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Monday Morning Mailbag: Position Battle at WR on the Horizon

Posted Jul 17, 2017

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With Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook seeming to be the two front runners of being starting running back, what do you think Jerick McKinnon's role will be for the team this season?

-- Blake S.
Fargo, North Dakota

Let’s not put the cart before the horse. I don’t think it’s safe to assume anyone of those three running backs will be a front runner. We haven’t even seen Murray practice yet, so it’s a stretch to put him atop the depth chart already. The beauty about the three running backs Blake mentioned is that they are all three-down backs and they also each provide something to the offense that the other two may not be as good at providing. We’ll see how this all shakes out once we arrive in Mankato for training camp and once preseason reps are parsed out.

Defense, defense, defense is the topic most of the time with the Vikings. And the offense, well Sam Bradford has had a full year now so I expect improvement from them. But I hear very little about special teams. Recent Super Bowl champions have had successful special teams. Where are the Vikings headed on special teams?
-- Kim Baker

Oh, how Mike Priefer would love to read this question. Kim is correct, special teams is as important a part of the game as defense and offense. And I’m not just saying that because coach Priefer might be reading today’s mailbag. There were some significant specials teams plays that occurred in just this past year’s Super Bowl, in fact, including a heads up play by Patriots S Patrick Chung to field a punt at his own 13-yardline in order to save some field position. Special teams will produce some interesting position battles at Vikings training camp this year, with gunner, kickoff return, place kicking and punting positions all up in the air. 

With the ruling from the NFL on Michael Floyd's four-game suspension, can Laquon Treadwell seal the deal as that over-the-middle, tough-nosed, physical guy we need this season? Or does one of the new guys or Jarius Wright want it more? Talk about great a training camp competition at wide receiver! I'm looking forward to seeing who steps up their game. How about you?
-- Wayne West
Minneapolis, MN

I am looking forward to the position battles at wide receiver, too, and I do expect Treadwell to take a significant step forward in his second season. I don’t view Treadwell’s chances as increasing because of Floyd’s suspension, though. One might assume the Vikings anticipated Floyd’s suspension before they signed him given his transgression happened in December of 2016, plus Floyd can still participate in training camp and preseason practices as well as preseason games. Ultimately, the Vikings have done a nice job of adding talent to the receive position and that will result in great competition at camp for precious roster spots.

I know it's important to have depth going into training camp, but it seems like we have a lot of new additions that could take away roster spots from some of our second-year and third-year players, most notably, Datone Jones, Will Sutton and our and our draft picks at wide receiver and safety. Does the coaching staff believe these additions have position flexibility? Or is it more about competition and some of the young players will just have to be released?
-- Joshua Heim
Minnetonka, MN

It’s mostly about creating competition everywhere you can on the roster. Competition brings out the best in the players and helps create a better team. The coaches and scouts will take age and career arc into account when they are evaluating players and deciding whether to keep a young, ascending player who is developing and could help down the road or a veteran who has already reached his peak but can help more now.

Less than a week now until training camp starts! Best of luck Vikings! I can't wait until the preseason games start. Canada is already into their fourth week of the regular season already. They only have two weeks of preseason games, something I wish the NFL could adopt and then go to an 18-game regular season.
-- Rey Johnson
Montrose, MN

Yes, the reduced preseason and enhanced regular season idea is an interesting one, but it’s a discussion for another day. I share your enthusiasm for the start of training camp, which is this upcoming Sunday for the Vikings, and I also love to read that you are excited for the preseason games. I, for one, particularly enjoy the slow burn of the preseason. August is a great month for football!