Vikings roster projection: Who will make final cut?

Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune/Star Tribune/TNS

Now that the preseason is done, the Vikings begin a 72-hour period that coach Kevin O'Connell called "the toughest part of this job."

They will cut from 90 players to 53 by 3 p.m. Tuesday, when teams are required to set their initial regular-season roster. Their toughest decisions may be on defense, where they will have to pick among a number of players who had strong camps but lack regular-season experience. Here is a projection of how the Vikings' 53-man roster will look.

Quarterbacks (3)

In: Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall

Released: Jordan Ta'amu

• O'Connell said Saturday he wants to keep Hall in the organization. That could happen with the rookie on the practice squad, but the coach sounded intrigued last week with the idea of putting Hall on the 53-man roster to take advantage of a new NFL rule that grants an extra gameday roster spot to an emergency QB, provided that player is on the active roster. The Vikings invested enough time in Hall, and liked him enough in the draft process, that the new rule could help him stay.

Running backs (3)

In: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham

Placed on PUP list: Kene Nwangwu

Released: DeWayne McBride, Abram Smith, Aaron Dykes

• Nwangwu, who missed all of the preseason because of an undisclosed injury, is the name to watch here. He was a second-team All-Pro a year ago as a kick returner, but his absence has put his status in question, particularly as Brandon Powell has worked as a return man in the preseason. The Vikings could use the physically unable to perform list to stash Nwangwu for four games; the fact that they brought Kareem Hunt in for a visit this month suggests they are considering their options behind Mattison.

Sign up for our Vikings Update newsletterWide receivers (6)

In: Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Jordan Addison, Brandon Powell, Jalen Reagor, Jalen Nailor

Released: Trishton Jackson, Blake Proehl, Lucky Jackson, Garett Maag, Thayer Thomas, Jacob Copeland

• The Vikings will have some tough decisions to make here — Trishton Jackson has put together an impressive preseason, and the team has been impressed with Thomas, particularly because of his special teams play. But Reagor, who has $2.42 million in guaranteed money, has improved in camp, while Nailor has recovered from an injury that kept him out for the first part of camp after a promising offseason. Jackson and Thomas could be among those who make the practice squad.

Tight ends (3)

In: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt

Released: Nick Muse, Ben Sims, Colin Thompson

• Muse, who made a leaping touchdown grab in the preseason opener and caught seven passes for 72 yards in the preseason, could stick if the Vikings have a spot for him. Sims has also shown promise as a receiver during the preseason. But with active roster spots at a premium, the Vikings can't keep everyone. Hockenson, who has missed most of camp because of injuries while pursuing a new contract, has said his focus is on the regular season; the Vikings will hope he will be ready without practicing much during training camp.

Offensive line (8)

In: LT Christian Darrisaw, LG Ezra Cleveland, C Garrett Bradbury, RG Ed Ingram, RT Brian O'Neill, G Blake Brandel, C Austin Schlottmann, OT Oli Udoh

Placed on non-football injury list: G Chris Reed

Released: C Josh Sokol, G Jack Snyder, G Alan Ali, OT Jarrid Williams, OT Christian DiLauro

Traded: OT Vederian Lowe

• The Vikings, who are sending Lowe to New England for a sixth-round pick, begin the year with the same group they had last season; Reed has missed all of training camp because of a stress fracture he suffered in the offseason, but he could be a valuable depth piece once he gets healthy.

Defensive line/edge rushers (11)

In: OLB Danielle Hunter, DE Harrison Phillips, DE Dean Lowry, NT Khyiris Tonga, OLB Marcus Davenport, OLB D.J. Wonnum, OLB Patrick Jones II, OLB Luiji Vilain, DE Jonathan Bullard, DT Jaquelin Roy, DE Ross Blacklock

Released: DT Sheldon Day, DE Esezi Otomewo, OLB Andre Carter II, OLB Benton Whitley, DE Junior Aho, NT T.J. Smith, NT Calvin Avery

Injured reserve: DT James Lynch

• The cuts here include Carter, who in April received $300,000 guaranteed as an undrafted free agent. But the Vikings will have to make space for Vilain, who earned first-team work with a strong camp, and Roy, the fifth-round pick who could play multiple line spots. Whitley, who impressed the Vikings during camp, could be a practice squad candidate.

Inside linebackers (4)

In: Jordan Hicks, Brian Asamoah II, Ivan Pace Jr., Troy Dye

Released: Troy Reeder, Wilson Huber, Abraham Beauplan, Tanner Vallejo

• Pace, the undrafted free agent, became one of the stories of camp; he will not only make the roster but be in line for significant playing time in the defense. Reeder, a former Rams linebacker the Vikings signed in free agency, might be a casualty if the Vikings keep extra defensive backs.

Defensive backs (12)

In: S Harrison Smith, S Camryn Bynum, S Josh Metellus, S Lewis Cine, S Theo Jackson, S Jay Ward, CB Byron Murphy Jr., CB Akayleb Evans, CB Mekhi Blackmon, CB Joejuan Williams, CB Andrew Booth Jr., CB NaJee Thompson

Released: CB Jaylin Williams, CB Tay Gowan, CB Kalon Barnes, CB C.J. Coldon Jr., CB Jameson Houston, S Jake Gervase

• Ward's stock has increased toward the end of the preseason, and his strip sack on a blitz against the Cardinals was one of the Vikings' best defensive plays of the day. Afterward, O'Connell said Ward and Jackson had two of the best training camp showings on the roster. Both will stick here, while Thompson's special teams play will earn him a spot.

Specialists (3)

In: K Greg Joseph, P Ryan Wright, LS Andrew DePaola

• This group hasn't changed from last year; Joseph beat out rookie kicker Jack Podlesny in camp, while Wright had nine punts of 50 yards or more in the preseason. DePaola, the All-Pro long snapper who has become a locker room favorite, is back for his ninth NFL season.