When the Vikings opened training camp last year, the second line on the depth chart included Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, Toby Gerhart at running back, Percy Harvin (technically behind Bernard Berrian and Sidney Rice) and Greg Camarillo at wide receiver, Jim Kleinsasser at tight end, Chris DeGeare, Ryan Cook and Jon Cooper on the offensive line, Brian Robison, Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy on the defensive line, Jasper Brinkley and Erin Henderson at linebacker, Husain Abdullah and Jamarca Sanford at safety and Lito Sheppard and Chris Cook at cornerback.
The Vikings were returning all 22 starters and their depth looked very solid across the board. A year later, things are much different.
Jackson has been replaced by Joe Webb or rookie Christian Ponder as the No. 2 QB. Harvin is now a full-time starter and Michael Jenkins joins Camarillo on the unofficial line 2 of the wide receivers and the top backups on the O-line are Pat Brown, Seth Olsen, Cooper, Ryan Cook and Thomas Welch. The Vikings have to hope that they don't suffer injuries at any of the offensive line starting spots because the backups, for the most, are inexperienced and would be a step down from the starters.
On the defensive side of the ball, the backup DEs are Adrian Awasom and Everson Griffen. At outside linebacker, the top backups are Heath Farwell and Ross Homan. At safety, the top backups are now Tyrell Johnson and Mistral Raymond.
The Vikings have done a good job of developing players – the ascent to the starting lineup of Harvin, Robison, DeGeare, Erin Henderson, Abdullah and Sanford are testament to that. But, barring any late signings of available veteran free agents, the Vikings will be extremely thin on experienced talent on the second line of the depth chart, much less the third.
Most teams that succeed in the NFL are the teams that can stay healthy – the 2010 Green Bay Packers clearly bucked that trend, but few indicators are as strong as how many players start all 16 games (especially on both lines). Injuries are an important part of the game and every team has its depth tested. The Vikings were a good example of that. In 2009, they suffered very few injuries and made it to the NFC Championship Game. In 2010, they sustained numerous injuries, especially on the offensive line, and the result was a drop from a 12-4 record to 6-10.
As the Vikings prepare for their preseason opener, it may be critical to see how the second- and third-team players perform, because some of them will be asked to make bigger contributions in the event of injury. From first blush, it would appear the Vikings will need to do a lot of developing of talent – and do it quick – because the second line of the depth chart looks far less formidable this year than it did when training camp broke in 2010.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.