Training camp is one of my favorite times of the year. It signals the nearing of the regular season, but it’s also a fun atmosphere of seeing new players, different ideas and position battles iron themselves out in a much less pressured situation. This year, I’m spending a week in Mankato, and it’s been a great experience to watch how things have progressed. Here are just a few of my reactions to camp so far:
1. I’m still an Adam Thielen fan
I’ve liked Thielen for the past two years, but this time at camp just solidifies in my mind the threat he really can be if utilized effectively on offense. Thielen has already been used on special teams and I expect to continue seeing Coach Priefer do that; however, I’m really hoping to see him get a chance as a more regular receiver as the season gets underway. Sometimes I think people forget about how fast he is. The Minnesota native is incredibly quick, a solid route runner, and has been making some impressive catches at camp. During Monday afternoon’s full-pads practice, Thielen was all over the field (in a good way) and caught at least one reception of each of the four quarterbacks. I can’t wait to see how he can be used when the regular season kicks off.
2. I’m still not a Matt Kalil fan
I just can’t get over how much I’m frustrated by Kalil and his lack of production. Granted, I will say that I’ve seen him putting in quite a bit of extra work with assistant offensive line coach Hank Fraley. So, I can’t give a poor grade on effort, at least in that sense. I don’t know if it’s a mental thing, a coachability issue or just lack of talent, but there is still much left wanting from Kalil. He’s still unable to hold guys at the line, and if we’re seeing these issues during camp I don’t have high hopes for them being any different during the year.
3. Adrian Peterson is picking up where he left off
It’s so great to see Adrian Peterson back on the field without all of the drama. I will admit, I had no interest in having Peterson back on the team. In many ways, I was ready to see Minnesota trade him and move on. Being at camp, though, it’s hard to not get excited about the potential the Vikings have with a top running back returning to the lineup. Peterson looks as physically fit and ready to compete as ever. One of the biggest perks of having AP in my mind is the amount of pressure that he will take off Teddy Bridgewater. Although Peterson is obviously nothing new to Minnesota fans, Bridgewater has not been able to play a season with him and experience the difference it will make.
4. Tyrus Thompson is better than expected
Sixth-round draft picks don’t always make the team, but in this case I feel confident that Thompson will have a spot on the roster. The unofficial depth chart released Tuesday slated Thompson as backup right guard behind Harris, and he has also gotten a few reps at tackle with the threes. There have been some ups and downs as there always are with rookies, but overall Thompson is playing with a lot more strength and wherewithal than a sixth-round option. In my mind, the Vikings got a steal and Thompson will develop into a bit part of the Vikings’ roster.
5. There are still questions surrounding linebacker
In all actuality, I think the Vikings have more depth at the linebacker position than they do in a lot of places. The question, however, remains which rotation will work the best for Minnesota. I’ve seen some good things from Audie Cole, who snagged a pick Tuesday evening, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Gerald Hodges so far, and of course you have Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and veteran Chad Greenway. In all honesty, the biggest disappointment–which I would never have predicted–has been Barr. He seems to be struggling to be 100 percent healthy, and he also looks heavier than last year … and not in a good way. Barr doesn’t seem to have the same hard-working attitude he carried last season, and that worries me. At the end of the day, it will be interesting to see which LBs start and who lines up where.