The Minnesota Vikings are coming off the biggest one-year turnaround in franchise history.
Their seven-game improvement in 2012 (10-6) over 2011 (3-13), and a return trip to the playoffs have moved the team beyond the rebuilding phase. With three first-round draft picks joining the 2013 roster, the Vikings continue their youth movement as expectations continue to soar.
However, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered and positional battles to be determined as training camp nears.
Following is a breakdown of the major questions facing the Vikings in 2013 along with the training camp schedule, roster breakdown and a final 53-man roster prediction.
The Minnesota Vikings will again hold training camp in Mankato, Minn. The Vikings' full training camp schedule can be found at the Vikings' website. Refer to this schedule for any late changes due to weather or other conditions.
For those interested in getting players' autographs, the Vikings have a defined autograph procedure established for training camp.
Thursday, July 25: Players report to Minnesota State University-Mankato.
Friday, July 26 10:30-11:30 a.m., Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Helmets
Saturday, July 27: 10:30 - 11:20 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Helmets
Sunday, July 28:Camp closed
Monday, July 29: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45 -5:30 pm, Full pads
Tuesday, July 30: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Wednesday, July 31: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Thursday, Aug. 1: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Friday, Aug. 2: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-throughl; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Saturday, Aug. 3: 10:30 - 11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 7 -9:30 pm, Full pads
Sunday, Aug. 4: Camp closed
Monday, Aug. 5: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Tuesday, Aug. 6: 10:30-11:30 a.m Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Wed, Aug. 7: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Thursday, Aug. 8: Camp closed
Friday, Aug. 9: 7 p.m., Preseason Game 1 vs. Houston Texans
Saturday, Aug. 10: Camp closed
Sunday, Aug. 11: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, TBD
Monday, Aug. 12: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Tuesday, Aug. 13: 10:30- 11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
Wed, Aug. 14: 10:30-11:30 a.m, Walk-through; 2:45-5:30 pm, Full pads
End of camp.
Friday, Aug. 16: 7 p.m., Preseason Game 2 at Buffalo Bills
Friday, Aug. 25: 7 p.m., Preseason Game 3 at San Francisco 49ers
Tuesday, Aug. 27: Rosters must be cut down to 75 players.
Friday, Aug. 30: 7 p.m., Preseason Game 4 vs. Tennessee Titans
Saturday, Aug. 31: Rosters must be cut down to 53 players.
The Minnesota Vikings enter training camp with the NFL maximum of 90 players. There are two roster cut-down dates that all teams must meet.
The first comes on Tuesday, Aug. 27, after the third preseason game. At that time, teams must submit a 75-man roster to the NFL. The final 53-man roster needs to be submitted by Saturday, Aug. 31, one day after the Vikings' final preseason game.
On Sept. 1 teams can start filling their eight-man practice squad.
Click here for a breakdown of the Vikings' entire roster.
The Minnesota Vikings need to prove that their success from 2012 was not a fluke, and that this team has the pieces in place for an extended playoff run.
The Vikings parted ways with key players on both sides of the ball this offseason. First, it was the trade of Percy Harvin, then the release of cornerback Antoine Winfield—both of whom wound up in Seattle. Winfield and Harvin will get a chance for some payback when the Vikings travel to Seattle for a Week 11 matchup in November.
The one question that is not on everyone's mind this season is the health of Adrian Peterson. After a record-breaking season coming off major knee surgery, Peterson is healthy and with a personal goal of rushing for 2,500 yards after falling just nine yards short of the all-time single-season rushing record last year.
Still, there are plenty of questions surrounding the team following its playoff season.
On defense, Jared Allen and Kevin Williams are set to be free agents at the conclusion of the season, and the the Vikings continue to look for a middle linebacker.
The defensive backfield was much improved last year with the addition of rookie safety Harrison Smith. There will also be high expectations for rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes, one of the Vikings' three first-round draft picks, to replicate his college success as an NFL rookie this season.
On offense, the Vikings need to see improvement from Christian Ponder. They also need to find the right combination of players to replace the production that Harvin brought to the team.
For more analysis on the Vikings' biggest questions heading into training camp.
Always the highlight of any training camp are the positional battles that develop. There are very few positions locked up heading into the Vikings' training camp.
The most secure player heading to camp is Adrian Peterson. Beyond that. there could be a battle at every position, including quarterback—despite what head coach Leslie Frazier may say.
Two of the biggest positional battles to be settled will be at cornerback and wide receiver. Two of the Vikings' three first-round draft picks find themselves in the middle of those competitions for a starting role on the team.
One area the Minnesota Vikings have been extremely successful of late, has been in the NFL draft. They have 10 starters from the last four drafts making significant contributions. That includes record-setting kicker, Blair Walsh, drafted in the sixth round last season.
The last two years, general manager Rick Spielman has traded his way back into the first round, acquiring a second, first-round pick in 2012, and a two additional first-round picks in 2013. The expectations will be extremely high to raise the bar on both sides of the ball.
The Vikings have also been successful with the signing of undrafted free agents. Typically facing longer odds at making a roster, the Vikings had a total of 10 UDFAs on their roster last season, five of which the Vikings signed out of college. Leading that crop of players are special team players Marcus Sherels, Larry Dean and long snapper Cullen Loeffler.
Every year, with 90 players battling for 53 spots, there are always a couple of surprises when the final roster is announced. Whether it's a veteran being displaced by a rookie or an established starter demoted or released, there is a move that no one expected.
The factors that lead to the final 53-man roster include where a team's biggest weaknesses lie as well as setting up a succession plan for aging veterans. Sometimes it's more of a move around the salary cap than the individual performance of the players battling for a position.
It's a process that starts with the draft and the addition of undrafted rookies and free-agent signings. Things start to get serious with offseason OTAs and minicamps, and then really gets cranked up with the start of training camp and the preseason.
The crescendo comes between the third and fourth preseason game, when most of the roster spots are claimed.