At least in one person’s opinion
Training Camp is officially in full swing for your Minnesota Vikings, and there have been plenty of stories to keep an eye on as practices get started. The team is off today (Sunday) and will be putting on the pads for the first time on Monday, so this seems like as good a time as any to take a look at some of the more interesting battles to keep an eye on as things move forward in Eagan.
These aren’t in any particular order and are just one man’s perspective on which battles are the most interesting. Your mileage, as always, may vary.
Right Guard: Jessie Davis vs Chris Reed vs Ed Ingram
The one spot starting spot on offense that’s up for grabs is certainly one to keep an eye on, particularly given that it’s been a bit of a black hole for the team over the past couple of years. Oli Udoh, who started last year at right guard, is apparently out as he’s been running with the 2s at right tackle in the early stages of Camp.
That leaves things to be settled between a couple of veterans and the team’s second-round choice. Davis clearly has the edge in terms of experience, as he’s started 72 games over the past couple of seasons for the Miami Dolphins. He split time between guard and tackle but has been better at guard. Thus far, Davis has gotten the majority of the run with the first unit but has also been dealing with a leg issue.
Reed, Adam Thielen’s teammate at Minnesota State, has started 20 games over the past two seasons, with 14 of them coming with the Carolina Panthers in 2020 and six for the Indianapolis Colts last year. He’s gotten the first-team snaps that haven’t gone to Davis thus far.
Ingram was one of the team’s second-round picks this past April but hasn’t managed to crack the lineup with the 1s yet. Honestly, it’s probably just a matter of time before that happens, but we’ll be keeping an eye on it. I’d expect that Ingram will win this job by the time camp finishes, but he’s not there yet.
Backup quarterback: Sean Mannion vs Kellen Mond
Mond had a lost rookie season, appearing for just three snaps when Mannion was hurt against Green Bay in Week 17 and had to sit out for a series. Mannion’s one of those guys that’s “good at the whiteboard,” which would be fine if the Vikings had someone like Mond at the top of their quarterback depth chart. But they don’t.
I think the Vikings have to find a way to do more with Mond and give him every opportunity to ascend to the #2 spot on the depth chart. They can keep Mannion around, sure, but if anything happens to Kirk Cousins it would be Mond that might actually give them a puncher’s chance to win football games. The team owes it to themselves to see if they have something in Mond for the long term.
Backup running back: Alexander Mattison vs Kene Nwangwu vs Ty Chandler
Nwangwu’s spot on the roster is etched in stone for his return abilities, but I don’t know if a lot of people see Mattison as potentially being in danger. I’m not sure if he is, but I think that Chandler is definitely talented enough to give him a run for carries as Dalvin Cook’s backup (and eventually starter for when Cook is dealing with injuries).
This might not be a battle that’s on a lot of radars as of now, but with Cook set to have a $14 million cap hit next season, this could be his last year in Minnesota. Mattison has had his moments as Cook’s backup and the team needs to find a way to get Nwangwu’s speed more involved in the offense, but I just have a really good feeling about Chandler, to be honest. He’s got all the tools to be a productive NFL back and in today’s NFL, where the running back spot isn’t really a premium position, the Vikings could see him as Cook’s successor.
Safety: Lewis Cine vs Camryn Bynum
I don’t think this is really a “battle,” as I think that the Vikings are going to use both Cine and Bynum quite a bit. After all, the Vikings didn’t use their first-round pick on Cine to have him sit on the bench, but Bynum had a really solid rookie season for the team. This could lead the Vikings to use more three-safety looks to get both Bynum and Cine on the field with Harrison Smith.
So, this isn’t really a battle to see who the starter is going to be, though I think that Cine will ultimately be listed as Smith’s primary running mate. It’s more of a look at how the two of them will be used and what Ed Donatell wants to do with them in the team’s new defense. I want to see what these three-safety looks are going to bring to the table, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Cornerback: Cameron Dantzler vs Andrew Booth Jr. (vs Patrick Peterson?)
Dantzler has been getting a bit of hype from different media outlets this preseason, but Booth has come in hot during the first few Training Camp practices thus far. Like Cine, the Vikings didn’t draft Booth to have him stand around wearing a baseball cap, but Dantzler has provided relatively solid play when he’s been able over the past couple of seasons.
I don’t know if either of these guys are to the point where they’re going to be taking snaps away from Peterson yet, but Peterson did have to deal with injuries last season and is, again, only in Minnesota on a one-year deal for this season. It will be interesting to see how the Vikings balance the workload for both of the youngsters during camp and in preseason games in order to have them ready for Week 1.
Those are the battles that I’m keeping an eye on, folks. What are some of the camp battles that you’re going to be watching?