Hot Offensive Competition

The battle for roster spots in Scott Linehan's offense could be close to decided after Friday's preseason game, but we take a look at some the hotly contested competition today.

Quarterback — The third-string quarterback spot was a tight race between veteran Spergon Wynn and undrafted free agent Shaun Hill from Maryland, with first-year man Romaro Miller the longshot. However, after the release of Wynn, Hill is a near lock for the position. Miller hasn't made it into a preseason game yet and was often running the scout team in training camp.

Hill (6-foot-3, 223 pounds) appears to have some things going for him other than just being from Tice's alma mater. The coaches have liked the potential he has shown. Wynn would have cost slightly more against the cap, and he received some chances to emerge without really showing more than flashes of consistency.

Running Back — There are going to be some tough decisions to make at running back, as Tice seems to like all his running backs. Behind second-year man Michael Bennett, he has been impressed with Doug Chapman, Moe Williams, rookie free agent Jeremy Allen and James Wofford. But all four probably can't make it, especially with return specialist David Allen in the mix, too.

Chapman has had a strong camp, is a solid all-around back, and he is the incumbent. Williams is also a proven commodity, provides experience on special teams and has played well, but he lacks truly special qualities as a runner and has typically had a hard time staying healthy.

Of the inexperienced guys, Jeremy Allen shows a lot of potential as a short-yardage specialist because of his impressive size-speed ratio. Wofford has consistently earned Tice's praises and is also a pretty good all-purpose-type back.

Offensive Line — The offensive line has shuffled so much in preseason due to injuries and holdouts that it is impossible to say for sure who has the inside track on a limited number of positions remaining.

Virtual locks to make the team are starters Lewis Kelly, Corbin Lacina/Everett Lindsay, Matt Birk, David Dixon and Chris Liwienski. Backups Cory Withrow and (when he signs) Bryant McKinnie are nearly guaranteed spots.

Last year the Vikings kept 10 offensive linemen, leaving two spots beyond the aforementioned. Guard Ed Ta'amu would be a tough player to release and expect to bring him back on the practice squad. He'd likely be claimed by another team. So look for him to make the active roster.

That would leave the 10th spot unfilled.

Competing for that coveted role are tackles Bennitte Waddell, Lorenzo White and Brian Crawford, along with guard Orlando Bobo and center/guard Mike Malano. If experience wins out, Bobo is the man. If pricing comes into play, Bobo's six-year veteran status would put him at a disadvantage. White and Malano are more likely practice squad candidates, and Waddell and Crawford could also fit into that category.

But one of these five likely will end up on the active roster, whether it be in a developmental role or looking to contribute as a swingman.

Tight End — The Vikings are expected to keep four or five tight ends, with Byron Chamberlain, Jim Kleinsasser and Hunter Goodwin making the roster. After that, however, there is a very tight battle between veteran O.J. Santiago and younger prospects Matt Cercone and Jeff Kostrewa.

Santiago has had some nice receiving games in the preseason, but there are rumblings that he isn't consistent enough to gain the confidence of coaches. Cercone will do just about anything the coaches ask and Kostrewa is a project that gained some season in NFL Europe this spring.

Once again, there is one — possibly two — spot(s) open with three players hungering for it.

Wide Receiver — Other than the D'Wyane Bates-Derrick Alexander competition at wide receiver, the No. 3-4-5 – and perhaps 6 spot are also very competitive among special teams ace Chris Walsh, veteran Sean Dawkins and younger prospect-types like Cedric James, Kenny Clark and Kelly Campbell.

Walsh is such a factor on kick coverage and is still a clutch third-down guy if needed. Dawkins brings nice size and experience and a veteran minimum price tag. James has a lot of ability but has had a hard time avoiding injuries.

Campbell has a number of intriguing sidelights surrounding his chances to make the roster. He is very much on the smallish side but is a waterbug-type who was very productive in college and offers some big-play potential as a slot receiver.

Worth noting there is that Campbell played for defensive line coach George O'Leary at Georgia Tech. O'Leary is Tice's assistant head coach, so the comfort level might be a little higher with Campbell because of that. Also worth noting, although smaller receivers aren't exactly en vogue in the NFL these days, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had a lot of success and productivity with some smaller-type receivers in college at Louisville, where he got big numbers from Deion Branch and Zek Parker the last few years. So a guy like that in the slot might have a role in Linehan's offense over the long haul.

Clark has a little more experience with the system than the other prospects, but he might not offer as much sizzle. He has also been limited with back spasms.

Tice came to camp wanting competition at every position and it looks like he has it.

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