As the Minnesota Vikings start preparing for what needs to be a better season, here are five training camp battles to watch.
The Minnesota Vikings entered the 2018 season with high expectations, coming off a trip to the NFC Championship Game and after securing an upgrade at quarterback with a fully guaranteed contract to Kirk Cousins.
Things dissolved late in the season though, and Cousins performed poorly (or at least did not play particularly well) in big games on the way to an 8-7-1 record. If only to remove parallel lame-duck status, head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman were given contract extensions during the offseason. But expectations are still high entering the middle season of Cousins’ three-year deal.
The Vikings don’t have a lot of open roles, and a sketch out of the 53-man roster heading into Week 1 could be done with pretty good accuracy right now.
These five battles are coming during the Vikings’ training camp and will be worth watching.
5. 3-technique defensive tackle
Sheldon Richardson bet on himself by signing a one-year deal with the Vikings last offseason and delivered a solid season with 4.5 sacks along with 49 total tackles (six tackles for loss). He finished 14th among interior defensive lineman in quarterback pressures (via Pro Football Focus). He signed a three-year deal with the Cleveland Browns this offseason, and now the Vikings have a significant void to fill next to Linval Joseph on the interior line.
Shamar Stephen would start at the three-technique if the season started today. Tom Johnson could still be re-signed, after coming back to the Vikings in the middle of last season, but that doesn’t appear to be in the plans. Jaleel Johnson (fourth-round pick in 2017), Jalyn Holmes (fourth-round pick in 2018), Ifeadi Odenigbo (seventh-round pick in 2017) and Armon Watts (sixth-round pick this year) are all in the mix for a role heading into training camp.
Johnson will turn 35 in August, so the benefit of going through offseason work and quite honestly a big chunk of training camp isn’t there. If the competition to replace Richardson isn’t going well early in camp and into the first couple preseason games, the Vikings may be forced to bring Johnson back.