The Vikings appeared to take a major step backwards when they traded Percy Harvin to Seattle during the opening hours of the new league year. With Harvin on the mend, however, Seattle appears to have been taken to the cleaners (at least in the short term) while Rick Spielman loaded his roster with youthful talent. Those rookies could each end up being a major part of this team’s success in 2013, and is certainly a group the Vikings hope they can rely on into the future, so I wanted to take a moment to check in on how each of them are doing in training camp so far.
SHARRIF FLOYD, DT
The Vikings have made no secret about their plans to rotate defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Sharrif Floyd. Taking time away from an old faithful type of guy like Williams is a pretty good indication that the coaching staff likes what they see in Floyd. If Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer gets his way, however, Floyd’s impact won’t be measured solely on defense.
Priefer made it clear that Floyd’s athleticism, size, and quick feet make him a prime candidate to play on special teams. Priefer said he would like to work Floyd into situations as a wedge blocker on returns, field goal protection, and as a guy that might be able to knock a kick or two out of the air. In three years at Florida, Floyd blocked three field goals.
Floyd may not garner as much attention as his fellow first rounders, who stand to get more snaps in base packages, but the coaching staff sure seem to be sold on his abilities and want to find ways to let him make an impact in his first year. He is currently listed behind both Williams and Christian Ballard on the team’s official depth chart, but that is very fluid this time of year.
XAVIER RHODES, CB
While the coaching staff has said the cornerback position is a work in progress, a true competition, Vikings fans expect that their first round rookie will be a starter across from Chris Cook. With a division featuring receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Jordy Nelson it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out why he was selected.
Rhodes has been moved around a bit throughout training camp, but is currently listed as the second left corner, behind Josh Robinson. He has seen many reps with the first team, however, in the nickel package and appears well on his way to being a key piece of this pass defense.
Rhodes has stated that one of the toughest adjustments he’s had to make so far has been letting the receiver go after five yards. This is an important thing for him to be learning at this point, as it doesn’t matter how talented he is if pass interference calls are consistently giving opposing offenses new life throughout the season.
CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, WR/KR
Patterson has yet to be declared a starter in the offense, and that may not happen during his rookie season, but he is sure to see plenty of reps in a role similar to what we saw out of Percy Harvin in recent years. He currently sits behind Jerome Simpson at the “Wide X” spot, but that is likely because the Vikings envision him playing out of the slot and maybe even the backfield.
He is currently listed as the team’s top kick returner, but whether or not to use him there is a “debate” within the coaching staff, according to Leslie Frazier himself. The fact that Patterson is not being thought of at all as a punt returner, and that this debate is taking place about kick returns, suggests that Patterson’s role within the offense is expected to be larger than his placement on the depth chart suggests. He is, by the way things are looking, too important to risk an injury on special teams.
Now, I expect that Patterson will have a large role on offense and will probably be the team’s kick returner in 2013, but all signs are pointing to this kid being a fixture in Bill Musgrave’s offense from day one. Reports indicate that he has noticeably gotten better at route running and concentration since camp started just over a week ago.