I'm bored, and with a week left before training camp, I'll bet you're bored. So, in an effort to start some discussions, here's a couple predictions about some positions/players not getting much attention nowadays.
We'll start at running back. Obviously, AD is there and that is perfect, but he's not what we're talking about here. No, we're starting with Toby Gerhart. Oh, poor Toby. I loved what he did at Stanford and I think he could certainly start for any number of teams in the NFL. He may never be a world beater, but he would be very serviceable. It was a tough break for him, getting drafted and having to sit behind a guy who is going to go down as one of the best of all time, simply because of the fact that he gets no playing time. On the bright side, he got to learn from the best and he's still got plenty of tread on the tires.
Now, what will the Vikings do with him? I think the Vikings try to trade him once we get into camp a little ways. Once teams get banged up a little in camp, they might want to get a serviceable guy who can come in and start for them if need be. We have one of those guys and we're not using him, so why not get a little value out of him? Tom Pelissero said this way back in April, and I think it's still relevant.
What we didn't have back in April was Zach Line. Once Gerhart is traded, I think Line could take his spot as the #2 RB. Actually, I think that Zach Line is going to be part of the reason why Gerhart is traded. It's not that I think he's going to be better than Toby, but the drop off from Gerhart to Line might not be too extreme. Toby is 6'0" and 231 lbs, and Zach is 6'1", 230 lbs. Neither is going to beat you with their speed, but they're both extremely hard to take down and if Zach shows that there wouldn't be a huge talent gap between the two, I could see the Vikings rolling with the new guy.
As for the third RB, I don't think Asiata stays. It seems like that spot was used last year as a just-in-case position if Felton would have gotten injured. We would have that role fulfilled with Line already, since he is actually a FB. I think Asiata gets pushed out since his and Line's style are very similar. Even though Line's and Gerhart's styles are similar and Asiata was the 3rd back last year, Toby did not have the flexibility to play FB. Therefore, they needed that versatility out of the third back. Unfortunately, I don't know enough about the rest of the guys to predict who would make it instead. I would hope it would be a change-of-pace, third down back type with a little bit of speed.
Next up, Linebackers. Again, avoiding all of the super obvious choices, another interesting battle to me is going to be for the back up linebacker spots. Last year, I believe the Vikings carried 6 linebackers (correct me if I'm wrong). There are currently 9 linebackers listed on the team's website but I think there might be 10. I remember us signing a Stanford Keglar at some point in time. Did he get released already or am I imagining things? Anyways, this means that there will be either 6 or 7 guys fighting for 3 spots, assuming that the top three are safe. The more notable ones are players like Audie Cole, Michael Mauti (already fan favorites), Gerald Hodges, and Marvin Mitchell. In my opinion, a combination of three of these guys would be the best to keep as our back-ups. Unfortunately, there would be 3 spots and 4 guys I'd like to keep, meaning someone would have to go.
Cole vs. Mauti is a battle I'm interested in. Both are fan favorites, and both are middle linebackers. Let's pretend that Michael Mauti gets healthy and is close to playing shape for all or part of camp. Now, assuming they're only keeping 6 LBs, that would probably mean either Mauti or Cole is getting the ax since they wouldn't need to keep two back up middle linebackers. Personally, if he is fully healthy, I would take Mauti over Cole. The most likely scenario, if Mauti is not healthy, would probably be him going on the PUP list and Cole getting the back up gig, at least to start the year.
This last one is a little more high-profile, I suppose, but it seems like not very many people are talking about it this year. The battle for the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith. I think most people assume that Jamarca Sanford will be the starter after last year. I think that there's a chance he loses out if his coverage doesn't improve from last season. He also needs to learn how to catch. I'm sick of seeing the ball going right to him and him dropping it for no reason.
In my opinion, if the Vikings are looking to play more press man coverage to take advantage of Rhodes' and Cook's strengths (which they should) then the better option would probably be Mistral Raymond. He's much better in coverage than Sanford. This would allow them to play some Cover 1 Press, letting Raymond play up on the line and jam some WRs/TEs, and then let Harrison Smith roam the middle of the field.
To take it one step further, I think that if they were to call significantly more man coverage plays than they have been, Robert Blanton could potentially be the best option. He was a fantastic cover corner at Notre Dame, he was simply too slow to play corner in the NFL. For a safety, on the other hand, he has just about average speed, and if his transition is still going smoothly, he could seriously challenge the two ahead of him. I wouldn't forget about the chemistry between Blanton and Smith, either. That could potentially give him an edge.
What do you think? Any other battles or stories you wanna talk about that no one else seems to be talking about?