initial 53-man roster announced on Saturday was the lack of any backup safeties. I wonder if we'll see the team make a move to add a safety this week, or if they might wait until after Week 1 so they don't have to guarantee a veteran's salary. Perhaps Josh Metellus or Nate Meadors will be one of the two extra players activated for this weekend's game (teams can have 55 players on the active roster this year, with 48 actually active for a specific game).
  • Wilson is listed as a starter, but he's not going to play as much as the team's No. 3 cornerback. Especially against a team like the Packers, the Vikings are going to be in nickel defense a lot. I think that third corner will be Dantzler, not Gladney, with Hughes moving into the slot and Hill/Dantzler as the two boundary corners.

Special teams takeaway

  • It's official: Osborn will be returning kickoff and punts in his first NFL game. Let's see if he can break off a highlight play in his debut.

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