And all I can say is: YES! I have to tell you that for me, this is the most eagerly anticipated season in about 10 years. The Vikings are a remarkably stable team, with all 22 starters coming back. In this day and age, that's almost unheard of, and that's both good and bad. It's good, because barring a training camp injury, we already know who's starting, and there are no key jobs up for grabs. The bad news is, with this forever of an off-season, about the only thing we have to chew on, at least right now, is who's going to be the third RB. If this is the highest profile job that's up for grabs as the Vikings settle into the dorms tonight, and everyone plays at the level they played at last season, we're going a long way this season, boys and girls. Let's handicap the 3rd string RB position.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart are 1 and 2 on the depth chart entering tomorrow. I know Gerhart could alide, but when you trade up in the second round to draft a Heisman trophy runner up, I think it's safe to say you have high expectations about him. So with one and two settled, at least hypothetically, let's look at the candidates for the third string, and possibly last RB.
What he has going for him: He's been in the offense since 2008, and according to Brad Childress, knows the offense cold. When the Vikings enjoyed some early season blowouts, Young got some time after AP and Chester Taylor called it a day, and he was respectable. He is also a favorite of the staff, who have repeatedly praised him for his work ethic and football smarts. He seems to be the early favorite, at least to the coaching staff, so he has a bit of a lead coming out of the starting blocks.
What he has going against him: For all his knowledge and familiarity with the offense, when given a chance he hasn't really impressed. He is a straight ahead runner, and his atleticism doesn't stand out on tape. His advantage over the other guys is his knowledge, but if someone can equal him in assignments and blocking, he won't beat them out athletically, and could be on the outside looking in.
What he has going for him: Experience. He rushed for almost 400 yards with two starts last year, and had a 3.9 YPC average. Moats was a quality backup for the Texans last season, much like the role Chester Taylor played for the Vikings from 2007-2009. Like Young, he is familiar with the offense, and unlike Young, is more of a known quantity in live game action. He has also vowed to do whatever is asked, and is a good special teams guy. He's the new guy of the bunch, but he is by far the most experienced.
What he has going against him: I refer you to the 'new guy' info above. There was something about him the coaching staff liked or they wouldn'tve signed him, but he still has to make the coaching staff comfortable with his abilities, and to do that, he'll have to stand out above the other guys. The other guys that have been around for a few years and have already built up relationships with the coaching staff. If he outplays the competition, he'll make the decision easy for everyone, but if he doesn't, it'll be tough to beat out the guys that have been on the team already.
What he has going for him: Reynaud has that hold your breath, or 'wow' factor athletically. It showed as a punt returner, and it's the reason the coaching staff converted him to running back. I liken him to a poor man's Percy Harvin, and I envision the Vikings using him much like they use Percy if Harvin needs a rest or when his migraines become problematic again. Out of all the back ups, he's the only one that approaches the versatility of Harvin, and with him in there, the Vikings wouldn't have to bypass the 'Percy Harvin chapter' of the playbook if Harvin is out. He is also the incumbent punt returner, and he's a good one, which makes his value even more important to the team.
What he has going against him: The Vikings have asked him to switch positions from wide receiver to running back, which could be a difficult transition in the NFL. Reynaud played running back in high school, but high school isn't the NFL. For the Vikings, the back up running back MUST be able to detect and pick up the blitz; if you can't, you're not going to be around long. I think he is the high risk-high reward guy of the bunch. If he can make the transition, he has the most upside from a pure talent standpoint, but he also has the biggest hill to climb.
What he has going for him: In some ways, there are a lot of similarities in Johnson to Albert Young. He's been around a whole year, he knows the offense, and he has had an opportunity to learn while on the practice squad. He doesn't do any one thing well, but a lot of things satisfactorily.
What he has going against him: In all that time, he hasn't been able to beat out Albert Young. The talent has gotten better, and unless Johnson really picks it up in training camp, I don't see him making it past the first round of cuts.
Personally, I like Reynaud, and I think he has a real shot to win the job. But we'll see how it all unfolds the next few weeks.
Can you feel it? It's almost here. Enjoy the first day of training camp, and the first one to hit the 'f5' key 1,000 times looking for updates gets a free candy bar!!