The Minnesota Vikings are reportedly 22 days away from starting their 2020 training camp in Eagan, Minnesota. This is per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That means we are in the perfect position to start talking about training camp battles.
With this year’s training camp and preseason being extremely odd, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the players we talk about here may not even be in training camp. That is if we do see the reduction of NFL rosters as has been speculated.
So, things are going to be even more up in the air and fringe players are probably going to have less time to prove themselves than in years prior. With the NFL’s elimination of weeks one and four of the preseason, we’re likely to see more first and second string players take a higher percentage of snaps in the remaining two preseason games.
Of course with the reduction of the rosters, we will hopefully see an expansion of the NFL practice squads. Something that I honestly think has been long overdue anyway. That means we can project more players to the practice squad than being outright cut. I’m personally going to assume that the practice squad sees a 50% increase up to 15 players.
Now I’ll get to the real meat of this article, our first camp battle to look at will be one of depth upon the offensive line. The battle that most fans will certainly be clamoring for more information on. Yes, I am of course talking of the battle between Aviante Collins and Rashod Hill for the backup swing tackle position.
Collins will be entering his fourth season in the NFL, all of which have been with the Vikings organization. After a stellar combine in 2017 in which he put up the fastest 40-yard-dash of any participating offensive lineman, and third all-time, Collins was courted by Rick Spielman as an undrafted free agent.
Since then, Collins has sat behind Rashod Hill in 2017, although playing in three games, and losing his entire 2018 campaign to an elbow injury. In 2019, he spent most of the season on the practice squad. He only played in the Vikings week 11 game against the Detroit Lions as a special teamer, and as a starter in the Viking week 17 game against the Chicago Bears.
Collins obviously has the physical tools to fit the Vikings mold. He’s a bit smaller than Hill at 292 lbs, but the Vikings under Gary Kubiak and Rick Dennison seem to be okay playing “small ball” across the offensive line. If we use his 40-time as any indicator, he’s got the athleticism to work in the Zone run scheme.
However, there’s a reason that he hasn’t been the first option off the bench the last few seasons. His technique seems to be lacking and he hasn’t been able to put his physical tools to use. Lack of opportunity certainly plays a part, but in that same time, taking away his injury plagued 2018, Rashod Hill has played in 27 games and started eight.
Collins is a year younger than Hill, so he’s got that going for him. Collins also has been listed in the past as a guard, a position where the Vikings are sorely lacking in experience. So, maybe he can sneak in and make the roster as a backup guard and not as a swing tackle.
Rashod Hill is the longest-tenured offensive lineman on the Minnesota Vikings. That is a sentence I never thought I would write in 2016 when the Vikings picked him off of the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad.
For reference, Hill made his first career start replacing TJ Clemmings in week 17 of that season. So, he was already better than both our tackles at that point, the other one being Jeremiah Sirles. As the Kids say, “big oof.”
Over the last three seasons, Hill has seen extensive work as a role player and special teamer, especially with the field goal unit. Hill would have been the Vikings starting right tackle for all of 2018, and perhaps 2019, if Brian O’Neill hadn’t played so well when Hill slid over to the left side of the line to replace an injured Riley Reiff.
So, Hill has a size advantage and an experience advantage. He loses out in positional flexibility as he most likely is limited to the swing tackle position and has no real guard experience. Maybe he could slide inside, but we just don’t know.
His technique is certainly better than Collins and he has remained healthier. Another possible aspect of this battle could be the cap number. The Vikings save nothing by cutting Rashod Hill, but could save $750k by cutting Collins. It’s a small number, but if the battle is close could give Hill the win.
By The Numbers-
|Aviante Collins||Rashod Hill|
|292 lbs||Weight||313 lbs|
|34||Bench Press Reps||21|
|4.81s||40-Yard Time||5.30 s|
|$750,000||Cap Gain/Loss If Cut||$0|
This is kind of a tough call. On one hand, I think Hill’s experience and the team’s investment in him gives him a big leg-up here. On the other, Collins has great physical tools that have yet to be fully realized by either him or the team.
At the end of the day, comparing these two straight-up, I’m going to give the edge to Hill. The difference in age isn’t great enough to make Collins a better long-term option and I don’t know what true upside he has at this point. You know who Hill is, a solid backup swing tackle and spot starter.
Collins could slide inside, but the competition there is pretty fierce and he’ll still have a tough battle. Now, I think it’s possible that both of these guys are on the outside looking in at the end of the preseason with Oli Udoh and Ezra Cleveland both bringing more upside and youth to the table. Unless injuries derail either of those guys, or starters Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill, it might be time to move on from both Hill and Collins. It’s bittersweet, but that’s the cost of trying to get younger and compete for more than just the immediate future.