Joe Webb transitions to wide receiver after starting last year's playoff game at quarterback.
The Minnesota Vikings begin training camp on Friday, July 26, at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The team will start with a 90-man roster and eventually whittle that down to 53 players at the end of August.
As with any team, there are obvious players who are safe. Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Chad Greenway are examples of teammates who don't have to sweat the front office cuts.
However, looking over the positional battles, there are several players who are right on the cusp of either making the team or being released.
The players previewed in the following slides all have either demonstrated talent in previous years or exhibit potential following their selection in the NFL draft.
Depth at each position becomes the major inhibiting factor determining which players will make the cut.
Let's take a look at five players on the Vikings' roster bubble, each at a separate position, heading into training camp.
Roster comparison courtesy of Vikings.com.
Audie Cole has been a favorite among fans ever since he returned interceptions for touchdowns on consecutive defensive plays in last year's preseason.
That performance coupled with uncertainty at the position helped Cole make the Vikings' 53-man roster in 2012, one that included seven linebackers.
However, general manager Rick Spielman has taken steps in the draft and free agency to improve in this area for 2013, something that could leave Cole on the outside looking in.
Here are the linebackers currently on the roster for Minnesota:
- Desmond Bishop
- Audie Cole
- Larry Dean
- Chad Greenway
- Erin Henderson
- Gerald Hodges
- Michael Mauti
- Tyrone McKenzie
- Marvin Mitchell
- Nathan Williams
With the addition of Green Bay Packers cast-off Desmond Bishop, it appears he will join Greenway and Henderson as a starter.
Undrafted free agent Nathan Williams from Ohio State may have the most difficult hill to climb in making the team but could land on the practice squad.
That leaves a logjam of six players most likely contending for four remaining linebacker spots.
Sherels also filled in for the injured Percy Harvin for kickoff returns. He fielded 16 kicks for 422 yards, including a long of 41 yards.
However, with the selection of Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round of this year's draft, kickoff duties will most likely fall to the rookie from Tennessee.
Outside of special teams, Sherels has been lackluster in the backfield, where the hometown player saw extended action last season due to injury.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Sherels was thrown at 15 times in 2012, allowing 13 receptions—a completion percentage of 86.7.
Here are the cornerbacks currently on the roster for Minnesota:
- Brandon Burton
- Chris Cook
- Bobby Felder
- A.J. Jefferson
- Jacob Lacey
- Greg McCoy
- Xavier Rhodes
- Josh Robinson
- Marcus Sherels
- Roderick Williams
The Vikings kept six cornerbacks on the team last year, which would require four cuts among the current squad if they take the same approach for 2013.
Cook, Jefferson, Rhodes and Robinson will all likely make the roster, leaving Sherels to battle six players for two remaining jerseys.
The addition of former Detroit Lion Jacob Lacey also complicates matters. A player with plenty of talent to make the final roster, he is recovering from offseason thumb surgery.
Everett Dawkins was drafted in the seventh round (229th overall) by the Vikings in the 2013 NFL draft. The 6'2", 292-pound defensive tackle demonstrated great quickness off the line at Florida State, with the ability to shed blockers and disrupt an offense.
However, even with Dawkins' skills at the position, the depth chart for Minnesota among the current 90-man roster is staggering. Last year, the Vikings kept eight players on the defensive line, with an even split of four at both defensive tackle and end.
Although Dawkins was a standout defensive end in high school and originally joined Florida State at the position, he lines up best at defensive tackle, where his strengths are utilized in the middle.
Here are the defensive tackles currently on the roster for Minnesota:
- Chase Baker
- Christian Ballard
- Everett Dawkins
- Fred Evans
- Sharrif Floyd
- Letroy Guion
- Anthony McCloud
- Kevin Williams
With Floyd and Williams locks to make the 53-man roster, that likely leaves two spots up for contention. Dawkins should have the edge over former teammate and undrafted free agent Anthony McCloud, as well as 2012 practice-squad participant Chase Baker.
However, with Ballard, Evans and Guion in the mix, Dawkins will need to have an impressive training camp and preseason to slide ahead of the veteran group.
Zach Line was signed as an undrafted free agent out of SMU for the Vikings, receiving the largest signing bonus among the group ($8,000). While that provides no guarantee for his future, it's a good indication the Vikings think highly of the senior standout.
Line recorded several college accolades while at SMU, including breaking Eric Dickerson's total yardage record with 4,185 yards and tying the Hall of Famer with 47 touchdowns. He also earned three consecutive first-team All-Conference USA honors.
Although listed as a fullback, Line (6'1", 230 lbs) has a very similar build to Toby Gerhart (6'0", 231 lbs) and could be used in more traditional running plays to spell Adrian Peterson.
Here are the running backs (including fullback) currently on the roster for Minnesota:
- Matt Asiata
- Joe Banyard
- Jerome Felton
- Toby Gerhart
- Zach Line
- Adrian Peterson
- Bradley Randle
- Jerodis Williams
Last year, the Vikings kept three running backs in Peterson, Gerhart and Asiata, with Felton taking the lone fullback position.
With Felton signing a three-year, $7.5 million contract this offseason, his spot is safe as the Vikings' starting fullback (barring injury).
That leaves Line contending for two potential running back positions, with Gerhart and Asiata the likely front-runners.
According to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, the Vikings may use Gerhart as trade bait once teams get further into camp. That would certainly be one way for Line to leapfrog the depth chart, as well as simply beating out Asiata.
The Joe Webb journey continues in 2013, with the 2010 sixth-round draft pick moving from quarterback to wide receiver this upcoming season.
Webb possesses outstanding physical attributes, blending size and speed with a knack for finding space in the open field. At 6'4" and 220 pounds, the converted wide receiver posted a 42.5" vertical and 4.43 40-yard dash time during his combine workout, per CBSSports.com.
The challenge for Webb will be playing a position he has not seen significant time at since 2007 as a sophomore in college. However, his understanding of the Vikings' playbook and offensive timing should help Webb emerge from his placement on the roster bubble.
Here are the wide receivers currently on the roster for Minnesota:
- LaMark Brown
- Stephen Burton
- Greg Childs
- Erik Highsmith
- Greg Jennings
- Cordarrelle Patterson
- Jerome Simpson
- Rodney Smith
- Chris Summers
- Adam Thielen
- Joe Webb
- Jarius Wright
With a number of compelling storylines, the final wide receiver roster may prove to be the most difficult to decide among all positions. Last year, the Vikings kept six players, exactly half of the current roster.
There will likely be two spots up for grabs, with Jennings, Patterson, Simpson and Wright collecting the first four spots. Greg Childs remains a player in the mix, coming off injured reserve last year with tendon tears in both his knees.
Hometown favorite Adam Thielen has also received a lot of attention and will return to Mankato during the team's training camp. Undrafted free agent Rodney Smith may also be in contention with his size and speed as a vertical threat.
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