Ten Things To Watch For At Vikings Training Camp


With Vikings training camp in full swing, I thought it would be fun to discuss a couple of handfuls of things to watch for throughout the course of camp.

Here are my Top-10 things (in descending order, in order of importance in my humble opinion) to watch for and think about for the Minnesota Vikings training camp:

**Disclaimer: This is a longer article, so I hope you are all ready to read for a while…**

10. Starting with No. 10, the quarterbacks. No, not Teddy or even dad-bod, Shaun Hill, but rather who grabs the third-string gig between Mike Kafka and Taylor Heinicke.

Just to preface why I even find this newsworthy: I was a quarterback at Saint John’s University in Minnesota (small, but nationally known Division-III school) and played for the winningest coach in all of college football history, John Gagliardi. I was never the starter, but I bounced from fourth to third string in my freshman and sophomore years, and then to the backup my junior year, so I saw some time but never in a full-time capacity. The experience was amazing, nonetheless.

And let me tell you: third string is where it’s at. You’re close, but not too close. As the backup, you are literally one play away and you have to prepare, study and worry just as much as the starter. Long story short, I always said that my dream job would be to be the third string quarterback for an NFL team. You make good (enough) money, you look cool (that’s half the battle, folks – look good, play good), you travel with the team and you’re a pro athlete…great job, right?

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Five minutes later, I am back to what you all want to hear more about: Kafka and Heinicke. Both of these guys have a shot at making the team in some capacity.

Kafka has the experience over Heinicke, even though it’s as a journeyman backup quarterback in the NFL thus far, but Heinicke’s successful college career and his strong arm make him an interesting camp player to watch.

Look for both of these guys to battle it out in Mankato and also in the first two to three preseason games where they should each get extensive opportunities to make their case for themselves as the third guy behind Bridgewater and Hill.

My final prediction is that Kafka will be kept on the roster as our third guy, while Heinicke will find himself on the practice squad to start the season.

9. No. 9 on my list goes to the defensive line. Why would I ever see one of our most established and dominant groups as a storyline for training camp? Because believe it or not, there are some question marks with this unit.

Nov 30, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (73) celebrates his sack during the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

We know we have forces like Everson Griffen and established veterans like Brian Robison, but players like Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Scott Crichton and rookie Danielle Hunter (especially) still have a lot to prove.

This is a big year for Floyd and Crichton, but I am really curious to see what Hunter can do. He has the freakish profile (6’6″, 240-lbs), explosiveness and speed that could prove to be a force to reckon with in this league, but I am not sure if he is ready for the big stage quite yet. Either way, I see a potential Jason Taylor-esque player in Hunter, and can’t wait to see his output in camp and the preseason.

8. Sitting at No. 8 is the tight ends. Kyle Rudolph, you are actually part of this conversation. Why? Because we need to see you stay healthy. And motivated.

Enter MyCole Pruitt.

The rookie tight end out of Southern Illinois had a great showing in mini camp and OTA’s, and I fully believe that he is here to compete with Rudolph. Or at least he will show up to. We all know that Rudolph is our guy, but having an athlete and play maker like Pruitt on the squad will only make No. 82 that much better.

That being said, I can’t wait to see Pruitt compete with both Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison, who both did exceptionally well in relief of the injured Rudolph last year. Neither Ford nor Ellison will lay down for Pruitt, so I see this position group battling it out in Mankato and throughout the preseason games – this one should be fun.

May 27, 2015; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) runs before drills at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

7.  At No. 7 I have our cornerbacks, specifically our first draft pick this year, Trae Waynes. Obviously the Vikings thought that Waynes was a top caliber player to take him with our first overall pick in this year’s draft (at No. 11 overall), so it’s only natural for all eyes to be on No. 26 to see if he was worth the investment.

It has been reported that Waynes has been taking second team reps so far, with Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman taking the reps with the ones, but you’d have to believe that Newman is only a temporary solution while Waynes gets more acquainted.

No knock on Newman, but let’s be honest here – he’s a 36-year-old corner with his better days behind him, and despite his connection with Mike Zimmer, Waynes should find his way onto the field sooner rather than later.

Watch for our rookie corner to turn some heads in camp and in preseason games as well. I think that if Waynes does well early, he could easily be starting opposite Rhodes come Week 1 in San Fran. No better way to learn than to get out there right from the start, right?

6. No. 6 thing to watch for on my list is the battle at middle linebacker.

This battle comes down to the sort-of-kind-of experienced third year “vet” Audie Cole, and our second draft pick this year, rookie Eric Kendricks. Both players looked great in OTA’s and mini camp (especially the rookie), but it appears as if Cole is going to get the first shot as he has received first team reps ahead of Kendricks at training camp thus far.

Obviously both of these guys will get opportunities in the preseason games to make their arguments, but Kendricks is my front runner to win the battle. His knack for the football and his deceptive quickness and speed put him in position to be our middle linebacker for the foreseeable future.

All I know is that Zimmer likes both of these guys, so whoever isn’t the starter Week 1, will see ample time on special teams and in relief of the starter or on special down situations.

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  • 5. Halfway through the list, No. 5 goes to the wide receivers.

    Honestly, this group excites me more than any other group this year. The speed and play making potential in this loaded group should pay dividends for our offense all season long.

    The addition of Mike Wallace is an obvious upgrade to the offense and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but the other guys also have the tools to give Teddy unlimited options when throwing the ball.

    Between Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright, Cordarrelle Patterson (more on him in a second), Adam Thielen and rookie Stefon Diggs, this receiving corps should do damage this year.

    Johnson should be starting opposite of Wallace with Wright and Diggs filling in at slot, so the two biggest question marks in this group come down to Mr. Enigma, Flash Patterson (more to come) and Thielen (will they keep him again?).

    I’m curious to see who stands out the most in camp and preseason games – with the possibility of all six guys making the roster, it’s really up to each of them to show where they deserve to fall in the pecking order. Buckle up for this group.

    4. The No. 4 thing on my list to watch at training camp is safety, and the battle to see who will start opposite of Harrison Smith.

    This topic has been discussed in length this offseason because out of all of the position battles, this one is probably the most wide open and up for grabs.

    Robert Blanton appears to be the front runner because of his experience and 2014 season that turned out to be quite successful (led the team in tackles), but Antone Exum will be breathing down his neck throughout the course of camp and all of the preseason games.

    Andrew Sandejo will also be in the mix from the start, but I really don’t see this battle extending beyond Blanton and Exum. While I like Blanton because of the success he had last year, I think that Exum is by far the better option moving forward. His frame, past experience at Virginia Tech as a corner and great offseason lead me to believe that it will be him lining up next to Smith upon the completion of training camp.

    3. No. 3 on my list could easily be argued as the No. 1 story to watch in training camp – and that is the will-he-finally-get-it-this-year soap opera of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.

    Will this guy finally, FINALLY, figure this out? I really wish I had an answer for that. And if I am wavering on that, can you imagine how Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner feel? The frustration has to be overwhelming.

    May 27, 2015; Eden Prairie, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer speaks to wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) before practice at Winter Park. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Here you have a guy who was drafted in the first round three years ago with potential for days, and after an electrifying rookie year, things have gone everywhere but up.

    Patterson is definitely one of the hottest topics for the Vikings this season because it really is a make or break year for him. So far, between OTA’s, mini camp and the first couple days of training camp, it appears as if nothing has really changed.

    Flashes (no pun intended) of brilliance and flashes of inconsistency.

    Every Viking fan could go on and on about this one until they are purple in the face. Bottom line is that Patterson needs to impress every single day at training camp and on every single play during the preseason games to get himself on the field beyond kick return duties.

    I really hope Cordarrelle can figure it out and dedicate himself to being an every down, or at least many down receiver in this league. It would be a damn shame to see his speed and raw talent go to waste.

    Surprise us, No. 84. Please.

    2. Landing at No. 2 on my list is the sophomore campaigns of our head coach and quarterback: Mike Zimmer and Teddy Bridgewater.

    Both Zimmer and Bridgewater had excellent (in my opinion) rookie debuts for the Vikings in 2014. Between the way Zimmer changed the tone, culture and toughness of our football team, coupled with the way he turned around our defense from 2013 to 2014, in addition to the week-to-week improvements that Bridgewater showed as a rookie quarterback thrown into the fire, I’d say that the Purple and Gold are in great hands for the future of this franchise.

    It’s easy to see how serious both of our leaders have taken things all offseason and straight into training camp.

    Zimmer has established his staff and the way that his defense will be played and Bridgewater has shown more comfort in running the offense and being “the guy” – obviously all of this is suspect at this point in time because of the nature of OTA’s and mini camp where players are practicing on air in shorts and t-shirts, but everything that I have seen and heard so far points to both of these guys ready to take this team to a whole new level in their second year.

    Watch for both Zimmer and Bridgewater to show throughout training camp that they believe that this team is ready to compete at the highest level and into the playoffs this season.

    Drum roll, please… And now, the No. 1 thing to watch for in training camp is…

    1. No. 1 on my list for things to watch goes to the return of our freak of nature running back, All Day, Adrian Peterson.

    Jul 27, 2015; Mankato, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) rushes in drills at training camp at Minnesota State University. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    You really can’t argue this one, folks. It’s no position battle or a rookie to watch and see what they can do. I realize that. But having Peterson back in Minnesota as a Viking after a year away from action and all of the drama this offseason is reason alone to have this at the top of the list.

    Just seeing No. 28 back on the field at training camp gets me excited and ready for the season.

    And I know that I am not the only one who can’t help but notice that AP looks as good or better than he ever has in terms of the shape that he is in, the way he is cutting in practice and the look of determination that he has on his face.

    This is a redemption year for Peterson. He refuses to talk much about the “incident” that kept him off the field last year and the season that he lost, but it’s easy enough to read between the lines and see that he will be out to make up for the lost 2014 season.

    This. Could. Be. Fun. Vikings fans.

    Despite the fact that Peterson is a 30-year-old running back in a league where most running backs rapidly decline at the age of 30, we know that this is no average running back we are talking about here. I truly believe that Peterson could be on the verge of one of his biggest seasons yet.

    With a true passing attack that defenses will have to respect, plus everything that Peterson wants to prove and redeem this year, I don’t see anything other than greatness coming out of the backfield when he touches the ball.

    Like I said, maybe not a top story because we know how great he is and that he will start, but just having AP back on our team and as what appears to be a Viking for life (thank you Vikings for getting that contract figured out), we should count our blessings that he’s in our backfield again and not somewhere else.

    Run wild, Adrian Peterson. I’m fine if you do it All Day.

    That wraps up my Top-10 things to watch for and think about for the Vikings training camp. Whether you agree or disagree with the 10 I picked, the order of them or just everything in general, I think we can all agree that we are beyond excited that training camp is finally here and that the regular season is right around the corner for our Minnesota Vikings.

    What are your thoughts on topics, battles, etc. for training camp and heading into the regular season? Let me know below.


    Next: Vikings Player Profile: Stefon Diggs

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