It's the final week of training camp, which means young players and those in heated position battles need to start proving their worth on the field. Here is a look at the key fights and how the top rookies are doing.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK — Moe Williams
vs. Mewelde Moore
for the third-down running back position.
Williams, the dependable 30-year-old veteran has done virtually nothing in training camp. The Vikings started off camp resting him because he is a proven NFL gamer, and was their most reliable player in 2003. Then he tweaked a calf muscle and has been sidelined for more than a week. He missed the 23-6 victory over the Cardinals and was scheduled to return Monday. Meanwhile, Moore, the rookie fourth-round draft pick, continues to do the things Williams is known for: Catch the ball out of the backfield, scoot past defenders for first downs. Moore also scored on a 39-yard run in the third quarter against the Cardinals. Moore clearly is the heir apparent to Williams.
It's time Williams proves the transition shouldn't come this season.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS —
Backup center is worth watching. Cory Withrow
is starting until Pro Bowler Matt Birk
returns from hernia surgery. Withrow was unimpressive in the running game Saturday, both in straight-ahead blocking and pulling. The Vikings signed veteran Billy Conaty
He might be worth a look with the first team.
Left defensive end is another position to keep an eye on. Kenny Mixon probably will be suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Mixon started against the Cardinals, but the Vikings need to formulate a plan for when he's gone.
One solution is moving rookie RE Kenechi Udeze to the left side (he plays there in the nickel) and using third-down pass rusher Lance Johnstone on the right side on every down. Other possibilities are third-round draft pick Darrion Scott or veteran Chuck Wiley starting at left end. Scott was the likely choice, but he reported to camp out of shape and has battled a sprained foot.
RB-KR Mewelde Moore, a fourth-round pick, improved his standing with the team with an impressive 39-yard touchdown run around right end during the third quarter of Saturday's 23-6 victory over the Cardinals.
Moore wasn't as impressive as a kickoff returner. He had returns of 16 and 13 yards.
DE Kenechi Udeze, the first-round pick, started at right end and played left end in the nickel defense. He notched his first sack in the nickel when he tackled backup QB Shaun King for a 3-yard loss late in the first half.
LB Dontarrious Thomas, the second-round pick, looked fast and confident for a rookie. His best work came as the middle linebacker in the first nickel defense. He tied the game-high for tackles with six.
DT Brock Lesnar, a free agent and former WWE champion, played his first game since 1995 as a senior at Webster High in South Dakota. He appeared as a surprise wedge-buster on kickoffs in the second quarter, and made his defensive debut midway through the fourth. Lesnar, a 6-3, 290-pounder with 4.75 speed, hit the wedge at about the Cardinals' 30-yard line. He didn't break it up, but did help make the stop at the Arizona 28. Lesnar looked a bit lost on defense, but the Cardinals were called for holding him in the red zone.
"I've been in the league what? Two weeks," Lesnar said. "I'm just fortunate to have gotten in the game."