Training camp is still a few weeks out, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to talk about. In order to tackle a few topics during the slowest part of the NFL calendar, vikings.com is unveiling another edition of Two-Point Conversations.
This segment 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.
Who benefits most from playing in a 5th preseason game?
@wobby: Norv Turner. The Vikings offensive coordinator has a long checklist to knock down before the season starts. Among the items are figuring out a 3rd QB, whittling down the RB/FB stable from a group of talented players, convincing Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer to keep 6 WRs and finding a starter at RG. Having an extra game to evaluate players and ideas will help Turner and his offensive staff gain a better understanding of what they want and of what they can do with the players they have.
@pcraigers: I see what you did there, and like it, but I'll counter with a rookie on the defensive side of the football: first-round draft pick Trae Waynes. The speedy cornerback has challenged Vikings receivers in practices both at the outside corner and inside slot positions this offseason. There's different challenges in defending those spots and receivers that possess unique skill sets. Footballs arrive from quarterbacks to inside receivers faster, and there can be more traffic to fight through. I wouldn't be surprised to see Waynes continue at both spots during training camp and in the preseason because of the extra opportunity. A fifth set of receivers to prepare for and defend will be helpful for Waynes to prepare in a division that's loaded with some of the conference's top receiving threats.
Which Vikings player will benefit most from being in Year 2 of the program?
@pcraigers: Teddy Bridgewater showed so much growth down the stretch of his rookie season that he might not have as far to go as a couple of teammates, but the nature of his position has so many responsibilities and things to master to become an elite player, which is a goal of the 2014 first-round pick. Bridgewater's approach and demeanor, intelligence and readiness to learn more all helped him become the most successful rookie quarterback in franchise history in virtually every statistic. He's the undisputed starter entering the 2015 season, and those qualities will help him going forward for years to come. Bridgewater's made quite the leap before: as a freshman at Louisville, he was 191-of-296 passing for 2,129 with 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The following season, he surged instead of slumped, completing 287 of 419 passes for 3,718 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Last year, Bridgewater completed 259 of 402 passes for 2,919 yards with 14 TDs and 12 INTs. What's next?
@wobby: This list is a long one, but I'm going with Cordarrelle Patterson. I feel he's poised to have a big season for the Vikings, and continuity is a key reason. This will be the first time in the last four years in which he'll play in the same offense for consecutive seasons. This is a big deal for a player at any position, but it's particularly important for a young WR. The intricacies of route running become easier to tackle in Year 2 and the chemistry and timing between QB and WR are further developed in Year 2. In addition to that, Patterson stands to naturally benefit from having his young QB improve with a season in the League and in Turner's system under his belt. Having Adrian Peterson back in the mix will also enhance what Patterson can do for the offense. Year 2 should be a productive one for Patterson.
Other than the Vikings, which non-playoff team in 2014 has the best chance to make the playoffs in 2015?
@wobby: There are several good candidates for this, as well. I will go to the AFC and point to the Kansas City Chiefs. They have a great head coach in Andy Reid and their QB – Alex Smith – is good enough to get to the postseason. They are set at RB with Jamaal Charles and backup Knile Davis and they added WR Jeremy Maclin to spruce things up in the pass-catching department. On defense, OLB Justin Houston is as good as it gets in terms of pass rushers, plus Tamba Hali is coming off the other edge and I expect big things out of Dee Ford in Year 2. Look out! They added CB Marcus Peters in the draft to pair with Sean Smith, so I like how they will cover a team's top two WRs. What I'm not sure about is their offensive line and maybe some depth at other positions, such as along the DL and at S. Generally, though, there's a lot to like about the Chiefs and it really all begins and heads with their head coach, whom I believe is very good at what he does.
@pcraigers: Maclin should help the Chiefs receivers post their first TD catch since the 2013 season, the last time they made the playoffs. I almost leaned toward Maclin and Reid's former stomping grounds of Philly, but I'll apply a different approach to make a case for the Falcons. Doing so suspends my belief in the value of continuity that should help the Vikings greatly, but bringing in Dan Quinn as head coach, along with draft picks Vic Beasley (eighth overall pick) and Jalen Collins (42nd) should provide immediate help to an Atlanta team that allowed 417 points and put up 381 in 2014. Solidifying the defense to go along with an offense that kept its top passing threats (QB Matt Ryan and WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White) and got younger at running back by drafting Tevin Coleman in the third round. Atlanta was only a game out of winning the division last season, but finished third. The Falcons will play the AFC South this season and teams that finished third from the NFC West (49ers) and North (Vikings). Minnesota's Nov. 29 visit to Atlanta will be quite important.