Sunday slant: Players of surprise

The Vikings' starters are mostly set, but the youngsters are battling it out at the annual job fair in Mankato. Who's making an impression? No starters allowed. This is a sleeper's-only zone.

So many interviews, so little time.

Access at Vikings training camp has been solid, with interviews with the top players – those trying to come back from injury like Cedric Griffin, Sidney Rice and E.J. Henderson, and those trying to prove a point like Adrian Peterson.

We've also talked with dozens of other players in the first week-plus of practice, but after 10 days, the players are resting on Sunday, giving us an opportunity to catch our breath and give a quick evaluation.

Here is one player at each position that has been a bit of a surprise or continues to emerge – no starters allowed:

Quarterback – Joe Webb. He got a lot of press during minicamp. In the early stages of training camp, he appeared to be struggling a bit with trying to process information and let his natural talents shine through. But about a week into it he started to come around, although the reps appeared to be curtailed during certain segments. Jackson has looked decent. Rosenfels struggled early as well but has smoothed out a little bit of late. Webb still has a long ways to go, but his performance over the next four weeks before cuts will determine the shape of the position below the game-day active QBs. Bring on the pressure live action and let's test the poise of the big-framed athlete.

Running back – Darius Reynaud. It will be an uphill climb for Reynaud, no doubt, and I don't expect him to crack the top three running backs, but if he can continue to progress he has a shot at the roster if he can grab hold of the punt-return job as well. Like Webb, Reynaud didn't look natural early as he makes the transition from receiver to running back, but it's clear he has the short-area quickness to handle limited runs and pass-catching out of the backfield. His ability to pick up pass rushers will determine if he has any shot at running back. We know he won't crack the top three, but the question is whether or not he'll have a chance to develop throughout the season.

Wide receiver – Logan Payne. The former Seattle Seahawk should be ahead of the other younger receivers because of his experience in the West Coast offense. He is, but the question will be if the others – like Marko Mitchell, Ray Small and Taye Biddle – can catch him or pass him in the next month and if there is even a spot open behind Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Greg Lewis and maybe even Jaymar Johnson. Logan may have to unseat Johnson to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

Offensive line – Patrick Brown. Chris DeGeare is looking solid, for sure, and should have a roster spot locked up. Ryan Cook will likely be the swing guy while DeGeare settles in. But who will be behind them? From this vantage point, Brown is looking like NFL backup material at left tackle. He has the size and a year on the practice squad. The NFL doesn't like to give up on potential at left tackle, and Brown has potential.

Defensive line – Letroy Guion. Up until this training camp, I've been relatively unimpressed with Guion. In NFL parlance, he was "just a guy." This year, however, he actually looks like he might be trying to take advantage of his talents. Maybe his inactive status for half of last year made an impression.

Linebacker – Erin Henderson. Linebacker will be one of the more interesting positions to watch during roster trimming because of the number of players at the position that are mainly special-teams guys. After the starting three, Jasper Brinkley is a solid backup and Henderson has been coming on strong all offseason at outside linebacker. From this vantage point, Henderson should have a roster spot and could be a spot starter if Ben Leber or Chad Greenway needs to tap out for a game or two due to injury.

Cornerback – Chris Cook. Asher Allen is making a play to be involved in three-cornerback sets when the regular season starts, but so is rookie second-round draft choice Cook. They are very different players because of their size, and Cook is showing he isn't just a big frame, but he can also support the run and stay with receivers and pull in interceptions.

Safety – Husain Abdullah. Yes, Jamarca Sanford is making a strong run at Tyrell Johnson's starting spot, but most people didn't expect a lot of Abdullah, who has put together a nice camp. His spot was relatively safe as the fourth safety heading into camp, but another couple of weeks like this and it will be cemented.

With such a veteran roster, Sanford might be the only backup with a chance to crack the starting lineup for reasons other than injury, but there is plenty of jockeying for spots at the lower levels of the roster. More than halfway through the Mankato portion of camp, young players are making their move for long-term employment in purple.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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