This week we will get the first extended look at how the roster for the 2016 Minnesota Vikings is going to stack up. There are going to be plenty of storylines worth following during the minicamp practices that will serve as the last full-squad workouts prior to the team arriving in Mankato for training camp.
These are the three likely position questions that will have the biggest implications and potentially the largest impact.
Offensive Line Shuffling – Last year, the Vikings had to make changes on the fly. With Charlie Johnson not re-signed and preseason injuries to John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt, when the regular season opened, the only offensive lineman playing the same position as 2014 was left tackle Matt Kalil. A year later, things look equally as jumbled.
Are Loadholt and Sullivan locks to win their jobs back? Is there a scenario under which Loadholt doesn’t make the final roster? Is Brandon Fusco’s move back to right guard something to re-ignite his effectiveness? Will T.J. Clemmings be a backup on the right side or the left side, or both? How big an impact are free agents Alex Boone and Andre Smith going to make? At this point, it would appear there are more questions than answers.
The Patterson Conundrum – When the Vikings jumped back into the end of the first round of the 2013 draft to make a third first-round pick, they rolled the dice on Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. When Adrian Peterson was shelved dealing with legal issues in Texas in 2014, Patterson was thrust to the spotlight as the offensive player who would replace Peterson for the weekly locker room press conference routinely conducted by Peterson. How quickly things would change.
A former first-round pick who came highly touted by respected scouts for his athleticism, Patterson has seemingly been in Norv Turner’s doghouse. Last season, he caught just two passes for 10 yards and teams don’t pay return specialists the kind of money they pay first-round wide receivers – even if they have two return titles to their credit.
The drafting of Laquon Treadwell has essentially made sure that Patterson won’t get a chance to be a full starter heading into training camp. The performances of youngsters Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson have likely pushed him back to the third line of the depth chart. Jarius Wright is a slot receiver. Patterson is not as natural there. They’re not in competition for a roster spot. Adam Thielen? Mike Priefer wants to keep both Thielen and Patterson for selfish reasons. The roster may not account for all the receivers, especially with the drafting of Moritz Böhringer and the Vikings’ predisposition to keeping rookies on the 53-man roster, Patterson had better have the season of his life – if not for the Vikings, for the other 31 teams.
Defenders Ready To Step Up – The Vikings are going to have intriguing position battles at all three levels of the defense. They have a pair of strong defensive ends in Everson Griffen and Brian Robison, but the offseason chatter has been about the role Danielle Hunter will have to push one or both of them. Two guys to watch are Scott Crichton and Justin Trattou. They are guys who have been around and may be battling for one spot on the final roster. At linebacker, Chad Greenway is preparing for his likely last go-round and the time to groom a replacement starts now. In the middle, Audie Cole has found a way to keep a roster spot every year, but with Kentrell Brothers pushing him for a place on the 53-man roster, there may only be room for one of them. In the secondary, what happens with Trae Waynes will be something to watch as the former first-round pick looks to earn his spot.
Say what you want about the significance of minicamps and OTAs, but the Vikings are facing a lot of competition battles at several position because, for the first time in a long time, there appears to be more talent than roster spots available on the 2016 roster, which will make every opportunity players have to make an impression – whether that be in preseason games, training camp or minicamp – that much more vital than they have been in years.