As training camp opens in Mankato, let’s briefly review five areas of fairly major concern for Mike Zimmer and the Vikings.
The Vikings were expected to address this position early in the draft, but that expectation turned out to be way off. The Vikes didn’t take a corner until late in the draft and as a result things are still way up in the air.
The Vikes right now have only two reasonably sure things at the cornerback position, Captain Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes. Munnerlyn is the veteran anchor back there and should help give the defense some identity. Rhodes meanwhile is still learning, but has the talent to be a very good player.
The assumption is that Rhodes and Munnerlyn will line up at corner in the base defense, but that leaves open the question of who will line up outside in the nickel when Munnerlyn kicks to the slot. There are lots of candidates but no obvious answers.
Right now, if you had to pick a front runner for the other corner spot, you’d have to go with Josh Robinson. He got the first team reps in OTAs and minicamp and will likely get first crack when camp opens. But Robinson is a long way from securing his position.
The other candidates are a grab bag of relative veterans (Marcus Sherels, Derek Cox, Julian Posey, Shaun Prater, Robert Steeples) and rookie draft picks (Jabari Price, Kendall James). James got work on the slot in minicamp and seems to have a leg up in securing a backup position. Marcus Sherels is still the punt returner and looks to be in good shape job-wise.
Who will emerge from among those other candidates? Shaun Prater showed flashes last year and Derek Cox has a fair amount of experience. It’s hard to get excited about any of those guys, quite frankly. Most Viking fans are thinking “Anyone but Robinson.”
2. Left Guard
The Vikings have given themselves plenty of options at left guard. Charlie Johnson comes in as the incumbent and looks to have a fairly secure hold on the starting job for right now. But he will be pushed at some point by rookie David Yankey, who is still getting up to speed after missing OTAs due to NFL rules.
The mystery guest is Vlad Ducasse, who was brought in on a flier by Minnesota after a disappointing run with the Jets. The Vikings’ plan is surely to have Yankey win the job, but they’ve given themselves enough insurance with Johnson and Ducasse.
3. Offensive Tackle
Matt Kalil has been dinged up and could conceivably start camp on PUP. The Vikings have very little depth at tackle so, if Kalil is hampered for any length of time, that could be a problem.
Kevin Murphy right now is your primary backup at left tackle. UDFA Tiny Richardson is an intriguing prospect but he’s not anywhere near ready to step in. A guy like Matt Hall could catch on as a practice squad player but, again, he’s not a viable option if Kalil has problems.
Given Kalil’s problems and their serious lack of depth at tackle, I have to believe the Vikings are keeping an eye on the waiver wire. Don’t be shocked if the Vikes snap up a veteran in the next few weeks. They need better backups at tackle, period.
Who is going to play safety alongside Harrison Smith? Robert Blanton got a lot of reps there in minicamp, so he’s a guy to look out for. Of course you have Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo in the mix. Where does a guy like Kurt Coleman fit in? Rookie Antone Exum?
Zimmer will probably want at least three safeties he feels comfortable with as starters. Smith will be out there the majority of the time, so we’re talking about a two-man rotation at the other spot, probably with complementary skills. Coleman is more of a cover guy and a player like Sanford is more of an in-the-box guy. Blanton showed decent cover skills at times last season and also is a sure tackler. Exum is a wild card who has the talent to develop into a very good player.
Sendejo is in good shape to earn a roster spot, as he is a solid special teams player and a good backup. And Mistral Raymond…it was nice knowing you.
The QB spot is probably not the area of most urgent concern for the Vikings, but it’s the one people will be talking about the most. The Vikings will talk a lot of jive about a three-way competition but everyone knows it’s Cassel’s job to lose. Teddy Bridgewater is being given a chance but there’s no need to rush him. And Christian Ponder is around to provide a camp arm, so that’s good for him.
Tags: Minnesota Vikings