Minnesota Vikings: 5 positions that could cause problems

Oct 3, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (1) does the gator chomp prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Laquon Treadwell (1) does the gator chomp prior to the game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Vikings are getting high praise for all the talent on their roster, but they still have some question marks at certain positions.

Pro Football Focus and ESPN recently ranked the Vikings’ roster the 10th most talented in the entire NFL.

While it’s great that the Vikings are getting so much recognition for what they’ve put together, we shouldn’t let recent roster building strides blind us to the fact that Minnesota still has some positions where the talent is a little bit shaky.

No team, however talented, is across-the-board loaded with solid starters. If the Vikings do find their Super Bowl hopes being derailed, the problems could very well stem from one or all of these positions.

1. Strong safety

Strong safety in Minnesota is officially known as “the safety spot alongside Harrison Smith.” Last year Andrew Sendejo filled the position but his performance was spotty at best. Mike Zimmer clearly wants to find a second safety who can handle coverage responsibilities and free up Smith to do more things including blitz.

The Vikings’ candidates at this position are veterans Sendejo and Michael Griffin and unproven youngsters Antone Exum, Anthony Harris and Jayron Kearse.

Who will ultimately emerge as the man to play with the newly-wealthy Smith? Zimmer would probably prefer it be Griffin, because of the coverage ability the aging player supposedly brings to the table. If Griffin turns out to have nothing left, so-so Sendejo is probably the man who will end up in there, unfortunately.

Among the young players, Anthony Harris may be the most intriguing option if only because of his coverage ability. The question on Harris is whether he is physically strong enough to hold up in run support. Jayron Kearse has a lot of athletic ability but is probably a year away from being a viable option.

2. Right tackle

Last year rookie T.J. Clemmings was thrust into the starting right tackle spot after Phil Loadholt’s season-ending Achilles tear and proceeded to perform miserably in pass protection.

Knowing they needed to get considerably better at protecting Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings shifted Clemmings to left tackle to get work behind Matt Kalil, brought back Loadholt on a re-structured deal and signed veteran tackle Andre Smith.

There are some who would argue that the Vikings’ moves at right tackle didn’t really address the situation at all. Loadholt says he’s feeling good after missing a season-and-a-half but who knows if he’s capable of returning to his old form. Smith is a former first-rounder so you know he has ability, but there’s also a reason he was on the market in the first place.

Who knows: before it’s over, T.J. Clemmings could wind up back on the right side again.

Fans seem very optimistic that the Vikings have fixed their O-line issues but the truth is we won’t know until the finished product hits the field.

3. Punter

The Vikings teased the fans by bringing a couple punters to rookie minicamp, including Nick “Boomstache” O’Toole, but to date they have still not signed either man they took a look at.

For now the low-graded Jeff Locke remains the only punter on the roster, but Rick Spielman indicated that this could change if Locke struggles.

Some would argue that Locke’s body of work thus far provides plenty of evidence that the time is right to at least have a competition. Mike Priefer however is arguing that Locke was actually adequate last year if you take weather conditions into account.

Oh and of course this year the Vikings are moving indoors so all Locke’s issues will be solved, right?

The Vikings better hope moving indoors helps Locke, because with the style of ball they’re trying to play, having an effective punter is kind of key.

4. Cornerback

Pro Football Focus says the Vikings have the 11th best cornerback group in the entire NFL, but I’m thinking this might be a tad optimistic.

To really believe the Vikings are on the cusp of having a top-10 CB corps, several things must be taken for granted. First, you have to believe Trae Waynes is ready to take the next step and become a starter in the near future. Second, you have to believe Xavier Rhodes can sustain a consistent level of performance for an entire season.

Third, you have to believe that if Waynes isn’t ready to claim a major role, 38-year-old Terence Newman can still play like he did last season. Fourth, you have to believe 2015 Captain Munnerlyn will show up again.

That’s a lot to assume.

This could be a good cornerback corps but it’s also a group that could regress.

5. Wide receiver

The Vikings’ wide receiver situation will be fascinating to watch as training camp and the preseason unfold.

The biggest question is whether rookie split-end Laquon Treadwell can pick up the offense quickly and become a major contributor right out of the gate.

What if Treadwell struggles to learn the offense? The Vikings have only one other viable option at split-end, and that’s Charles Johnson.

What about Cordarrelle Patterson? Fans dreaming of Patterson putting it together in year four and becoming a major force should not get their hopes up.

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To me the receiver corps is nothing but question marks. Can Stefon Diggs build on his fine (but not overwhelmingly successful if you really look at the stats) rookie season? Can Johnson, a player who really only was good for a single five-game stretch in 2014, be a legit weapons if he is forced to start in place of Treadwell?

Who will be the odd man out if Minnesota elects to keep Patterson as a returner and is also forced to stick with Johnson? What do they do with Moritz Böhringer? Is Adam Thielen valuable enough to keep around?

So much is up in the air at the receiver position, it’s not funny.