1. Player Health
Chad Greenway and John Sullivan are both working their way back from offseason surgery and are both wearing braces at the start of training camp. Jared Allen and Adrian Peterson, who each had offseason surgery of their own, are 100% ready to go with no setbacks. Receiver Greg Childs and linebacker Nat Williams will start training camp on the PUP [physically unable to perform] list. Michael Mauti, who is recovering from a torn ACL and sat out rookie camp, is not on the PUP list and is ready to play. Keeping injuries to a minimum will be key during training camp.
2. Wide Receiver Depth
The Vikings finally have decent depth at the wide receiver position for the first time since the 2009 season — see Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Bernard Berrian — and it should be entertaining to watch. The Vikings added receiver Greg Jennings in free agency and drafted Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson with the 29th overall pick in the 2013 draft. Former quarterback Joe Webb has made the move to receiver, a move that is intriguing to say the least given Webb’s natural athletic talent and size. The Vikings have a total of 12 receivers in for camp including undrafted free agent Rodney Smith, listed anywhere from 6’4″ to 6’6″, Rodney Smith is a big target receiver and a potential red zone threat.
3. Will Erin Henderson remain Middle Linebacker
The Minnesota Vikings are taking somewhat of a gamble moving former outside linebacker Erin Henderson into the Middle Linebacker [Mike Linebacker] position. The Vikings let free agent linebacker Jasper Brinkley walk in the offseason and failed to draft a true middle linebacker, instead taking a defensive tackle, corner, and wide receiver with the first three picks. The Vikings made a meaningful splash in late free agency when they signed Desmond Bishop to a one-year deal. Bishop, the Packers former middle linebacker, will start training camp as an outside linebacker, but if Henderson fails to impress Bishop could easily see some time back at the MLB spot.
4. Quarterback Play
The biggest question might be how Christian Ponder performs entering his third season in the league. Ponder failed to impress during the middle part of the 2012 campaign, but showed serious signs of improvement in the final week of the regular season. The Vikings will need solid quarterback play in the 2013 season to help keep the pressure off reigning MVP Adrian Peterson. It will also be interesting to watch the Vikings backup quarterbacks as they fight for the second and third string spots. Can rookie James Vandenberg beat out McLeod Bethel-Thompson? Will the Vikings take another risk this year and cut the veteran? Although unlikely the quarterback play in camp will be fun to watch.
5. Special Teams
A lot of the final roster spots are determined by special teams play. Rookie Sharrif Floyd has already said he has to earn his spot and has no problem playing special teams. Cordarrelle Patterson, another Vikings rookie, will likely see time returning kicks and potentially fielding some punts. The Vikings made a risky move in the offseason cutting longtime punter Chris Kluwe and drafting rookie Jeff Locke out of UCLA. There will be a lot to watch as Locke will also be the holder for second-year kicker Blair Walsh. The timing for Walsh and Locke will be crucial as any holding/kicking tandem know. Although Blair Walsh had no signs of being able to miss last year, the Vikings are aware that sophomore slumps exist. Look out for players that could potentially be return men — that includes Joe Webb, Bradley Randle, Josh Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Marcus Sherels.