The Vikings have completed their 50th training camp in Mankato and are set to host the Buccaneers at 7 p.m. Saturday.
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.
Which Viking is most likely to provide a "welcome-to-the-NFL" moment for Tampa Bay rookie QB Jameis Winston?
@pcraigers: Xavier Rhodes is no stranger to Winston. They teamed together at Florida State in 2012, when Winston was backing up E.J. Manuel. Rhodes was a rookie when Winston won the Heisman Trophy in 2013, fueled by a 40-touchdown, 10 interception season. Winston threw 25 TDs and 18 INTs last fall as Rhodes became more and more impassible with each week of learning under Head Coach Mike Zimmer and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray. Although Rhodes has one career INT to his credit through two seasons, he's aiming to boost that in 2015, and who better to start with than Winston? The first-team defense was only on the field for three snaps in the Hall of Fame Game Sunday, and might not be on the field that much longer this week, but look for Rhodes to swarm colossal receivers Vincent Jackson (230 pounds) and/or Mike Evans (231), who are both listed at 6-5. Winston has been practicing with big targets, but throwing windows in the NFL, especially with Rhodes involved, can be quite small.
@wobby: I love the outside-the-box thinking on Rhodes and would love to see it happen. I will take Everson Griffen, though. I'm guessing Griffen won't see a ton of snaps in Saturday's game so I may have been better off choosing Danielle Hunter, who had 62 snaps in last week's preseason debut, or Tom Johnson, who actually had a sack last week. But Griffen has been playing like his hair's been on fire in training camp, so he's due to get home in a game very soon. Throw in the fact that Winston is a rookie and you can be sure Griffen is champing at the bit to bring down the QB. I'm not sure any Viking has had a better camp than Griffen and it would be great to see that rewarded with a sack of Winston on Saturday night.
Which rookie is most likely to dazzle fans in their first appearance in front of the home crowd?
@pcraigers: By now, most have seen Stefon Diggs' 62-yard punt return earlier this week against the Steelers on highlight shows or replays of the game, but seeing him in person has been a treat throughout the offseason. He's very smooth with and without the ball, has shown consistent hands and an ability to make plays despite tough challenges by defenders. Diggs has also shown an ability to create great separation from defenders with his lightning quickness on double moves. According to press box statistics, Diggs played 20 snaps on offense and three on defense. His two catches totaled 14 yards to match his jersey, but that could increase dramatically. Even if it doesn't make sure you know where Diggs is when he's in the game.
@wobby: I passed on him in the first question, but I won't this time around. Danielle Hunter is my choice here. Diggs is a good choice and I can't wait to see him play more, either, but Hunter got a ton of work last week and it won't surprise me to see him on the field and all over the field again this weekend. The Vikings defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage on Sunday night in Canton against the Steelers and if they do so again on Saturday against the Buccaneers, a guy like Hunter stands to benefit as much as any other because of the sheer amount of reps he will likely get. On top of all that, Hunter will play on special teams and can splash there, as well. A blocked field goal, perhaps?
Will the Vikings kick PATs or go for 2-point conversions?
@pcraigers: Hunter might even have the option of go after a point after touchdown kick because of the newly lengthened distance in 2015. The ball will be spotted at the 15-yard line, resulting in 33-yard kicks for the entire season. Blair Walsh is 4-for-4 from 33 in regular season games, including three attempts last season, and the Vikings have plenty of faith in their kicker handling the different elements throughout the final outdoors season of home games. Minnesota, however, entered camp with a competition at long snapper between 12-year veteran Cullen Loeffler and third-year pro Kevin McDermott, and part of the evaluation will be their performance in games. That might trump any desire to go for 2 in a game that doesn't count in the standings. The spot of ball will remain at the 2-yard line if teams try to go for a 2-point conversion. The Vikings were 4-for-4 on 2-point conversions last season, but Zimmer only went for it when he had to or it made sense on the score calculator.
@wobby: All good points by Craig. But I'm leaning the other way on this one. There's no doubt Walsh is a near cinch from the new PAT range and I happen to think the League-wide two-point conversion attempt rate will not rise as profoundly as some are projecting. But even with that said, Zimmer loves to make sure his team rehearses special situations in practices so they are ready to execute in those same situations in a real game. It only stands to reason, then, that Zimmer will want his team two-point ready for when the regular season arrives, and there's no better way to rehearse two-point conversion situations and plays than to do it in a game, even if it's an exhibition. So because of Zimmer's penchant for being thorough in preparing his team, I'm betting we'll see a two-point conversion try.