The Vikings defensive secondary is conjuring plenty of buzz in Mankato this year with many eyes evaluating the performances of youngsters Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. How the Vikings end up stacking their depth chart will be of great interest at the onset of the 2016 NFL season, but the final cuts could also present some interesting decisions, and those decisions might be further complicated by the fact that Tre Roberson is a relatively unknown player that is turning heads in Mankato.
The Vikings signed Roberson as an undrafted free agent on May 9th after a three-day tryout with the Vikings at the cornerback position, a position at which he appears surprisingly fluent given he was a college quarterback.
Despite the position change, which Roberson talks about to Josh Zimmer in the VikeFans video above, Roberson is an early contender for the “Mr. Mankato” honors of 2016.
The Indianapolis native checks in at 6′ 0″ and 200 pounds. Craig Peters of Vikings.com outlined Roberson’s roundabout route to the NFL and points out that he has some professional football bloodlines in this article from May.
The praise of Roberson’s coverage skills in Mankato has been as consistently present as it has been surprising.
For those who aren’t sure if Tre Roberson was real or not, he is noticeably larger than Mackensie Alexander pic.twitter.com/MxEzgHQ0GZ
— The Purple Report (@Purple_ReportJM) August 5, 2016
CB Tre Roberson’s coverage skills are flashing again today in drills.
— Vikings Corner (@VikingsCorner) August 4, 2016
Tre Roberson looks really good. #VikingsCamp
— Josh Zimmer (@JZimmer_NFL) August 4, 2016
Zimmer says that Tre Roberson’s transition to CB has been amazing. Doing a lot of things well. #VikingsCamp
— Josh Zimmer (@JZimmer_NFL) August 3, 2016
CB Tre Roberson has made a couple nice plays in coverage today. In position almost every time to make plays. Two passes defensed today.
— Vikings Corner (@VikingsCorner) July 30, 2016
That list of tweets is composed largely of VT friends, but the positive reviews have been pretty much unanimous among all observers.
Arif Hasan of Cold Omaha recently suggested that Vikings quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Joel Stave might actively be avoiding Roberson in practice.
“Roberson seems to be doing a good job of closing on the ball and preventing completions,” writes Hasan who notes that Roberson deflected at least seven passes through the first four days of practice.
“What he seems to lack in technical and schematic knowledge,” writes Hasan, “he certainly seems to be making up for in athletic ability and the rare advantage of playing quarterback at a high level.”
Roberson hasn’t played cornerback since elementary school, so it would be understandable (if not expected) that he struggled to pick up Mike Zimmer’s defense in a super timely manner. He has been quick to cite the veteran presence of Terence Newman, as well as his experience in reading defenses as a signal caller, as reasons that his switch to corner could ultimately prove successful.
I’m always talking to [Terence Neman] and always asking him questions,” Roberson said according to Vikings Corner. “Also, all the other corners too. Everyone is always trying to get me in the right position and give me tips.”
In the end, the Vikings will have some tough choices to make if Roberson displays a level of talent that cannot be risked when it comes to sneaking people onto the practice squad. With Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Captain Munnerlyn, and Mackensie Alexander being all but untouchable during the final cuts of 2016, and Marcus Sherels carrying a great deal of job security, it could be the tutor Terence Newman himself that ends up being the odd man out.
At the moment, however, it is nothing short of a great problem to have and it is always a welcomed surprise to have an unexpected young player shining bright throughout training camp.