It may seem ludicrous to say, but the adversity the Vikings faced last year in terms of players missing in action could result in one of the most exciting training camp/preseason periods in franchise history.
Typically, when the Minnesota Vikings head to Mankato, even novice fans can anticipate about 45 of the 53 players that will fill out the roster when final cutdowns are made. The other 45 guys are fighting for eight spots – not solid odds.
But given the injuries the Vikings sustained last year, the 2015 Vikings are in much more of a competitive mode than they were in 2014 because of the maladies the Vikings faced last year.
Had Matt Cassel stayed healthy and not stunk out the joint, we may still not know what Teddy Bridgewater could accomplish. He got the opportunity. In 2015, there’s no question who the starter is.
Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon were expected to be co-caddies at the running back position as Adrian Peterson looked to win another rushing title. Both of them were forced into the starting lineup when A.P. ended up on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.
Charles Johnson wasn’t on the opening-day roster at wide receiver. It took Jerome Simpson getting released to open up a spot for him that even got him into action. As things currently stand, Johnson is the leader for a starting job.
Kyle Rudolph was projected to have a monster 2014 season after being introduced to Norv Turner. But, while Rudolph missed seven games, Chase Ford and Rhett Ellison got their chance to prove themselves and both made the most of their opportunities and earned their stripes when pushed into action.
The starting offensive line was decimated with injuries, as Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt and Charlie Johnson all went down to injury. It opened up opportunities for Joe Berger, Vlad Ducasse and Mike Harris. Ducasse is gone, but Berger was a priority free agent signing and Harris has some forward buzz going his way. Why? They got an opportunity.
All three Week 1 starting linebackers missed time in 2014 – Chad Greenway, Anthony Barr and Jasper Brinkley. It opened opportunities for Audie Cole and Gerald Hodges and both of them put themselves on the map with Mike Zimmer’s coaching staff.
An injury to Robert Blanton opened up the safety position to Andrew Sendejo to show that he could be a heavy hitter in the secondary next to Dirty Harry. All he needed was an opportunity.
As the Vikings head into the 2015 season, the challenges in training camp aren’t going to center around who makes the roster. It will center more on the lines of demarcation that will determine who is on the first, second and third in terms of the pecking order – much less throwing in a slew of new players that are hungry and fighting to take away spots that players thought they had locked up.
As hard as it may have been to swallow at the time, the calamities the Vikings suffered in 2014 may the best thing that happened to the 2015 Vikings. A lot of players who weren’t expected to contribute got the chance to show what they could do.
Competition is always good for business and, from the looks of things in early June, business is going to be good.
From the “Only Brett Can Get Away With This” Department comes this: at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, depending on the doorbuster sale crowd that shows up at Camp Randall, tickets go on sale for Favre’s annual Legends Game. The cost of tickets? Between $34 and $55 a pop. And Camp Randall ain’t small digs. In the event of too many Sconnies showing up at 7 a.m. – good luck with that – a lottery system is ready to go. A Legends Game with a seven-figure take is impressive no matter how you slice it.