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Ten Training Camp Predictions

They do it every morning.  Very early in the morning.  Long before my dogs sit at my bedside and whine at me to let them out.  Long before Mrs. Warwas presses “start” on our coffee maker.  Long, long before I want to wake up, the Minnesota Vikings hold training camp on my roof.

Okay, actually it’s a bunch of crows that sound like they’re holding a 7-on-7 scrimmage on my roof (yup, they can get that loud) but they still have just as annoying of an effect.

Maybe that is why I’m so willing to eat crow from time to time by making predictions that almost certainly will turn out completely wrong.  Afterall, revenge makes everything taste a little sweeter, even when you are being forced to eat a healthy portion of crow.

So, here are ten predictions that I am making on the evening of 2010 Minnesota Vikings Training Camp, live… from my roof.

10.  Let’s Get This Out Of The Way

Favre is coming back, but not until after the Vikings move camp to Winter Park.  I know this isn’t much of a prediction, so I’ll take it a step further.

I think Joe Webb sticks to the roster as a quarterback.  Who leaves?  Well, that would be none other than Sage Rosenfels.

9.  Punt Return Drills Will Be Important

Every year, a handful of players will be handpicked to participate in special teams drills with hopes of making their most realistic bid for a roster spot in that area.

With Percy Harvin almost certainly slated to return kicks again this year, the punt return job is the one to keep an eye on, and it may have a bigger impact than you think.

I see no reason to believe that Darius Reynaud did anything in 2009 to suggest he should lose the job.  He was solid and consistent, averaging 10.3 yards per return.  While he has some dangerous moves in the open field, he never took one to the house, and there are those three fumbles.

Reynaud’s current status as the team’s top punt returner, however, is his best chance to make the roster.  In an offseason that will give the Vikings plenty of tough decisions, Reynaud’s versatility, including his ability to play running back and wide out, give him the inside track over other players.

Think about this scenario, however.  Undrafted rookie Ray Small proves himself as an incredible return man as he was in college and Reynaud loses the job.  Does this open the door for someone else to make the roster as a running back, like Ryan Moats or Albert Young?  Would it open the door for a guy like Marko Mitchell to make the roster as a wide out?

I’m not saying that Reynaud will or will not win the punt return job, but that battle has enough effect on the roster that we should pay a little more attention to it than normal.

8.  The D-Line Is Set

As with most of my predictions, this all changes if there is an unforeseen injury or suspension.

With that being said, I think the Vikings defensive line will consist of Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Pat Williams, Ray Edwards, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Jimmy Kennedy, and Fred Evans.

I’d be greatly surprised if, when the season rolls around, it isn’t these eight guys (and only these eight guys) that are on the roster.

It looks like the StarCaps Case won’t leave us without the WilliamsWall.  Robison is versatile enough to play on the inside during passing downs.  The competition just isn’t there to bump any of them off, and with the Vikings looking to keep two kickers this season there is one less roster spot.

Etch it in stone, this competition is already over.

7.  Safeties Will Fight It Out To The End

Many fans were calling for rookie Jamarca Sanford to crack the starting lineup by the end of 2009, a season which featured a good dose of questionable safety play.  Some think he will make a serious case for being a starter at the beginning of 2010, and he probably will.

However, don’t expect Tyrell Johnson and Madieu Williams to go down without a fight.

It has gone by somewhat unnoticed, but perhaps no players have been working harder this offseason than the current starting safeties.  Williams and Johnson were the only starters to participate in every offseason activity held by the team. 

They also participated in Larry Fitzgerald’s camp, which I can only imagine pitted them against many of the best NFL receivers.

I think this will be one of the best training camp battles.  Three guys vying for two spots.  Nice.

My prediction is that we won’t know which two are our starters until the season starts.  I expect the Vikings to pick up where they left off, rotating the three around giving looks to each of them and watching very closely. 

By design, the Vikings will keep that competition as heated as possible by not committing to any of them until after the final preseason game… and possibly well into the season.

6.  Cook Has To Earn His Keep

As the Vikings top draft choice, cornerback Chris Cook is sure to be the subject of many articles as camp progresses.  However, unless he somehow impresses in a big, big way… he’ll be at the bottom of the depth chart.

It isn’t anything to be ashamed of, as rookie corners seldom crack the starting lineup no matter when they were drafted, but I am not expecting any fireworks out of Cook. 

Assuming Cedric Griffin remains out with injury, I believe the starting the top four spots will belong to Antoine Winfield, Lito Sheppard, Asher Allen, and Benny Sapp.  I fully expect an intricate formula to dictate a rotation that will make it difficult to label any corner other than Winfield a “starter.”  While I expect Cook to get rotated into the game from time to time, I really suspect he’ll be fifth on the depth chart and we’ll be seeing a lot of him during training camp and very little of him in the first half of this season.

5.  Selected Late Round Rooks Will Contribute

I think offensive lineman Chris DeGeare, tight end Mickey Shuler, and quarterback Joe Webb will turn enough heads in training camp to earn a roster spot.  Webb is practically a guarantee in my mind, because he has already shown enough potential to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster, but there will be no reservations about making him inactive as the third quarterback on game day.

I don’t think linebacker Nate Triplett will make the cut, especially if E.J. Henderson makes it back on the field sometime soon, and the Vikings will have spent a fifth round pick on a practice squad player.

Also, while Fahu Tahi gets a lot of criticism, I highly doubt that a seventh round linebacker that hasn’t played fullback in years can outperform a guy that has made a career out of being a starting fullback.  Ryan D’imperio has the odds stacked fully against him.

Both Triplett and D’Imperio will have to be outstanding special teams players if they want to make the roster, but otherwise seem like practice squad guys to me.

4.  Peterson Will Have His Work Cut Out For Him

It never hurts to make the defense practice a little more at stripping the ball from a ball carrier.

Our starting running back needs to stop fumbling the ball.

To design drills in which the defense’s top priority is to cause Peterson to fumble could really only benefit the team on both sides of the ball.  It would give the defense some added experience in swatting and tearing at the football, while giving Peterson some practice at keeping that ball from hitting the ground under tough circumstances.

If the Vikings don’t work this strategy into training camp, I’ll be disappointed as it would be a missed opportunity to improve in all phases of the game.

3.  No Help Is On The Way Anytime Soon

Every year, camp casualties can become the good fortune of another team.  This isn’t “every year” though, as this is an uncapped year and I suspect that will result in less camp/cap casualties than we are used to.

The Vikings won’t stop looking for ways to improve their roster, but I just don’t think the opportunities will be there this preseason. 

Despite rumblings of Kelley Washington, Albert Haynesworth, or Brian Westbrook, I just don’t see the Vikings adding anyone to a team that is already going to be forced to send plenty of young talent out the door when cuts roll around.

2.  Vikes Keep Two To Kick

I have to admit that I was surprised when the Vikings first free agent signing was a kicker. 

However, I think kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd will make the roster, will make the gameday actives on a regular basis, and will make an impact.  His ability to boot kickoffs into the endzone or beyond will prove to be a barely noticeable, but extremely important, tool as the season pits the Vikes against a number of the league’s most dangerous returners.

Ryan Longwell thinks that Lloyd’s presence will negatively affect his field goal accuracy, as kicking off acts as extra repetitions to gauge the wind.  Whether or not this ends up being true is a matter of debate, but I am confident that Longwell is going to have to deal with it because Lloyd isn’t going anywhere.

1.  There Will Be Trash Talk Galore

You know that old saying, “you only focus on your next opponent?”  This will hold true, even through training camp, for the Vikings.

In the first season since 1998, I think the Packers may not be the most hated team by Vikings players.  Without a doubt, the Vikings want revenge against their week one opponents, the New Orleans Saints.

And they’ll talk about it.

With guys like Pat Williams, Jared Allen, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Ray Edwards on the squad I have little doubt that we are going to see a theme of attitude and confidence throughout camp.

This is sure to only stoke the fire that is the most anticipated Vikings season in over a decade.


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6 Responses to “Ten Training Camp Predictions”

  1. B. Grant says:

    The cornerback thing scares the bejeebers out of me, Adam, but we aren’t the only team with that issue. Similar to the QB position, there are not 64 cornerbacks of starting NFL caliber on this earth.

    Interesting that none other than P.Reusse rated our OL a 4 in a 1-5 scale with 5 being the top. Needless to say, I do not agree.

    Well Gabbers, we are one day closer, now only 41 Dave Osborne days away from the opener, and ready to open camp! Yeah!

  2. Viking John says:

    Adam, you missed the most important topic……
    How many cases of Colt’s 45’s will it take for Freddie so he makes it through training camp.
    Go Vikes

  3. G.P. says:

    My personal favorite is number six. Everyone else has to work for their spot. So should He I agree.

  4. bigjohnny84 says:

    I hope D’imperio can take Tahis spot. I’ve had enough 1 yard pass plays to last a lifetime. And GP I’m headed to training camp Saturday night if you would be interested in meeting.

  5. Norseman66 says:

    Adam,

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention on your list that Ray Edwards will say “I’m gonna break the sack record this year”.

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