As the Minnesota Vikings start Training Camp this week, I thought it would be a fun time to do another 5 on 5. As you may remember a 5 on 5 is basically a top 5 ranking on 5 specific things. For this 5 on 5 I will touch on specific things that deal with this year’s training camp. Let’s do this.
Top 5 things that need to happen
1) The Offensive Line needs to gel
After coming off a season where Sam Bradford was sacked 37 times, the Vikings O-Line was ranked an embarrassing 29th out of 32 teams by Pro Football Focus. The main reason for this problem was the personnel on the line. The Vikings only had two good offensive lineman in Alex Boone and Joe Berger, and their performances weren’t even that great. The one thing that I think can help the Vikings O-Line this year, besides getting new guys, is having a healthy starting 5 that can gel together. In 2015, the Vikings offensive line was able to stay healthy nearly the entire year and even with below average lineman, was able to be competent as a group. If the Vikings can find a true starting 5 on the O-Line in Camp, it would go a long way for this team.
2) Stay Healthy
2016 was the year of injuries for the Vikings. It started with Teddy Bridgewater getting severely injured before the season started to Adrian Peterson missing 13 games. The Vikings had so many injuries that their entire starting Offense missed at least one game throughout the season. If the Vikings could make it through camp with no injuries to the team then this Training Camp would be looked at as a success.
3) Laquon Treadwell needs to show he can be the 3rd Wide Receiver
Treadwell’s 2016 season couldn’t have gone any worse for him. He played in only 9 games and caught only 1 pass the entire season. Reports have recently came out that he was dealing with nagging injuries throughout the season last year. Hopefully, being fully healthy will allow him do more than he did last year. Treadwell will likely come into camp as the 3rd WR, but he needs to show everyone that he deserves that spot on the depth chart and that last season was just a fluke.
4) Find a Running Back Rotation
Last year the Vikings had the worst running attack in all of football. They were last in both total yards and yards per attempt, they were also 28th in rushing touchdowns 1. The Vikings were able to upgrade their RB group this year by signing Latavius Murray and drafting Dalvin Cook. The question heading into camp is what will the rotation end up being. The Vikings have 3 guys with 3 different styles. Cook is the most explosive and best out of the shotgun, Murray is the best for short yardage and redzone plays, and McKinnon is the best pass catcher and can run the Wildcat at times 2. If the Vikings can find a way to get each guy involved in the Offense, they could have a fun, explosive team.
5) Find an Andrew Sendejo Replacement
Sendejo has been the starting Strong Safety the past 2 years for Vikings and that is 2 years too long in my opinion. I think Sendejo is a fine backup in the NFL but frankly he should not be starting. I actually think he is the only “hard hitting safety” in the NFL who flies farther off the hit than the guy he is hitting. Come to think of it, I have never seen him actually make a fundamentally sound tackle. Hopefully the Vikings can find an actually good safety to be alongside Harrison Smith in camp. Someone who doesn’t spin like a helicopter in the air after trying to hit the guy with the ball.
Top 5 best rookies heading into Camp
1) Dalvin Cook – RB
It comes as a surprise to no one that Dalvin Cook, the first guy the Vikings took in the 2017 Draft, would be ranked number one on this list. Cook will likely be the starting running back of the Vikings and has a legit shot at Rookie of the Year. Of all the Running Back’s in the draft, Cook might be the best of all of them. If Cook can stay healthy and out of trouble, he will be a pro bowler at some point in his career.
2) Jaleel Johnson – DL
Last year, Shariff Floyd, the Vikings starting defensive tackle, missed 15 games with an injury that has a chance to possibly end his career. The Vikings were able to grab a great run stuffer in the 4th round in Johnson. Some mock drafts had the Iowa Defensive Tackle going as high as the late first round. This guy should be a great backup who could start down the road.
3) Pat Elflein – OL
The 2016 NFL draft was labeled as one of the worst drafts for Offensive Lineman in years. However the Vikings may have gotten a great O-Lineman in Elflein, a guy who can excel at multiple positions. Elflein started at Right Guard his sophomore and junior year at Ohio State and was able to be First Team All-Big Ten both years. He ended up switching to Center his senior year and what did he do? He won the Rimington-Pace Award as the best Offensive Lineman in the country. Elflein will likely start at Center this year and his ability to play multiple spots on the line will make him a huge asset.
4) Bucky Hodges – TE
Bucky Hodges will come into training camp fighting for a spot in a Tight End group that is filled with talent. What Hodges lacks in blocking and experience, he makes up in athleticism and talent. I fully expect Hodges to be one of the most exciting guys in the Preseason. However he probably won’t find much playing time at the start of the regular season. But by the end of the year, he could make a serious impact for a Vikings team fighting to make the playoffs.
5) Elijah Lee – LB
The knock on Elijah Lee is that he is undersized at 6’3″ and 229 lbs. Because of this he will suffer stopping the run. However he is a great linebacker in coverage. Having a linebacker who can cover tight ends and running backs well is a huge asset for teams. If Elijah Lee can do this the way he is projecting to, he will have a great career.
Top 5 best players heading into camp
1) Harrison Smith – FS
Harrison Smith is arguably the best Safety in football. The guy does not get enough credit, nationally, for what he does for this defense. He has the ability to blitz the QB, make hard hitting tackles in the open field, and make up for the Corner Backs’ mistakes on deep throws 3. The simple fact that he has no weakness makes Harry the Hitman the #1 player on the Vikes heading into camp.
2) Xavier Rhodes – CB
Rhodes, like Harrison Smith, does not get enough love nationally because of the simple fact that he doesn’t intercept the ball that frequently. Rhodes will go entire games without having a ball thrown his way. At 6’4″, his long arms and height make him a hard guy to complete a pass on. You could argue Xavier Rhodes is the best Corner in the entire NFL for one reason, the Odell Beckham game. Rhodes covered Odell the entire game and got into Odell’s head so bad that Odell got flagged for an unnecessary roughness call on Rhodes 4. Rhodes was the only corner I have seen that made Odell react that way and that is impressive in itself.
3) Linval Joseph – DL
Coming in at #3 is the force inside of the Vikings Defensive Line. Linval has arguably been the heart of the Vikings Defense the past years. He has the ability to take on any lineman one-on-one and win the battle. His size and strength matched with his surprising quickness makes him a focus for the opposing team’s offensive line. To realize how good Linval is, all you have to do is watch the push he gets off the ball. He is able to dictate where the running back goes better than most guys in the NFL.
4) Sam Bradford – QB
For most teams with a legit shot at the playoffs, their QB is their best player on their roster. However, the Vikings are so loaded on defense that Bradford falls to #4 on this list. Bradford, before coming to the Vikings, was criticized as being passive on throws and inaccurate with his deep ball. His past year with the Vikings was anything but that. Not only did Sam Bradford set the completion percentage record for a season, he also lead the NFL in completion percentage on throws 20+ yards. The scary thing is that he had terrible protection. If the Vikings can figure out the O-Line, he could end up having an even better year.
5) Danielle Hunter – DE
It might come as a shock to some people that Danielle Hunter comes in at #5 ahead of Everson Griffen. Everson is a great player but I think Hunter could be a legendary player. The guy has the talent, the work ethic, and after two great years behind Robison, the experience. This year he will be given the starting spot and I honestly expect him to reach 15+ sacks. I will say it now since it is going to be said by everyone by the end of the year, Danielle Hunter will be the best Vikings defensive player by the end of the year.
Top 5 position groups heading into training camp
1) Defensive End
Having one defensive end capable of 15+ sacks for a team is huge. The Vikings just so happen to have 2. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter are going to prove to be a scary force for opposing Offensive Tackles this year. Not only are they athletic freaks, they are hard workers with a relentless drive to sack the QB.
Last year, the linebacker core of Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Chad Greenway might have been ranked #1 on this list. After the retirement of Greenway and a poor season by Barr, the linebackers have fallen down a spot. However this year I expect Barr to bounce back and have a great year. Barr’s linebacker mate, Kendricks, has been everything the Vikings wanted in a 2nd round pick. He doesn’t miss tackles, he can cover tight ends and running backs well, and he is a great locker room guy. Some might question who will fill Greenway’s spot this year, but the thing is Greenway didn’t play much. He would start then Munnerlyn, the nickel corner, would come in for him to add a 3rd CB. So whoever fills that void will end up only playing 30-40% of the defensive snaps anyway.
Not many teams can say they have multiple QB’s that can legitimately start on their team like the Vikes do. The Vikings go into camp with Sam Bradford as their starter, Case Keenum as their backup, and Teddy Bridgewater on the PUP 5 list. Those 3 guys have all started at least 24 games in their careers. Having that many guys with that much experience is huge. If Teddy can ever get fully healthy, he might end up being the starter again, but for now it is Bradford who will lead this team heading into camp.
4) Running Backs
As I have discussed earlier, the Vikings have 3 RB’s that can all do different things. The problem with that is finding time for all of them. My expectation is that Cook will be the starter and receive most of the carries, Murray will take over in short yardage and redzone plays, and McKinnon will be the third and long back who has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. Hopefully the Vikings will figure out what they want to do with them by the time camp ends.
5) Wide Receivers
The Vikings top 2 WR’s consist of a 5th round pick and undrafted player from a DII school. Stefon Diggs was expected last year to be the best WR on the Vikings heading into the season. He showed flashes in 2015 when given the opportunity and lived up to the hype last year. Adam Thielen, on the other hand, was a special teams player his entire career. Last year was his first year playing significant minutes as a WR and he showed he was good enough to do so. If Laquon Treadwell can play significantly better, this Wide Receiver group will be fun to watch.
Top 5 reasons training camp at Mankato will be missed
1) The Location
Since the Vikings are no longer having training camp at Mankato starting next year, I thought it would be a fun time to rank the 5 best things about Mankato. First off, the location is perfect. Mankato is about an hour away from the Twin Cities, which frankly is perfect. It allows players to head back to the city if they want to on off days, but it is far enough to be away from distractions. For some fans it was the drive down to Mankato that made training camp so fun to go to. Next year, fans will be able to take a 10 minute drive to Eagan, missing out on that experience of Training Camp.
2) The Fans from Mankato
Every training camp, fans from all over came to watch the Vikings practice. But it was the fans from Mankato that made it special. For those fans, training camp was the biggest thing every year. For once, their town was more popular than any in the Twin Cities. You could see houses decked out in Vikings stuff and hear stories of fans who never missed a day of training camp. Next year, we sadly won’t be hearing those stories or seeing those houses.
3) The dorm rooms
The fun thing about being in Mankato was the fact that the NFL players lived in the dorm rooms. For players making millions, it was fun to see them experience squeaky bed frames and sore backs in the morning. Next year the players will just have to travel from their homes. They will lose the experience of living in the dorms and the team building that comes with it.
4) The Heat
Yes, the players will experience hot weather at next year’s training camp. But for some reason, having training camp in Mankato for some reason made it hotter. Maybe it was being away from the city or the 80 miles more south that made it hotter. Whatever it is, the new facility in Eagan will not have that same hot experience as Mankato does.
5) The Green Giant billboard in Le Sueur
One of the things about traveling to Training Camp from the Twin Cities was seeing one memorable billboard. Every time you reached Le Sueur you would see a giant billboard of the Green Giant guy. Like what the Statue of Liberty is for New York, the Green Giant billboard is for Mankato. It was a way of telling you that you were close to Mankato. I’m not sure if there will be anything like that for the Eagan facility next year. Maybe heavy traffic and road construction. Whatever it is, it will not be the same as the Green Giant billboard.