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Monday Morning Mailbag: Green Dot, TE Depth & Rookie DBs

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Vikings Training Camp has been rolling along with fans showing their support for the team in multiple ways, including those who have visited Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center so far.

The team's annual night practice will be held tonight at TCO Stadium, and we're looking forward to covering the action.

I'm also excited to remind you that between this Mailbag and next week's the Vikings will be taking the field for their first preseason game of 2022.


2022 Vikings Training Camp

Find out everything you need to know about Vikings Training Camp including schedule, tickets, activities and more.

Eric Kendricks has always been a favorite of mine. I always wondered why he never got the green dot on his helmet to call plays. [Anthony] Barr (who I wish nothing but the best) always had it, but when he was out, [Mike] Zimmer gave green dot to [Nick] Vigil who was only here a year. Do you think Kendricks should be captain of this defense? I think he's earned it.

— John Heil

For those who might not know, the green dot is a sticker placed on the helmet of a defender to signify that it has an audio receiver to hear defensive calls sent from the coaching staff. The player wearing the green dot relays the calls to teammates. John is correct that Barr wore it in most games during his Vikings career and that Vigil wore it in 2021.

For starters, I think Kendricks is a great choice for anyone to have as one of their favorites. I've always enjoyed watching him play, and I've particularly been impressed with the way his career on the field has progressed, along with his leadership and perspective on making meaningful, positive changes for our society.

The defense has skipped a beat at times when Kendricks has had to miss. I've equated him to the hub of a wagon wheel, affecting every spoke of the defense. Minnesota is 59-40-1 in regular-season games when he starts and 6-7 when he's missed a contest.

Barr developed a tremendous mastery of Mike Zimmer's defense. I can remember years ago when he said wearing the green dot accelerated his understanding. I believe Mike Zimmer and Adam Zimmer liked the way Barr handled the responsibility because of his performance, as well as the way it freed Kendricks to go make plays. That's not to say that Kendricks couldn't handle green dot while maintaining what we've come to expect. It's just saying that was a preference by the prior coaching staff.

Vigil played really well in his lone Vikings season and was quite familiar with many of last year's defensive elements. His base knowledge enabled him to wear the green dot while he and Kendricks played well.

Now that Barr has signed with Dallas, Minnesota needs a new defensive player wearing the green dot, and Kendricks needs another strong running mate. He and veteran Jordan Hicks are an exciting duo to keep an eye on going forward.

Based on practices, it appears that Kendricks will have green dot duties.

View photos of players during 2022 Vikings Training Camp practice on August 6 at the TCO Performance Center.

O-Line looking solid. WR & RB, more than quality depth. TE? Behind Irv Smith, Jr., who is/are next up as TE1? Anyone on the current roster that can fill in both as a run blocker and dangerous pass catcher?


— Noel

So Noel's email was sent a few hours before Smith suffered the thumb injury last Monday. After being so excited to return from a torn meniscus suffered last August, Smith is now recovering from surgery. The Vikings are hoping to have him back for Week 1 against Green Bay.

In the meantime, there have been numerous opportunities for players like Johnny Mundt, who joined Minnesota this offseason after spending five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, and 2021 draft pick Zach Davidson.

Smith's abilities as a blocker and skills as a receiver, including his speed, make him somewhat singular. The versatility is the kind of thing that can keep defenses off balance.

Mundt has primarily been a blocker. The same is true for Minnesota native Ben Ellefson, who played in five games for Minnesota last season and seven for Jacksonville in 2020.

Davidson is a tall target (6-foot-7) who can really run. The Central Missouri product spent all of last season on the practice squad. Minnesota also has 2022 seventh-rounder Nick Muse and recent signee Shaun Beyer on the roster.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips coached tight ends from the NFL for three different franchises from 2013-21, including the Rams the past three seasons.

"We've got a big group of guys in there that are kind of vying for roles, and it will be good for them to get some more reps and see kind of how that plays out," Phillips said last week.

I was noticing from last week the article in the Mailbag about the depth of wide receivers the Vikings have. I know the team has normally kept six after the final cut. Do you see this happening again this year? It would be a shame to cut anyone from this group because another team will scoop them up.

— Kevin in Tucson, Arizona

Kevin is correct that the Vikings kept six receivers during their cut to 53 players last year, as well as in 2016 and 2017. Minnesota only retained five in 2018 and just four in 2019 but ballooned that number to seven in 2020.

With the new coaching staff and offensive system, it remains to be seen how Minnesota will allocate spots at each position. Based on what we've seen in practices, the team built competition and depth in expanding its roster to 12 receivers for camp.

Five of the six retained last year — Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Dan Chisena — are in camp this year.

Jefferson, Thielen and Osborn have looked great with the first team. Smith-Marsette opened camp with a few down moments but has provided more ups lately. His potential threat in the return game and speed could play into the equation.

Chisena is still likely the fastest player on the squad, but his role was almost exclusively as a gunner on special teams. He appears to have taken some steps forward with more reps.

Bisi Johnson is back from the torn ACL he suffered in last year's training camp. He has looked just as solid as he did before his injury and has a connection with Kirk Cousins from past performances in games.

Veteran newcomers Albert Wilson, 30, and Trishton Jackson, 24, have had some nice plays in practice, and rookie Jalen Nailor, 23, has opened it up on a couple of routes.

Teams want to have plenty of players to pick from when going from 90 to 53 and establishing their practice squad. Special teams roles and a couple of other factors could come into play, but there should be plenty of plays during preseason games for receivers to earn their spots.

What has happened to Wyatt Davis? When he was drafted out of Ohio State last year, I thought he would quickly become our right guard for years to come, as he had won two All-American honors. I heard little last year as to why he got no playing time despite our obvious problems at the position, and this year, I hear nothing. He is never mentioned as being in the mix, even for the second team. Is he injured, or is he considered a bust? I don't understand how an athlete with his accomplishments and size cannot get on the field. Great disappointment.

— John Z. (Vikings fan for over 50 years)

There's been quite a bit of interest in Wyatt Davis since his selection in 2021. His college accomplishments and because of Minnesota's multiyear quest to find a solution at right guard are significant factors.

Since he's been taking reps with the third team, it doesn't appear that he's dealing with an injury.

After General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell assessed the returning roster, the Vikings signed veterans Jesse Davis, Chris Reed and Austin Schlottmann before drafting Ed Ingram in the second round.

Jesse Davis has worked the most with the first team, but Reed practiced there some during the offseason program. Ingram got the call last week and again yesterday on vet days for Jesse Davis.

One of the most intriguing position battles going on seems to be QB2. Right now, it's got to be Sean Mannion. What do you think of keeping both Mannion and Kellen Mond on the roster with the thought that at some point this year Mond becomes the 2 and Mannion the 3?

— Phil Zupetz in Monroe, North Carolina

Do you think that our young QB Mond will get to stay with the Vikings? From what I have seen from his college stats, he has a good arm and seems to learn quickly. Do you think he is a better fit than our number two?

— Chet

I grouped these together since Phil and Chet are asking about the same topic.

First off, any team this time of year who has a definitive No. 1 QB is in better shape than teams that don't. Cousins' status as QB1 allows Minnesota to proceed full throttle with its offense and then use the second-team reps to evaluate Mannion and Mond.

There have been ample opportunities extended to Mond in practices so far, and I'd expect him to play quite a bit during the preseason.

Playing in preseason games seemed to elevate Mond's progress last year after he missed part of training camp. I think Mannion and Mond are both coachable players.

We don't have historic proof (as mentioned above in the receiver question) on how the current coaching staff will handle roster cuts or approach the quarterback spot.

Whenever I've privately tried to figure out how a 53-man roster will shake out, there has always been a question of two QBs or three, and I think I've generally gone with three, but that can be affected by other positions.

What I can say is that Minnesota's coaching staff has multiple former quarterbacks who played at various levels, and everyone on the staff is much more qualified than me to make those final decisions.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 14, 2023.

What are the chances of the Vikings bringing back Everson Griffen? I sure liked the energy he brought to the team.

— Joe Heaton in Alberta, Canada

Griffen definitely brought so much to the Vikings from a pre-game hype through the final whistle.

He recorded 5.0 sacks in his return to Minnesota last season before he needed to step away from the game.

The Vikings switch this year from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base has changed a bit of what edge defenders are being asked to do as outside linebackers instead of defensive ends.

In 2022, it's wise to almost never say never, but those factors, along with Griffen now being 34 might lessen the likelihood of another return.

Za'Darius Smith has the most experience and has thrived in a similar system in Green Bay. At 29, Smith is the oldest outside linebacker on the roster, followed by Danielle Hunter, who is still only 27.

Good morning from Australia,

I've written to you about this before, but now that training camp is in full swing, I figure there would be some more insight. How is the depth chart for DBs looking? Specifically the FS spot, has [Lewis Cine] been taking the first-team reps or has [Camryn Bynum] been getting a piece as well? And what about at CB, how is the battle between [Cameron Dantzler] and [Andrew Booth, Jr.] looking? How do you see both of these spots panning out as we move into the season?


Andrew in Queensland, Australia

An unofficial depth chart is usually released before a team plays in its first preseason game, so we'll be on the lookout for that this week.

Until then, Bynum has played most of the first-team reps with Harrison Smith. The Vikings have worked Cine in with the ones from time to time, either with The Hitman or with Bynum. Cine also has logged some reps with both players in a dime package.

Dantzler has played most of the first-team reps with Patrick Peterson. When Peterson received a preplanned vet day on Aug. 2, Dantzler moved to his spot and Booth stepped in where Dantzler has been playing.

Bynum had a nice interception last Saturday, and Booth recorded a memorable pick in his first full-team practice. Peterson's presence has helped Dantzler.

Cine and Booth have shown an intense physicality that I fully expect Sunday when the Vikings visit the Raiders.