Although the first pre-season game isn't until Saturday, the final Mankato training camp practice for the Minnesota Vikings was today. With that, let's look at what we learned...or didn't learn...while the Vikings were in southern Minnesota.
Camp opened with a lot of high expectations. There were no starting jobs up for grabs, the overwhelming expectation was that Brett Favre would show up sometime after the second pre-season game, every year there's a guy that comes out of nowhere to push for a roster spot, and everyone wanted to see how the new rookies would do.
Well, let's start with the last one first, the rookies. This was, in many respects, the least talked about rookie class in recent memory, at least in my opinion. Maybe because it was due to the Vikings not having a first round pick due to a trade with Detroit, maybe it was because there were no glaring needs that needed to be addressed with the draft, maybe it was because the Vikings drafted so low to begin with that the players available were not as well known to most football fans. Except Mark SP18, who's draft knowledge amazes me. His hypothetical trades make me cringe sometimes, but hat's off to his draft knowledge. And keep proposing the trades; they'rea lot of fun to debate. There were three draft picks that I thought could make an impact in 2010--Toby Gerhart, Chris Cook, and Chris DeGeare.
Gerhart was the presumed #2 running back heading to Mankato, only no one told that to Albert Young. Young was officially listed as the primary backup to Adrian Peterson, and has done nothing to lose his grip on the job. Or you could say that Gerhart has done nothing to take it away. With pre-season games starting, Gerhart will get every opportunity, but if Young keeps producing, he'll keep his job, and it will be well deserved. As an aside, there's no significant movement in terms of production, I just can't see Darius Reynaud or Ian Johnson making the final roster.
Chris DeGeare made a name for himself early, as he subbed in with the #1 offensive line and accorded himself well. he also handled Kevin Williams in one on one drills after practice, which is impressive. I was able to watch those drills a few years back, and Kevin Williams kicked everyone's ass except Steve Hutchinson during individual drills. DeGeare has continued to play well, and although I don't see him winning a starting job, I do see himself seeing a lot of the field in 2010.
For me, the most surprising name to keep popping up was Chris Cook. Looking back, that was kind of dumb on my part, seeing as how the Vikings have depth issues at CB due to injury, and Cook was the Vikings top draft pick. Cook has played very well, and he is pushing for a starting job. Right now, the official depth chart is Antoine Winfield and Asher Allen, but Cook has been making a lot of plays, and forcing people to take notice.
The longshot guy that keeps moving up on the outside is WR Ray Small. He's in the mix for a punt returner, keeps making plays at WR, and he has the natural talent to make the team. He was a complete pain in the ass at Ohio State, and was suspended for violating team rules approximately 285 times in four years, but he has talent. If he has moved past his issues that got him into trouble at Ohio State, Small can have a good career in the NFL. Now I'm not saying he's going to make the team, he's currently listed way down on the depth chart. But pre-season games will make the difference, and Small will get an opportunity.
Obligatory Favre Blurb...Turn away if you want: Fave visited Dr. James Andrews in
Biloxi Pensacola today, yet...and stop me if you've heard this before...no decision has been made on a when or if (wink wink) Favre will return. I love watching the guy play, but I don't want to see him permanently injured just to give me an opprtunity to watch the Vikings win the Super Bowl with my rapidly aging father. Wait, YES I DO!! PLAY, DAMN YOU!! PLAAAAAAYYYY!!!! Okay, not if you can get seriously hurt. But this team is a lot better with him, and this season will be a lot more fun.
So, as the Vikings leave Mankato and prepare for their first pre-season game in
the City of Ted St. Louis, the Vikings are more unsettled than I would like. On the downside, most of the skill players on offense have missed more practive than they have participated in, Percy Harvin's migraines have become a significant issue, and there's a decent chance Favre might not comeback, which would require a significent downshift in expectations on what a lot of us think is a Super Bowl team. On the upside, the defense looks dialed in and ready to kick some serious ass, even though the offensive skill guys have missed a lot of time, it's still very early and there is plenty of time to get on the same page, and other than Sidney Rice, the Vikings are pretty healthy, all things considered.
We'll have a game preview up sometime tomorrow, with a game thread sometime before Saturday's tilt with the Rams.
Are you ready for some football?