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Looking at key positional battles heading towards training camp

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Most of the starting positions are secure, but there are some intriguing battles looming for key backup jobs, too.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings-OTA David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

From top to bottom, the Minnesota Vikings appear to have one of the more talented rosters in the NFL. On both sides of the ball, they have Pro Bowl talent at nearly every position group, young players that look like they can become Pro Bowl players, or both. Consequently, most of the starting jobs are presumably spoken for. But not everywhere, and there are some key backup position battles to be on the lookout for during this week’s mandatory minicamp, and then when training camp begins next month.

So, let’s take a look at some of these battles on the offensive side of the ball. Tomorrow, we’ll look at defense.

QB

Kirk Cousins and his now mid-range and completely non ridiculous looking contract is your starter, because duh. But behind him is Sean Mannion, a guy that once was within close proximity of Wunderkind Sean McVay, which means he’s inhaled his offensive genius and can presumably snap his fingers and put 40 points on the board.

Except, you know, in the Super Bowl, which makes Mannion a perfect fit for this team and their tortured history.

Behind him, there’s the Most Popular Man in Minnesota, The People’s Champion, The Mythical Figure that approaches Paul Bunyan status with each passing day, one Kyle Sloter. Did you know that if Kyle Sloter stood on the shores of Lake Superior, he could throw a ball and hit the Foshay Tower, bounce it off the roof of US Bank Stadium, and still overthrow Randy Moss in his prime? It’s true!

Anyway, either Mannion or Sloter will be QB2 behind Cousins.

RB

Dalvin Cook looks to step into the role of marquee running back that Mike Zimmer envisioned when he hired the Denver Mafia. Assuming Cook stays healthy, I think he’s going to have a monster year. Behind him though, the roles are less defined. This year kind of reminds me of 2010, when Chester Taylor had departed, and the Vikings drafted Toby Gerhart. RB2 seemed a pretty inconsequential job for a team coming off an NFC Championship appearance and returning literally everyone else on offense, but Taylor’s presence and reliability was sorely missed.

Latavius Murray’s role is going to be an important job to fill, and it’s going to come down to one of third round pick Alexander Mattison, Roc Thomas, Mike Boone or Ameer Abdullah Oblongata (copyright Christopher Gates). My completely wild guess at the depth chart right now is Cook, Mattison (you don’t draft a RB that high to not play a big role early), and Abdullah for the vet experience, but this is going to be one of the most hotly contested jobs as the summer unfolds.

Also, CJ Ham will enter his 43rd season as the Vikings unquestioned fullback.

OL

With the unsurprising announcement of Garrett Bradbury becoming the starting center, the line appears to be set for now. LT Riley Reiff, LG Pat Elflein, Bradbury, RG Josh Kline, and RT Brian O’Neill seem to be a decent upgrade over what the Vikings rolled out last year. If there’s a battle here, one would assume 4th round pick Dru Samia could push Kline for the RG job if Kline regresses or Samia shines. As to the backups, there are 10 five jobs open for five 10 guys. Brett Jones will probably be the backup IOL, and behind him you’ve got guys like Danny Isidora, Aviante Collins, Rashod Hill, and Storm Norton all vying for a roster spot. Those guys have the inside track to win a job as a backup, but Isidora really needs to have a good camp.

TE

With the news that Kyle Rudolph signed a contract extension, there’s really no news here anymore. Rudy and Irv Smith, Jr are going to be the top two guys, and the TE3 will come down to David Morgan or Tyler Conklin, more than likely.

WR

Behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, there’s a whole lotta unknown. I’m going to call this group the Marianas Trench for now. We simply have no idea what’s really out there, but we’ve gotten a glimpse of something here and there. During the off-season OTA’s, Jordan Taylor seemed to take a slight lead over guys like Chad Beebe, Laquon Treadwell, and Brandon Zylstra, but the Vikings also drafted two guys late in the seventh round that will get a shot, Dillon Mitchell and Olabisi, Ob la Dahsi Life Goes On Brah Johnson. Beebe might have an edge here as a return specialist, but WR3, WR4, and WR5 jobs are all up for grabs.

About the only certainty in this group of guys is that as we get closer to camp, we’ll see a bunch of stories about how Laquon Treadwell is FINALLY ready to ‘break out’ and become WR3 for this team, how he’s ‘putting all the noise behind him’, and of course, the obligatory and ever popular ‘he’s in the best shape of his career’ feature.

I promise I will not write one of those stories.