I’ve said it a number of times before, and I’ll gladly say it again:  I am looking forward to this season more than any in recent history.

I can’t wait to watch the Vikings (hopefully) begin to take strides towards a rebuild and (hopefully) grow and develop into what will (hopefully) become a true Super Bowl contender in the somewhat near future.

All of that begins in Mankato on Thursday, and here are the five things I will be keeping the closest eye on when the offense takes their training camp reps.

5.  Adrian Peterson’s Health

I’ll be honest, I still haven’t figured out any upside to rushing Peterson back into action for a season that is likely to end with the Vikings looking at the playoffs from the outside.  Still, the Vikings invested an astronomical amount of money into their superstar running back, and seeing the same old Adrian at some point this season would please many fans.

So, in training camp, it is natural that a number of stories will be written about Peterson’s participation or lack thereof.  Don’t get your hopes up too high, however, as Toby Gerhart is likely to carry the load while his young backups gain some experience with the twos and threes.

4.  The Rooks Get Some Looks

In theory, the Vikings infused their offense with some nice young talent to serve as weapons for Bill Musgrave to utilize.  Greg Childs and Jarius Wright could definitely generate some preseason buzz by exceeding expectations and looking like true playmakers at their respective spots.  Undrafted running back Derrick Coleman is sure to be a fan favorite as the coming days pass us by.

I am perhaps most curious to see if fourth round tight end, and possibly fullback, Rhett Ellison can carve out a role for himself.  The Vikings had already invested heavily into both positions prior to drafting Ellison way before anybody, including himself, expected him to be drafted so it stands to reason that the move will either prove to be a mistake, or that the Vikings simply have big plans for the former Trojan.

3.  Dueling Tight Ends

I think who “starts” at tight end in Bill Musgrave’s offense is kind of an irrelevant honor, but it will be interesting to watch two former Fighting Irish duke it out for playing time.

On one hand, the Vikings invested a high pick in Kyle Rudolph and many think that he could turn out to be one of the best tight ends of his generation.  On the other hand, the Vikings handed John Carlson a five year deal worth $25 million, so he should certainly be in line to push Rudolph for snaps.

I think this is more of a competition than most people realize, and here is hoping the result is two tight ends that are better because of it.

2.  Improved Blocking

A franchise left tackle is supposedly in place with Matt Kalil being selected fourth overall.  That allows Charlie Johnson to slide into left tackle while John Sullivan mans the center position after getting a big extension from Rick Spielman.  Phil Loadholt enters a contract year with high expectations.

That means that the starting right guard position is perhaps going to be the best competition in training camp this year.  That leaves Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Brandon Fusco, and Geoff Schwartz all vying for that gig.  There is enough talent there to make it very interesting as the starting roster is shaped.

An improved offensive line would be a gift from the football gods after too many years of atrocious play up front.

1.  Quarterback Of The Future

This season, starting Thursday, is all about the progression and improvement from Christian Ponder.

I like Joe Webb.  You like Joe Webb.  We all like Joe Webb.  But let’s face it, if we see much of Joe Webb this year that probably means things have not gone very well.

Ponder.  The season is all about him.  Enough said.