Week one of Vikings training camp is in the books, and there are several storylines that we’re following here at DN. To say that is was a quiet week in Mankato would be like saying Gettysburg was a minor skirmish in a rather insignificant conflict. However, Favregnugen aside, the Vikings have several issues looming, and although it’s WAY too early to call them troubles that might affect the 2010 campaign, they are worth noting. If some of these trends continue, we might have to re-categorize them from ‘worth noting’ to ‘minor trouble’.
Now, if I may turn on the way back machine and use some classic videos and get an old school MTV VJ vibe on, we'll break it down after the jump.
Issue One…Should I Stay or Should I Go? Well, let’s get it out of the way…Brett Favre was given his own network for 12 hours earlier this week as ESPN went all ‘Tommy Boy’ in terms of over reacting to the news that Favre texted to several teammates that he might…ho hum…retire. The Strib initially reported it, ESPN skipped past the beating the horse to death stage and went straight to Zombieland, the Vikes offered more money, Favre said it wasn’t about the money and he didn’t text what was reported (although he allegedly texted, uh, other things), and the next day both ESPN and the Strib reported he was going to play as long as his ankle would keep him from…ho hum…retiring. Am I missing anything, or does that about cover it?
Look, we knew what we were getting in to when the Vikes signed Favre last season, and I have to say, I’m rather proud of how we reacted…or didn’t react, to the news. Because it’s really not news, and we all know that he’ll be back, as long as the ankle will cooperate. But I think after his meeting with Dr. Andrews, (which coincidentally is riiiight when the Vikings are ending two a days) we will get word that his ankle is just fine, thanks for asking, and Favre will head north. And even if he doesn’t, I’m talking myself into Tarvaris Jackson, for a multitude of reasons.
Issue Two…Get A Leg Up. EJ Henderson has been as inspirational in training camp as his broken leg injury was devastating in Arizona. The Vikings are taking it easy with Henderson, and as of this writing he has yet to participate in live contact or make a tackle, but the fact that he’s even participating in drills is remarkable. Henderson is an important part of the defense, and a guy who is sometimes overlooked because of the star power of the defensive line. But he is the spine of the defensive book, and although Jasper Brinkley played admirably in Henderson’s absence, his presence on the field makes everyone better. A healthy Henderson will help the defense in more ways than just stats, and here’s hoping that he makes it all the way back.
With a healthy Henderson, I think the Vikings have the best LB corps in the division, and the most depth, assuming that Brinkley can perform at the level he was at the end of last season. He started out a little shaky, but improved each game. Leslie Frazier also did a good job at distributing the responsibilities that Henderson normally had to vets like Ben Leber.
Issue Three…Running Down a Dream. As training camp started, the only job of significance that was declared an open competition was Adrian Peterson’s back up. We gave you a list of candidates here, and as regular readers know, I was a fan of Darius Reynaud on the eve of camp. The assumption was that Toby Gerhart had the inside track on the job, based on his reputation and draft status coming out of college. Uh, Pat Williams dispelled any notion of not having to earn anything on day one. Albert Young, who entered camp #2 on the depth chart based on his experience, is still #2 as camp ends week one.
As to Reynaud? He suffered a sprained ankle, and reports indicate he will be out a week. We’re all glad to hear that it’s not serious, but a week of downtime for a guy in Reynaud’s position is fatal, in my opinion. He switched positions in the off season, so he has a steep learning curve at a new position, and needs as much work as possible. A week of not practicing puts him even further behind than he already was, and really hurts his chances to make the roster. After special teams coach Brian Murphy announced that the punt returner job is an open competition, what I once thought was a sure roster lock no longer looks that way at all.
Issue Four…We Didn't Start The Fire. A lot of offensive starters are nicked up and not practicing. Last year, when Favre joined halfway through the pre-season, there was a concern that he might not have timing down with his receivers. Uh, yeah, that seemed to work okay. But that was with the rest of the offense participating in the entire camp. This year, there are some things with some of the starters, most notably the skill position guys, which might affect early season performance.
Adrian Peterson has had ‘tightness’ in his leg, and he swears that it’s not due to ‘tightness’ in his wallet, as in contract. Last year, a lot of folks were making a lot of noise about his mythical propensity to fumble. Although his three fumbles in the NFC championship didn’t do anything to dispel that myth, his career fumbling rate is below that of Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith, among others. That said, the more reps he can get now, the more it will pay off later and put that issue to rest, once and for all. The two other skill position guys are Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Rice has been bothered by a hip issue throughout the pre-season, and he started the season on the active PUP list. He's had one great season, and two mixed ones, with injuries scattered throughout his career. Uber playmaker Percy Harvin has been gone almost a week due to the death of his grandmother. With Favre, they accounted for almost all the offense last year, and with a tough schedule in 2010, it's imperative that everyone be ready out of the gates on opening night.
With one week in the books, the Vikings will continue two a days and prepare for the first pre-season games against Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams next Saturday. That will be the first benchmark for the team, and possibly the last or only chance for some fringe roster players to make an impression and hold on to their career.