An early look at the Vikings’ top 2019 training camp battles

(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) Brandon Zylstra
(Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) Brandon Zylstra /
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(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Shamar Stephen
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Shamar Stephen /

Defensive Tackle

The Vikings have added some defensive tackles this offseason that should shake this position up a bit.

At the top, they are set as Linval Joseph and Shamar Stephen will be the starters. Both are elite run defenders and they should bottle up the opponent’s ground game in the middle. Behind them is where things start to get a bit murky.

Minnesota’s current defensive depth chart behind Joseph and Stephen includes Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes, Curtis Cothran, and rookies Armon Watts and Tito Odenigbo. The Vikings lost their best three-technique defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in free agency this year and they elected to not re-sign Tom Johnson, who could also blow up the middle.

The guy who is the best bet to fill that role is Holmes. He had a few flashes a season ago, but he needs to have a great training camp and preseason to get more snaps in 2019.

The other guy who could be that disrupting penetrator is Watts, Minnesota’s 2019 sixth-round pick. He had seven sacks in 2018, which was his first full season as a starter for the Arkansas Razorbacks. He would also have to play at a high level to earn not just a spot on the team, but actual playing time in 2019.

The other interesting player in this group is Johnson. This guy is entering his third season in the league and he still hasn’t done much of anything.

He has 14 total tackles and just half a sack in his career with the Vikings. If he doesn’t step it up this summer, Minnesota could decide to keep these younger guys over him. He is definitely a guy on the roster bubble.

The Vikings had five defensive tackles on the roster in 2018. The only real locks to make the team this season are Joseph and Stephen. Holmes is close to a sure thing, but the remaining two spots are definitely up for grabs and the battle for them will be a tight contest this summer.