Summer is set to go full swing, but so is the action around Winter Park. Organized Team Activities (OTAs) will launch on Wednesday for the Vikings, and over the next several weeks there will be a lot to watch as the team continues its preparations for the 2014 season.
Here are just 10 of the storylines we’ll be chasing during the Vikings 10 OTAs and three-day minicamp…
1. Arms Race
Many eyes will be on first-rounder Teddy Bridgewater as he practices with and against veterans for the first time. Also, don’t be surprised to see all three Vikings quarterbacks take reps with the first team at some point during the OTA schedule.
2. Will Flash Make a Splash (on offense)?
Cordarrelle Patterson burst onto the scene in record-setting fashion as a rookie kickoff returner for the Vikings. He’s flashy and he has already made a big splash on special teams, but this year he’s expected to take on a larger offensive role.
3. Where Do the Linebackers Lineup?
There’s a brand-new defensive coaching staff in place and only one of three starting linebackers from last season is returning (Chad Greenway), which means there will be a lot of changes to the linebacker corps in 2014. Will Greenway move to the middle or stay outside? If Greenway slides inside, who will see first-team reps on the outside? If Greenway stays outside, who lines up in the middle?
4. Munnerlyn Leads New-Look Secondary
The Vikings are looking for major improvements to their pass defense heading into 2014, and a major step in that direction was the signing of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. He’s a crafty veteran who can play outside or in the slot, and he’ll give a new-look secondary a little extra pop as they prepare to face their pass-happy 2014 opponents (NFC North, plus New England and New Orleans).
5. How Do You Complement Adrian?
The Vikings have the best running back in the NFL. But with Toby Gerhart gone after serving as Adrian Peterson’s reliable backup since 2010, the Vikings have an open competition for RB2 duties. Beyond that, where does third-rounder Jerick McKinnon fit? Will he compete for the backup job or is he strictly a change of pace/scat back?
6. What’s the Deal Along the D-Line?
Changes came fast and heavy along the defensive line this offseason, as the team watched Jared Allen, Letroy Guion and Kevin Williams leave while re-signing Fred Evans and Everson Griffen and also adding Tom Johnson, Linval Joseph and Corey Wootton. How will the departed linemen be replaced? How will the additions fit?
7. Rudy’s Return
After a Pro Bowl season in 2012, Kyle Rudolph’s 2013 season was cut short as he missed the final eight games due to injury. Rudy technically made his return a few weeks ago at the voluntary minicamp, but the 10 OTAs will give us our first extended look at a healthy Rudolph in Norv Turner’s offense.
8. Rounding Up the Returners
On the topic of kickoff returns, who will challenge Patterson for that role and will anyone challenge Marcus Sherels for the punt return role? There are plenty of players beyond Patterson and Sherels who could compete for time.
9. Competition at Offensive Guard
Both of last year’s starting guards return to the Vikings in 2014, but GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer have added bodies to challenge both Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson. Candidates include Jeff Baca, Vladimir Ducasse and David Yankey, among others.
10. Who Will Steal the Show?
We’ll go into OTAs wondering about Bridgewater and excited to see Patterson’s development, but every offseason there seems to be a handful of players who surprise in a good way and steal the show. Who will do it this year? Maybe Harrison Smith on defense and undrafted rookie free agent AC Leonard on offense?