The Vikings spent much of Sunday configuring their practice squad, with the first version of that including all players who spent the offseason with the team.
Two of the spots went to offensive linemen who were with the team during training camp – Chaska native Tim Mattran and 2007 holdover Brian Daniels. Daniels gained some experience last year with two weeks on the 53-man roster and 14 on the practice squad. He has showed enough in the past year-plus that he could be a viable call-up to the active roster again this year if there are injuries at guard.
Mattran played up and down the offensive line during the offseason. H played center at Stanford and ended his career there with 18 starts. His progress might be helped by eventually settling in at just a couple of the five positions on the offensive line, but with his physical stature – listed at 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds – he seems like an ideal practice squad candidate who can develop his technique with more coaching.
Wide receiver Jaymar Johnson was the team's final draft choice of 2008. He showed some punt-return ability in the preseason and was also used on kickoff returns. As a receiver, he caught only two passes, but he appears to have the quickness to handle the NFL game. Building up a bit more strength while on the practice squad could help his prospects as the year progresses. Johnson finished his college career with 88 receptions for 1,425 yards and 10 touchdowns at Jackson State.
Wide receiver Darius Reynaud battled some offseason injuries and had only one catch in the preseason, but he showed his explosive potential during training camp and on kickoff returns in the preseason, where he led the team with a 28.8-yard average on six returns.
Running back Albert Young came into the Vikings behind three established NFL players, including 2007 Offensive Rookie of the Year Adrian Peterson. With Chester Taylor and veteran free-agent signing Maurice Hicks behind Peterson, the practice squad is a good place for Young to learn the nuances of being an NFL running back from position coach Eric Bieniemy. Young also showed some promise in the return game, but in order to make the 53-man roster in the future, he likely will have to engender some more confidence from the coaching staff that he can pick up blitzes and be used in the offensive game if needed. At Iowa, he carried the ball 660 times for 3,173 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Cornerback Marcus Walker was one of the Vikings' more well-compensated undrafted rookies when it came to a signing bonus, so he was obviously classified as a priority free agent for the team following the draft. He seems to be increasing his confidence in his abilities as the preseason has worn on, as his coverage ability seems to be catching up with college credentials. Oklahoma won three Big 12 titles during Walker's career, and he started 29 of 40 games in which he played there.
Defensive end Martail Burnett was the second-highest paid undrafted free agent for the Vikings, right in the thick of it with two of them that made the active roster – OL Drew Radovich and LB Erin Henderson. Burnett was originally recruited to Utah as a safety and gained more than 50 pounds throughout his college career. He finished his career ranking in the school's top 10 with 17 career sacks and 33½ tackles for a loss.
Defensive lineman Leger Douzable showed his versatility throughout training camp, playing some three-technique tackle (Kevin Williams' position) and some defensive end as the ranks there thinned due to injuries. He had seven tackles in the preseason.
The practice squad is also a fluid unit throughout the season, as some players get called up to the active roster to replace injured players while others are jettisoned to make room for other prospects. For now, however, the eight-man pracitce squad is filled with familiar faces from training camp and offseason workouts.
The Vikings trimmed down their roster on Saturday and can build the practice squad Sunday afternoon…