In little more than one month, the Vikings will report to training camp in Mankato to continue their preparations for the 2015 season. Here are seven Vikings who can use big-time camp performances to bolster their spot on the roster.
OL Babatunde AiyegbusiThe signing of the 6-9 Polish OL caught fire within the Vikings fan base and curiosity about Babs' progress and prospects for 2015 remains high. Contact restrictions during the offseason program make it difficult to truly evaluate the progress of most players, but particularly in the trenches with the DL and OL. Training camp offers a true test, though, so Babs will be a player to watch in Mankato this summer.
LB Audie ColeCole has already far exceeded the expectations of a seventh-round pick, but that only leaves everyone wanting more from him. Although he racks up the tackles when he's put in the lineup, he's been unable to secure a starting job to this point. And now, a second-round rookie – Eric Kendricks – is expected to take the bulk of first-team reps at Mike LB heading into training camp. Expect Cole to have another impressive training camp (and preseason) and make the competition for the starting Mike LB job a tight one.
OL Mike HarrisAcquiring and developing depth along the OL is a priority for the Vikings, and Harris could be a central figure in that effort because of his position flexibility. If he can build on his playing experience from last season by having a strong training camp, Harris could be an every-week active player because of his ability to play either RG or RT should injury strike either of the starters.
QB Mike KafkaIn the battle for the third QB spot, can we assume a tie goes to rookie Taylor Heinicke? With an established starter and a veteran backup, you can't blame the Vikings for wanting the 3rd guy to be a development project. If so, Kafka will need an impressive training camp and preseason to beat the Old Dominion product out of a job.
LT Matt KalilConfidence is building in Kalil. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said last week that Kalil looks more comfortable on the field, and that is good news for the Vikings. After a tumultuous early-season stretch in 2014, Kalil turned things around and finished well over the final eight games. With increasing confidence and health, Kalil is poised to arrive at training camp ready to roll and square off against Everson Griffen, the team's sack leader in 2014, on a day-to-day basis, which will only help him prepare to face other talented pass rushers in the regular season.
CB Captain MunnerlynThe Vikings suddenly have quality depth at CB. Munnerlyn is part of that, but the veteran should beware of younger players who have upside taking his spot on the roster. It didn't help that an injury sidelined Munnerlyn for much of the OTA schedule and all of minicamp, but once he arrives in Mankato Munnerlyn can get right back on track with a solid showing to retain his role as a veteran leader in the CB room.
WR Adam ThielenThe competition is thick at WR. The additions of Stefon Diggs via the draft and Mike Wallace via trade have increased the talent level, there is optimism that Cordarrelle Patterson has improved, and both Charles Johnson and Jarius Wright are emerging difference-makers in Norv Turner's scheme. But don't shortchange Thielen. It's hard to walk away from a Vikings practice and not be impressed with him. He has proven himself time and again in Mankato, first as a member of the Minnesota State University Mavericks football team and lately as a member of the Vikings. With sure hands, better-than-you-think speed and quality route running on top of the ability to contribute in multiple phases of special teams, Thielen is a good bet to impress at training camp.