The Vikings have arrived for their 50th training camp in Mankato and are set to hit the field today for a morning walk-through and an afternoon practice (schedule).
Players and coaches will have two weeks of practices before starting the preseason against the Steelers in the Hall of Fame Game that will be televised nationally on Aug. 9 by NBC for Sunday Night Football.
With that in mind, here's another installment of Two-Point Conversations, a Vikings.com segment that tasks Mike Wobschall (@wobby) and Craig Peters (@pcraigers) with three topics on which to make a point in 200 words or less, then asks you to weigh-in on a question about each topic.
Since Wobby's coverage of the team dates to 2005 — during the first Shaun Hill administration with the Vikings — and mine began last season in Teddy Bridgewater's first start against the Falcons, we'll have Wobby take tee box honors.
Which under-the-radar Viking is most likely to show up on the radar during camp?
@wobby: I will take DE BJ DuBose, a sixth-round pick out of Louisville who was drafted by the club this year. The 6-4, 284-pounder quietly impressed at times during the Vikings offseason program and if he continues on that path he may be able to make some noise along the defensive line once the regular season comes around. He's listed as a DE, but don't be surprised if he's asked to slide inside to rush in some situations. The hurdle for DuBose will be showing the coaching staff he is deserving of second-team and some first-team reps as he builds confidence and gains trust. NFL teams are always looking to add more depth to the DL, but they are restricted as to how many they can keep on the 53-man roster and dress on game day. If DuBose can be fundamentally sound as an end and display rush ability as a tackle, he may be a roster spot-saving defender for the Vikings.
@pcraigers: I liked what DuBose showed during the offseason program and the fact that he's a former 7-on-7 passing league (as a tight end) and college (on defense) teammate of Bridgewater, but I'll go with a player who plans to remain a tight end: MyCole Pruitt. Selected in the fifth round, Pruitt may not be on everyone's radar since he played for Southern Illinois in FCS, but Pruitt stacked productive seasons for the Salukis. He had school records in career receptions (221) and catches in a season (81 in 2014) and ranks second in school history with 2,601 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns. Pruitt was voted as the best TE in the Missouri Valley Football Conference's 30-year history. Stout at 258 pounds, but a fluid runner of routes, Pruitt lined up in multiple spots during the offseason program and made some impressive catches. Blocking, however, is also part of the position, so we'll get to see how he is in that aspect of the sport once pads go on and full-contact practices start.
What is the Vikings deepest position group?
@wobby: The Vikings will likely cut a TE who will eventually land on another team's roster. That's how you know a particular position has some depth. Returning from last year's team is a healthy Kyle Rudolph, the versatile Rhett Ellison and the intriguing Chase Ford. Added to the roster since the end of last season is fifth-round draft pick MyCole Pruitt and former Green Bay Packer Brandon Bostick. Rudolph figures to be a prominent part of the offense, Ellison's versatility would be hard to overlook and Pruitt's status as a draft pick should push him over the top. But that leaves two talented players in Bostick and Ford to either battle for the last spot or receive the short end of the stick. Or maybe the position will be SO deep that GM Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer won't be able to leave any of them behind.
@pcraigers: I'll go with cornerback because of a pair of moves the Vikings made this offseason: signing 13-season veteran Terence Newman and drafting Trae Waynes 11th overall. Those two, along with Xavier Rhodes give the Vikings three first-round picks for a position with two starting spots. The development that Rhodes showed last season under Head Coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray is encouraging for his continued emergence and for what other young players like Waynes can learn. Newman's six previous seasons of playing for Zimmer (four in Dallas; two in Cincinnati) enables him to be an extension of the coaching staff on the field and pass along the refined techniques he's learned while playing at a high level. The Vikings also have veteran Captain Munnerlyn, (93 career games) who will benefit from a second year in the system, as well as returnees Josh Robinson, Jabari Price and Marcus Sherels. Shaun Prater is listed as a CB, but worked some at safety this offseason. DeMarcus Van Dyke and Jalil Carter were signed this offseason, adding two players more than 6 feet tall.
What is the top unheralded storyline as the Vikings open camp?
@wobby: The emergence of WR Charles Johnson. The Vikings welcomed back Adrian Peterson, traded for Mike Wallace, have a developing franchise QB and have spoken frequently about the healthy return of Kyle Rudolph. All of this has taken attention away from Johnson, who looked every bit the part of an emerging playmaker last season when he averaged 15.3 yards per reception and scored two times. At 6-2, 217 pounds, Johnson has good size to go along with the speed and quicks necessary to outmaneuver defensive backs. This is a player Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner and QBs coach Scott Turner had in Cleveland and pounded the table for here in Minnesota once he became available, so we already know he's got the confidence of key decision makers as well as natural talent. Add in the attention that Peterson, Rudolph and Wallace will command, and Johnson may be in great position to capitalize on opportunity.
@pcraigers: The Vikings defensive tackles, particularly Linval Joseph, Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen. That by no means is a slight toward Sharrif Floyd. It's just that he's more well-known that the trio that joined the team last season under three different circumstances. Joseph was signed to a multiyear deal, Johnson was offered a prove-it or move-it one-year agreement and Stephen was a seventh-round pick. Zimmer mentioned Joseph at the end of this offseason program. The Vikings were so impressed by Johnson's performance a year ago when he had 6.5 sacks that they re-signed him to a multiyear deal this year. Stephen was able to log substantial minutes as a rookie and more than held his own. This depth will allow for a rotation at a gritty position to try to keep players fresh throughout the season.