Here We Go!
Training camp is just around the corner, and I am incredibly excited. With the Vikings off season key additions of Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop, Lawrence Jackson, Sharif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, and Cordarrelle Patterson, there is tons of optimism surrounding camp. These additions have me hoping that Percy Harvin and Antoine Winfield will not be missed. Only the 2013 regular season can prove that theory, however. In the meantime I'll look to training camp to give me hope.
There have been several training camp previews, but mine differs in that it focuses on the 2012 team's perceived weaknesses. I don't agree with all of these weaknesses, but the community has spoken. I am simply asking myself three questions:
- What have the Vikings done to fix a weak area?
- What do I need to see in training camp to verify that weakness is fixed?
- What do I think the actual end result is?
The Vikings have done little to fix the QB position. Sure, they added Matt Cassell, but if all goes well he should never see the field. We have upgraded the backup and put faith in the starter.
From Cassell, I expect to see solid but average QB play, with a focus on limiting turnovers. From Ponder, we need to see the consistency. Ponder historically has not done well in pressure situations. Frazier is not calling this an open competition, meaning that there isn't very much pressure on Ponder until Week 1. Therefore, Ponder can't prove much to me during camp.
In the end, I think Ponder improves his consistency in his third year, helped by an upgraded WR corps.
I've lumped the TEs into this group. The front office chose to resign John Carlson, who has no where to go but up. At WR, they're hoping that Jennings and Patterson will quickly make fans forget about Percy Harvin.
In training camp, I would like to see AD-like, "as-advertised" stuff from Flash. There has been talk about his rawness, and about how his transition will be slow. Frankly, I think that's a load a bullcrap. We need more than a PR/KR. We traded up to get this guy, and gave up a lot, so he needs to wow me. Jennings just needs to stay healthy. Simpson has impressed during practice before, so nothing he does is going to convince me he is ready for a starting role. I don't expect to see much of Carlson, but I do think we will get a preview of Jarius Wright in year 2.
During 2013, I expect to see the Vikings transition away from the two-TE system. This is mainly because we have a solid FB, and I don't think Carlson will pan out. For the receivers, the sooner Flash replaces Simpson, the better. Jarius Wright will also be much improved, so long as he is not the main WR weapon.
The Vikings addressed their need for DT by drafting Sharif Floyd to backup Kevin Williams. To be honest, I did not view DT as much of a need, and Floyd in his current position will not be filling that need. That said, this kid can play. I view X and Flash as our crucial picks and Floyd as the luxury. He provides a ton of DL options for coach Williams.
For camp, with KW aging, it'd be best to hand Floyd as many reps as possible. I would like to see a defense that doesn't miss a beat when Floyd is in. I would also like to see him play with KW, because the two of them on the field at the same time is a dream come true.
Floyd is possibly this team's best backup. For the season I expect fresh legs from Floyd, giving him the ability to make plays in the back field. I also expect KW's game to return to form because of Floyd. They should try to transition him, because I just don't think that KW is done yet.
After the draft, the Vikings were left scrambling for a starting LB. There were several options but none of them were ideal. Next thing you know, the get a deal done with Desmond Bishop, who may be the steal of the offseason. Bishop enters a battle with Erin Henderson for the MLB spot.
Why is this even a position battle? For 4-3 sets, the obvious thing to do is to plug Bishop in the middle, and move Henderson back to his original spot. The real battle will be for the nickel package, and which LB stays on the field. Henderson has a few years of solid play under his belt. Bishop has one stellar year. I think we see a competition that strengthens the LB corps as a whole. This includes promising things from Hodges, Cole, and Mauti. Mitchell won't make the team if Mauti is healthy.
Greenway-Bishop-Henderson for an LB corps represents the biggest positional upgrade on this team from 2012 to 2013. They'll have better play in front of them. I think that we're looking at a Vikings D that returns to their run-stopping dominance, but still has a bit of trouble covering TEs.
In what seemed to be purely a financial move, the Vikings jettisoned Antoine Winfield and replaced him with Xavier Rhodes. Let's get one thing clear: there was nothing wrong with #26. He had a great 2012 and the Vikings quit on him too soon. Rhodes has big shoes to fill.
Rhodes is going to start. The question for training camp is: How good will he be? I need to see a dominant camp. In camp he will be going against Jennings, Simpson, and Patterson, For him to succeed, he'll need to contain Brandon Marshall and Calvin Johnson. So, if he's struggling in camp, he ain't gonna cut it. He'll need to surpass Cook and Robinson on the depth chart quickly, as he is expected to do. A plug-and-play corner is what I'm looking for. I also am looking to see a strong safety competition across from Harrison Smith. Jamarca Sanford got better as the season went on, but may Robert Blanton is ready to make some noise.
Entering 2013, I expect to X become the next premier cover corner. He'll have some epic battles as we put him out on an island against legit WRs. Cook should be solid, but all you can do is cross your fingers because of his health. I don't think Robinson is ready for full time slot duty. We just have no other options at this point. Sanford will start across from Smith this year.
I expect to see our rookies prove that they're worthy of their draft position in camp. There will be no bad reports about Ponder, plenty of Patterson talks, and tons of time with Greg Jennings. On the defense, the coaches will find different ways to get Floyd on the field, and be unable to take Rhodes off of it. I don't see many surprises, but I see many reasons to be optimistic about The Vikes in 2013.