The Vikings coaching staff have liked having the few extra days during the off-season to work with rookies, and a few more before the veterans show up to training camp to help get them up-to-speed.
The extra time is valuable for many rookies trying to swallow a lot of information and coaching in a short period of time.
But also new this year is a rule change where all 90 guys stay on the roster until the one, final cut after the last pre-season game. The NFL has chosen to eliminate the first roster cut to 75 players after the 3rd pre-season game, so more players will have a chance to show their stuff in the last pre-season game.
All that leads to the question: will more rookies make the team as a result of having the extra time with coaches and to be evaluated?
It seems like it would certainly help, at least on the margin.
I suspect in the past there may have been some tough decisions between, say, a more established but mediocre veteran player, and a promising rookie, but there wasn’t quite the comfort level in the rookie to give him the roster spot. Perhaps in more of those marginal cases, the rookie may get the nod, based on the additional time they had to learn and show their stuff before the final cut is made.
As coach Zimmer has said, and many others have echoed, it’s a young man’s game- so getting rookies up-to-speed faster can have it’s benefits. But since Mike Zimmer has been head coach, the Vikings have taken a gradual approach for the most part in developing rookies into starters. Trae Waynes and Danielle Hunter are a couple of examples- but these were guys that were not in doubt in terms of making the roster.
But in the competition for backup jobs, the extra time rookies and new guys have to make an impression could prove decisive, particularly for backup linemen spots, but possibly elsewhere too.
The Vikings are fortunate these days in not having a lot of question marks for starting jobs, but there are a lot of question marks for depth positions at just about every position group. Often times those who are better at special teams have the advantage in securing bottom-rung depth positions, so the extra time evaluating players on special teams may also be important.
But I suspect that there are more than a few veteran backups that may be displaced by rookies or new-comers this year, and that extra evaluation time may make it more likely to happen.