With most of the Minnesota Vikings’ starting spots on offense already spoken for, much of the training camp intrigue resides on the defensive side of the ball, where head coach Mike Zimmer has been implementing plenty of experimentation.
At middle linebacker, Audie Cole and Eric Kendricks were and still are expected to battle it out, but Gerald Hodges is entering as a possibility there. Eventually, Kendricks, the second-round pick in 2015, could be the man for the job, but Zimmer also indicated early in the offseason that Kendricks might eventually move to the outside when Chad Greenway’s career is done.
At cornerback, first-round pick Trae Waynes hasn’t cracked the starting lineup yet in a much deeper rotation of cornerbacks than the Vikings have seen in some time. For now, Waynes is mostly battling for the nickel cornerback role, which generally plays about half of the snaps, but he’s also begun to get some looks on the outside, just like Hodges. Veteran Terence Newman is getting some time at nickel cornerback, despite still holding down the lead for the outside left cornerback spot opposite Xavier Rhodes.
But with all the questions surrounding the back half of the Vikings defense, the defensive line starters and most of the rotation is set with a fully loaded corps of accomplished and up-and-coming players. There is little doubt Brian Robison, Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen will be the starters, and Griffen, Tom Johnson and rookie Danielle Hunter all have been impressive in one-on-one pass-rushing battles, as has strongside linebacker Anthony Barr.
While questions remain at some positions on defense, in this case it’s a good problem to have. The Vikings appear to have plenty of talent battling for starting and rotational roles, whereas in years past a battle often equated to a weakness.