Examining Vikings first depth chart: Defensive breakdown

<p>May 27, 2015; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) works on drills at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports</p>

May 27, 2015; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) works on drills at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings released their first depth chart Tuesday, which they say is unofficial, in advance of the preseason opener Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So, to reiterate: This is the team's initial depth chart. It's unofficial. It's for the first preseason game. It's tentative. Capricious. Subject to change.

OK, now that we've sufficiently hedged our bets, let's take a look at this thing and react to it. We'll dive into the offense on Tuesday and analyze the special teams and defensive placements on Wednesday. Because when it comes to football season, you just can't prognosticate enough.

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Position: LE

Brian Robison
Scott Crichton
Ceasar Rayford
Leon Mackey

Reaction: Robison and Crichton are entrenched, and it's really tough to see either of the other two guys making much headway at left or right end.

Position: DT

Sharrif Floyd
Tom Johnson
BJ Dubose
Chrishon Rose

Reaction: There's not much mystery among the Vikings' defensive tackles -- the first two are locks, the second two are longshots.

Position: NT

Linval Joseph
Shamar Stephen
Chigbo Anunoby

Reaction: Both inside defensive-line spots look like they were expected to look, as Joseph will start and Stephen will back up.

Position: RE

Everson Griffen
Justin Trattou
Danielle Hunter

Reaction: If the Vikings decide to keep five defensive ends, the extra one will likely come from this group. Hunter, a rookie third-rounder, could -- and perhaps should -- overtake Trattou, the formerly undrafted fourth-year journeyman, though both are more likely to be on the roster than either Rayford or Mackey.

Position: WLB

Chad Greenway
Brandon Watts
Brian Peters

Reaction: Hmm, no Gerald Hodges nor Audie Cole here, as both are listed elsewhere. Curious. That could be an endorsement of Watts, the second-year seventh-rounder who played in two games on defense last year, or it could be an indictment of other positions, where Hodges and Cole are more greatly needed.

Position: MLB

Audie Cole
Eric Kendricks
Mike Mauti

Reaction: Indeed, Cole is now listed ahead of Kendricks, the rookie second-round pick who was expected to come in and start at the long-unsatisfying middle linebacker spot. That's one of the most noteworthy takeaways from this initial depth chart. With Casey Matthews placed on injured reserve Sunday, the Vikings clearly feel like they need help inside. Mauti could still get moved outside.

Position: SLB

Anthony Barr
Gerald Hodges
Edmond Robinson
Josh Kaddu

Reaction: Barr will start and Hodges will back up multiple linebacker positions. Robinson, drafted in the seventh round of this year's draft as a developmental project, has a shot at inching up the depth chart because of his physical tools.

Position: LCB

Terance Newman
Trae Waynes
DeMarcus Van Dyke
Justin Coleman
Josh Thomas

Reaction: The Vikings have a lot of talented cornerbacks and Waynes, their rookie first-round pick, isn't going to be handed the starting job. He's learning behind Newman and probably will stay behind the veteran all year. There's just no space in the cornerback room for the latter three players.

Position: RCB

Xavier Rhodes
Captain Munnerlyn
Jabari Price
Jalil Carter
Marcus Sherels

Reaction: Rhodes, Munnerlyn and Price: check, check and check. Carter, in his first season out of Akron, has good size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) and is listed ahead of Sherels, who plays almost exclusively on special teams and doesn't really figure much among the cornerbacks.

Position: SS

Robert Blanton
Andrew Sendejo
Anthony Harris

Reaction: The Vikings were impressed by the undrafted rookie Harris during OTAs and minicamp, but he's still listed at the bottom here. It's a bit of a surprise to see Blanton still listed as the starter, but perhaps no one has yet done enough to unseat him.

Position: FS

Harrison Smith
Antone Exum Jr.
Shaun Prater

Reaction: Smith is one of the surest things the Vikings have on defense and he won't be challenged for the starting spot. Minnesota coaches have praised Exum, though, and it's possible he could challenge for the up-for-grabs strong safety spot.


Position: Punter

Jeff Locke

Reaction: No competition here.

Position: Kicker

Blair Walsh

Reaction: He's got the job.

Position: Long snapper

Cullen Loeffler
Kevin McDermott

Reaction: Loeffler has been with the Vikings since 2004 and the incumbent is currently listed as the long snapper, but the 25-year-old McDermott, signed to a two-year contract in April, could battle him for it.

Position: Holder

Jeff Locke

Reaction: Congratulations, Mr. Locke.

Position: Kick returner

Cordarrelle Patterson
Marcus Sherels

Reaction: Patterson is the guy if he's healthy and his head's right. It's a little surprising to not see rookie wide receiver Stefon Diggs listed here.

Position: Punt returner

Marcus Sherels
Jarius Wright

Reaction: This has been Sherels' job for four years and it will likely remain his if he again makes the team. Still, very surprising that Diggs isn't among the top-two options.

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