The Minnesota Vikings have filled plenty of holes and gotten younger at several different positions, but to say that the depth chart – even the front line – is set would be premature at best.
Bridgewater’s dislocated knee and multiple ligament tears, including the anterior cruciate ligament, left his future in doubt. Will he play at all this year? Will he play again at any point in the future? The Vikings showing him throwing at practice on Tuesday is an encouraging sign, but it is still a long way from dropping back under pressure and being able to move and protect himself.
Floyd suffered nerve damage to his leg when having surgery last fall and his status is similar to Bridgewater’s. If the nerve starts responding, he could return as a starter. If not, he may never return to football.
The best guess is that neither will be ready for full participation at the start of training camp and might not be able to play at all. Certainly, neither is expected to practice fully on Wednesday at the first organized team activity that is open to the media, but General Manager Rick Spielman is scheduled to address the situation even if Bridgewater is still avoiding interviews.
Bridgewater’s situation means Sam Bradford is the unquestioned starter and Case Keenum is the backup, with Taylor Heinicke the favorite to win the third spot, based off our observations of Wes Lunt in rookie camp and our best guess saying Bridgewater won’t be ready for play at the start of 2017.
Running back will be one of the most-watched positions. With free-agent signee Latavius Murray sidelined until training camp after surgery to remove bone spurs from his ankle, Dalvin Cook should have ample opportunity to establish a large role over the next month of OTAs and full-team minicamp, while Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham and Bishop Sankey search for roles.
Receiver also got much more interesting with the addition of Michael Floyd on May 10. He is being allowed to practice with the Vikings after having his house arrest transferred back to his home state and the 6-foot-2, 220-pound physical receiver could challenge for significant playing time, if not a starting spot. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are still considered the starters, but there’s a bevy of talent searching for roles, from 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell to 2017 draft picks Stacy Coley and Rodney Adams to veteran Jarius Wright, among others.
The offensive line could have new starters at four positions, sans only left guard Alex Boone. After seeing third-round pick Patrick Elflein at rookie camp, he could be the starting center. Another draft pick, Danny Isidora, will compete for the starting spot at right guard, along with Joe Berger and other young, largely untested possibilities. Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers have the road paved to starting at left and right tackle, respectively.
On defense, Floyd’s injury leaves an opening next to Linval Joseph. Several will be in on that competition, including third-round pick Jaleel Johnson and free-agent signees Datone Jones and Will Sutton. On the outside, the biggest question is whether Danielle Hunter will be able to unseat Brian Robison as the starter on the left side, opposite Everson Griffen. Also intriguing at end is draft pick Ifeadi Odenigbo and our early favorite for undrafted rookie gem, Tashawn Bower.
The only opening at linebacker is on the weak side, where Chad Greenway retired, leaving Emmanuel Lamur, Edmond Robinson, seventh-round pick Elijah Lee and undrafted rookie Eric Wilson. Would the Vikings consider moving Kentrell Brothers outside to give him more of an opportunity? OTAs could be a good indicator of that.
In the secondary, the biggest question mark occurs at the spot Captain Munnerlyn ably manned over the previous three years. With him moving to Carolina, Mackensie Alexander is likely to get the first shot at nickel cornerback, but Terence Newman is a great fallback option to have – either that being his main position or him moving from outside to inside on passing downs and Trae Waynes replacing Newman outside. The other three spots in the secondary are pretty well set with Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo.
For all of our pre-access projections based off previous performances and rookie camp observations, visit our depth chart, which is sure to be fine-tuned as the offseason practices continue.