Position Battles to Watch at Vikings Training Camp
Football is almost here folks, just a little more until a football flies across Canton for the Hall of Fame game. Besides that, training camp is just around the corner. With that, conversations now turn into position battles, and the Vikings have some good ones. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
We will start with the big one. One of the offseason needs (according to the media) for this team was to find a solid WR3. Everyone knows that we are more than set with the Jefferson&Thielen combo, but the rest of the group was thin. In my opinion, the need for another receiver was for depth purposes, as we know that the Vikings used a lot of 2 tight ends sets in 2020. However, the team signed Dede Westbrook, and the battle for the targets behind our stellar duo looks good.
After the departure of Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr. looks poised for a breakout season. Even though the TE group wasn’t properly utilized this past few seasons, I firmly believe Klint Kubiak will find plenty of ways to put the ball on Irv’s hands. Besides Smith, the winner of the battle between Chad Beebe, Bisi Johnson, and Westbrook will have his fair amount of touches as well. If Dede manages to play as he did before his ACL injury, he’s the favorite. Also, how quickly he learns the offense and develops solid chemistry with the other players will be really important. At the start of the season, we’ll probably have Irv and Dede sharing this role. Also keep an eye on KJ Osborn, as he received a lot of praise during OTAs and minicamp.
This could be a section about the nickel corner too, but Jeff Gladney’s legal situation is still unknown and Mackensie Alexander is back, so it will be his job unless something unexpected happens. With that said, let’s focus on the boundary corners. One of them is going to be Patrick Peterson, again, barring something unexpected. The future Hall of Famer is under a 10 million contract and it would be dumb to sit him on the bench. Three players are fighting for the position: Cam Dantzler, Bashaud Breeland, and Harrison Hand, even though he is the underdog.
Dantzler had a very good rookie season but also battled with some injuries. Breeland also lost some games last year. These two are the ones getting more attention, but Hand did really well earlier in the offseason. If he can build on that, Zimmer will have a tough decision to make and I think he will be happy with that. Healthy, this should be Dantzler’s job to lose, and this will be a last-second decision by the coaching staff.
Danielle Hunter is finally back, but for the first time, he won’t have his old partner in crime, Everson Griffen. The edge position opposite Hunter is a tricky one. Right now we have one backup veteran (Stephen Weatherly), one second-year player (DJ Wonnum), and two rookies (Patrick Jones ll and Janarius Robinson). Jones’ former coach thinks he can be a starter in 2021, and that’s certainly a possibility. This edge spot will be fought for during all season, with the early nod going probably to Wonnum. But don’t be surprised if Jones or Robinson is the starter by the end of the year.
After losing Marcus Sherels in 2019, the Vikings have tried to find a replacement. The first was Ameer Abdullah, but it didn’t pan out. During last year’s Draft, they selected KJ Osborn, but it also didn’t work and he lost the returner job during the season. Beebe replaced him and – you got it – it was also a no. For this season, the rookies Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Kene Nwangwu are the ones with a chance. Nwangwu should claim the kickoffs, whilst Ihmir returns punts. However, the front office also brought players with returning experience. You can debate it it’s a good idea, but Pat Pete was an excellent returner back in the day, and, if all goes wrong (we’re talking about the Vikings, so there’s always a chance), he can return a punt occasionally. Breeland also had some returns earlier in his career.
There are some other interesting position battles, like backup QB (Stanley, Browning, and Mond), DT4, WR4 and 5, TE3, and more. But I selected the ones that should involve a higher number of snaps this season.