Top 10 Training Camp Talkers

Posted Jul 25, 2013

The offseason is officially in the rear view mirror and the 2013 season is upon us, as Vikings players and coaches report to training camp on Thursday and the first practice is scheduled for Friday. It promises to be an exciting three weeks of training camp for a Vikings team that boasts the reigning MVP in Adrian Peterson and is coming off a 10-win season that resulted in a playoff berth.

While we wait for the team to report for duty here at Minnesota State University-Mankato, let’s go over 10 intriguing talking points the Vikings Entertainment Network will be covering during training camp. Many more storylines will emerge once the action begins and we’ll have complete coverage of those, as well. But these 10 are in focus at the moment…

10. Reigning MVP Ready For An Encore
Last year Adrian Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, the second-highest single-season total in NFL history, and literally carried the Vikings through the second half of the season and into the playoffs. It all resulted in a bunch of postseason awards for Peterson, including being named NFL MVP. But anyone who knows AP knows that he’s ready to put last season in the past and focus on producing an even better 2013 for himself and the team.

9. Cris Carter Hall of Fame Enshrinement
We go from a future Hall of Famer in Peterson to the team’s most recent Hall of Famer – Cris Carter. The greatest receiver in Vikings history will join the NFL’s immortals in Canton, Ohio when he’s enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the weekend of August 3. It may not have any direct influence on 2013, but having a player go into the Hall of Fame is a big deal and this summer Vikings fans will enjoy seeing Carter take his well-earned place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

8. Figuring Out Defensive Tackle Depth
An important part of training camp is determining the winner of position battles. When it comes to defensive tackle, there won’t be just one or two winners. Yes, two players will emerge from camp as starters, but several players are needed at each defensive tackle position for the duration of the season. Who will emerge in this spot for the Vikings? Kevin Williams is a stalwart and Letroy Guion is a returning starter, too. But Christian Ballard, Fred Evans, Sharrif Floyd and several others will also be in the mix battling for playing time.

7. Player Health
Chad Greenway appears recovered from offseason knee surgery, John Sullivan sounds like he’s getting there, Greg Childs is trying to work his way back and rookie Michael Mauti is on the mend, too. The health of these four players – and others who incur injuries during training camp – will be important storylines to watch as camp progresses.

6. Webb Continues Transition To Wide Receiver
The Vikings made the decision this offseason to switch Joe Webb from quarterback to wide receiver. As tall a task as that is for a player, Webb took the move in stride during the offseason program and made marked improvements all the way through the team’s mandatory mini-camp in mid-June. Can he continue to progress? Will the Vikings keep him on the 53-man roster? Those questions will be answered largely based on what happens in the next three weeks here at training camp.

5. Looking For The 3rd/Nickel Cornerback
If you pencil in Chris Cook and Xavier Rhodes as starting outside cornerbacks, you’re left to wonder who will fill the third cornerback/nickel cornerback role. Josh Robinson figures to be the favorite entering camp, but many others will compete for playing time. Bobby Felder, AJ Jefferson, Jacob Lacey, Marcus Sherels and Roderick Williams are a few of the guys will be in that competition.

4. Former Foes Become Friends
The Vikings signed two former Green Bay Packers this offseason and both figure to play prominent roles on the team immediately. Greg Jennings joins a very young wide receiver depth chart and will be the leader of that group from Day 1. His presence will be great on many fronts – for young quarterback Christian Ponder, for young receivers such as Cordarrelle Patterson and Jarius Wright, and for new receiver Joe Webb. Linebacker Desmond Bishop is the other, and he joins a defense that is looking to identify a new starting middle linebacker. Bishop missed last season with a hamstring injury and is poised for a comeback season in 2013.

3. Identifying A Middle Linebacker
Speaking of Bishop, he is in the middle of perhaps the biggest position battle in this year’s training camp – middle linebacker. Erin Henderson was moved from the outside to middle linebacker this offseason, but Bishop, who was signed in June, is also an inside linebacker. Will Bishop take over as Henderson slides back outside? Or will Henderson remain in the middle while Bishop moves to a new position? Only time – and training camp practices – will tell.

2. Rookie Showcase
Vikings GM Rick Spielman orchestrated one of the best drafts in team history last year, and this year he was more than ready for an encore. Finding a way to house three first-round picks provided an exciting draft day for fans, and now that excitement transfers to training camp. Sharrif Floyd, Cordarrelle Patterson and Xavier Rhodes are set to make the first of (hopefully) many appearances in Mankato for training camp. On top of that, fourth-round pick Gerald Hodges figures to compete for time on defense while being a staple on special teams and fifth-rounder Jeff Locke is ready to assume punting duties.

1. Ponder’s Performance
I don’t agree with many of the experts who believe the Vikings will go as far as Ponder takes them in 2013. How Ponder performs is important, don’t get me wrong, but all the pressure is not on his shoulders this season. The Vikings are a run-oriented team with the best running back in the NFL, and that’s not going to change just because Ponder was a first-round pick and is entering the crucial third season. Ponder and the passing offense do need to showcase the ability to be explosive, but they don’t need to produce gaudy numbers on a weekly basis. With that said, Ponder’s progress and performance is a huge storyline this summer in training camp. The good news is the Vikings young passer embraces that situation and is poised to improve.