Vikings to look for this Preseason
Football!!!! Yeah!!!! It’s finally upon us, the long awaited break from the glorious pigskin tossing game of football. But hold up on the hype train becuase us Viking fans have to endure a tough 5 preseason game schedule first. Watching preseason football can be hard, many people enjoy it until the starters are out and flip channels. While watching the 4th stringers hold up the fort can be brutal on the eyes, I’m here to give you a position by position list of players to keep your attention on instead of the overall game.
Punter- Jeff Locke
No kidding man hes the only punter on the roster…Well even though its the only option, he is definitely competing with non roster competition. He had an underwhelming 2014. While his leg strength and hang time are both good he had a hard time pinning opponents deep, often booting it into the end zone. So keep an eye out on how often he can place the ball behind the 20 and the 10.
Place Kicker- Blair Walsh
Again, the only choice. Walsh had a historic rookie campaign, and followed it up with a much less historic sophomore season. While his numbers were good enough to warrant an extention, he will be looking to return to 2013 type numbers. What all fans will be watching around the league this offseason is the extra point change. Walsh has excelled from the new distance but it should be intersting to see how often Zimmer and company may elect to go for 2 this preseason.
Return Man- Stefon Diggs
Stefon Diggs is the talk of training camp right now and has taken Mankato by storm. He was my go to pick for the reciever position but Diggs may be a seroious threat to take Sherels roster spot and upend Patterson for all kick return duties. He has been touted for his speed and vision already so be ready to see what he can do when facing a live return.
Offensive Lineman- TJ Clemmings/ Babatunde Aiyegbusi/ Tyus Thompson
So there is really no way to sort these guys out this early in the preseason so ill just bunch together a few people of interest to keep an eye out for.
TJ Clemmings has already been called by outsiders as a steal in the 4th round of the Draft. He was 2nd round talent until news rose of an anke injury. Well, as it turns out, its just something he has always had and has found a way to work around it. Clemmings is competing for an opening at right guard. He is also a possible fall back plan should Kalil struggle again as a left tackle.
Its a mouthful of a name but around camp hes going by “babs.” He was a european player before coming over and signing on with the Vikings. He is the second largest person on roster behind Loadholt. He is extremely raw at the position at this level and will not make an impact this year, however he will still be fun to watch this preseason most likely make some 4th string defender look silly.
Flying under the radar, and one of my personal favorites, is Thompson from Oklahoma. He has shown loads of potential at camp and while injuries always plague this team he may show up during the season. Another drop in the draft, Thompson has solid technique with both his feet and hands to defend the quarterback at the top level.
Quarterback- Taylor Hienicke
What? No Teddy? C’mon guys we hall all year to watch our favorite gun slinger. Make no mistake Heinicke is a baller. He set most all records a quarterback can set at Old Dominion, he has experience and confidence to be a viable backup in the league. He will be competing with Kafka to make the roster and the smart money is on this kid.
Running Back- Jerick Mckinnon
While he had the top spot after Peterson’s legal troubles he will be spending a lot more time on the sideline this year. However, whether as petersons eventual replacement or as a free agency pickup for another team Jerick will be showing all he has this preseason to show he belongs.
Tight End- Mycole Pruitt
An obvious choice. Hopefully Rudolph can stay healthy this season, but if he cannot Pruitt must show he can be reliable hands for Teddy both as a receiver and a blocker. He has high end speed for a tight end but not a lot of weight to hold off edge rushers. Look for him as a possible 2 tight end passing down receiver.
Wide Receiver- Stefon Diggs
I know, I know, I said i wouldn’t put him here too but i can’t help it! He is that impressive at camp right now, every day I check my phone and a new Diggs circus catch comes up. All preseason when this guy is on the field be ready. He has top end speed, and has shown the grab at camp with blanket coverage.
Defensive tackle- Shamar Stephen
Coming out of nowhere last year Shamar Stephen had a stellar rookie campaign. While barring a miracle his roster stop is pretty much a lock he will be looking to show it wasn’t a fluke and he has the strength to compete once again for starting reps.
Defensive End- Danielle Hunter
Athletic phenom from defensive powerhouse LSU, Hunter has shown at camp that he is much farther along than expected. Zimmer did an amazing job with Barr last year and hopefully Hunter can learn quickly and eventually replace Robison opposite Griffen as the starter a couple years down the road. For now, however, just enjoy watching Hunter rack up the preseason sack totals.
Middle Linebacker- Eric Kendricks
Former Anthony Barr teammate at UCLA, Kendricks set the UCLA tackles record last season. He is a natural tackler, with incredible vision and awareness. We’ll see how often he is on the field in the preseason as he will be competing for a starting job. Should be fun to watch him grow into what we hope to be a rock in the middle for a long time.
Outside Linebacker- Brandon Watts
Watts saw only a few snaps at the end of last season and has loads of potential. He is extremely fast as linebackers come, and has shown last preseason that he can keep up with tight ends and receivers. He must show a stronger run defense and stronger tackling to earn playing time. Watch how he fares compared to the other linebackers this preaseason. He is one of my dark horse favorites to be an impact player late, should and injury occur.
Safety- Anthony Harris
I was so frustrated when the Vikings kept passing on Harris during the draft, however, thankfully we snatched him up via undrafted free agent. He was a leader on the Virginia defense and showed big time hits game after game. I’m unsure what made him drop out of the draft but Ill be watching him closely as he fights for a spot on the roster.
Cornerback- Trae Waynes
Number 11 pick overall and the Vikings hope for one of the strongest secondaries for years to come, rests on Trae Waynes. He is inhuman fast and has the vision to follow just about any route. He has been moved around a lot this camp by Zimmer to get a feel for the job. Corner has often been said to be the hardest transition from college to pros so its likely we don't see too much of him this season. So enjoy all you can of the speed demon this preseason. And welcome, all, to WAYNES WORLD!!!
Well there it is! So don’t turn off tour favorite football team once Teddy and company move to the sidelines, keep these boys on your mind and enjoy the show!