Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Welcome to the first installment of the Vikings Territory Training Camp Primer series — leading off with Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and the quarterback position.

Quarterback has always been and likely always will be the most important and most polarizing position in football. The Minnesota Vikings certainly aren’t exempt from this general rule of thumb — and this offseason likely represents a climax in team history with regard to the inherently polarizing nature that comes with the territory.

It has almost been a year since a Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the 2016 season and, at the time, the foreseeable future as a result of potentially the most catastrophic injury the football world has ever seen.

A lot has changed in Vikings Territory since Minnesota lost its heart and soul this past August. Sam Bradford, who will close out his first calendar year with the organization on September 3rd, is now firmly entrenched as the Vikings’ starting quarterback. Taylor Heinicke, who, like Bridgewater, missed all of the 2016 campaign following an absurd foot injury.

But, likely as a result of the uncertainty surrounding the Old Dominion product following a full-year layoff, he will once again be forced to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster against newcomer Case Keenum, formerly of the Los Angeles Rams.

Rounding out Minnesota’s training camp quarterback depth chart is undrafted rookie and former Illinois signal-caller Wes Lunt. While a number of questions regarding the future of the position in Minnesota have been answered this offseason, quarterback remains as much of a question mark as ever — yielding a handful of intriguing storylines to keep an eye on during training camp and throughout the 2017 season.

TRAINING CAMP INVITES

Player Name2016 NFL TeamCollege AttendedNote
Sam BradfordMinnesotaOklahomaNo. 1 Overall Pick in 2010
Teddy BridgewaterMinnesotaLouisvilleNot Expected to Practice
Case KeenumL.A. RamsHoustonSigned as Free Agent
Taylor HeinickeMinnesotaOld DominionUndrafted
Wes LuntRookieIllinoisUndrafted

CURRENT SITUATION

Minnesota’s current quarterback depth chart has been a hot topic among its fans since Bridgewater’s injury and subsequent trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Bradford. Although debates regarding the future at the position and which of the aforementioned signal-callers is superior have been fluid for quite some time, the reality of matter is that not a whole lot has actually changed since Bradford took over Week 2 of this past season.

Bridgewater, while seemingly recovering much faster than everybody could have possibly expected given the nature of his injury, remains sidelined with no timetable for return. Bradford remains the Vikings starting quarterback with the three remaining quarterbacks — Heinicke, Keenum and Lunt — set to compete for the honor of holding a clipboard on the sideline.

Keenum, who signed an incentive-based 1-year, $2 million contract with Minnesota during free agency, and Lunt are new to the mix, but their expectations are not so much different than those of Shaun Hill and Joel Stave last summer.

The Vikings quarterback situation — both present and future — may be the hottest debate amongst fans on social media, but with exception to the additions of Keenum and Lunt, a now-healthy Heinicke and a handful of informational developments, not a whole lot has truly changed in Minnesota since last September.

ROSTER LOCKS

Sam Bradford: Like it or not, Bradford is the starter in Minnesota, and there is no indication that this will change anytime soon. Coming off arguably his best professional season, the former No. 1 overall pick remains firmly entrenched as the team’s signal-caller and, barring injury, will be the man under center for the Vikings Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints.

As a result, the grossly under-appreciated, sleeve-wearing completion machine is a definitive lock to make the Vikings’ 53-man roster out of training camp.

Teddy Bridgewater: Injured or not, Bridgewater remains both the most marketable player on Minnesota’s roster and an undeniable fan-favorite. It is highly unlikely that he will participate in camp drills or any physical activity that could derail his recovery, but the former first-round pick need not do anything beyond continuing his rehabilitation to crack the Vikings roster in 2017.

Minnesota elected to decline Bridgewater’s fifth-year option and the future of his Vikings career remains somewhat in doubt, but the team is more likely to name Lunt the starter out of camp than cut ties with its glove-wearing golden boy this upcoming August.

ROSTER BUBBLE

Case Keenum: Keenum won’t “wow” anyone with his arm strength or athleticism, but he does have one key thing going for him — he is far-and-away the most experienced Vikings quarterback slated to be on the roster bubble. The Vikings will have to decide whether they value experience and short-term stability or long-term potential more, and if its the former, Keenum will more-or-less clinch the right to play second-fiddle to Bradford this upcoming season.

Taylor Heinicke: Arguably the most interesting factor in Minnesota’s quarterback camp is the former Old Dominion standout who burst onto the scene as a rookie two years ago. Heinicke, who showed leadership and command of the position well beyond his years during his first trip to Mankato, missed all of the 2017 season after severing a tendon while foolishly attempting to kick down a door. Bradford may never have been added to fold had Heinicke been healthy at the time of Bridgewater’s injury last August, but he will instead be asked to prove, once again, that he belongs in the NFL.

Wes Lunt: Minnesota certainly isn’t afraid to name an undrafted rookie quarterback to its 53-man roster, but it certainly appears unlikely that Lunt will follow in Heinicke’s footsteps this August. He faces a challenging road to NFL relevancy, and being signed to the team’s practice squad seems like a much more feasible projection for his rookie season, but Lunt’s imposing physical frame and natural arm talent pose represent a threat to the duo of undrafted signal-callers.

BATTLE TO WATCH

QB2: Case Keenum vs. Taylor Heinicke

Vikings fans have been debating a hypothetical Bradford-Bridgewater battle for Minnesota for almost a year, but with the latter of which still recovering from injury, the only quarterback competition in Mankato this summer will be between a pair of former undrafted free agents — Keenum and Heinicke.

Keenum, despite his visible limitations, will likely open camp as the odds-on favorite to be named Bradford’s No. 2 come September. His five years of spot-starter duty both with the Houston Texans and Los Angeles Rams dwarf his direct competition, as Heinicke has not yet participated in a regular season game to date.

The Old Dominion product won’t go down without a fight, however, as the promise and maturity Heinicke showed during the preseason two years ago not only impressed the Vikings enough to earn him an initial 53-man roster spot but also suggest a significantly higher ceiling than that of Keenum.

If Minnesota ultimately decides to name just two quarterbacks to its active 53-man roster, age, potential and knowledge of offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur’s offense will be on Heinicke’s side. That said, however, he will need to prove a broken foot and subsequent one-year layoff didn’t change the player who flashed impressive talent as rookie in order to beat out the savvy veteran Keenum.

ROSTER PROJECTION

No. 1 (Starter)No. 2 (Backup)No. 3 (Backup)PUP ListPractice Squad
Sam BradfordCase KeenumTaylor HeinickeTeddy BridgewaterWes Lunt

MORE TRAINING CAMP PRIMERS

Quarterbacks

Running Backs

Wide Receivers

Tight Ends

Offensive Tackles

Offensive Guards

Centers

Defensive Ends

Defensive Tackles

Linebackers

Cornerbacks

Safeties