Minnesota Vikings' 5 Players Facing Make or Break Training Camps

Mike Nelson@Mike_E_NelsonCorrespondent IJuly 19, 2013

Minnesota Vikings' 5 Players Facing Make or Break Training Camps

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    Desperation is nearly in the air for some around the NFL. For others, training camp is no big deal.

    Just look at Jared Allen.

    Last week he told NFL.com that he would "unfortunately" be ready for training camp in Mankato, Minn.

    His roster spot is set. He's been a Viking for five seasons, knows the defense and knows his role.

    The purpose of training camp for him is to simply get in shape and get re-acclimated.

    Meanwhile, others are fighting for their football lives.

    Training camp is make or break for the undrafted free agents that Minnesota has signed this offsseason. That's a given.

    Since most of them won't make the team, are they worth your time and mine to review? You can decide for yourself, but I don't think so.

    The following five players are all assured of roster spots and most of them will be major contributors.

    But they're official role is still up in the air. This training camp is their time to demonstrate that they should be starters even though not all of them will be.

    It's time to put up or shut up and accept a lesser role.

Cornerback Josh Robinson

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    Think back to your first day at a new job. Were you nervous?

    I bet you were, at least slightly.

    Josh Robinson enters Vikings' training camp with a new job. Barring a substantial letdown, Rookie Xavier Rhodes will start across from Chris Cook as Minnesota's two cornerbacks.

    Should that hold, Robinson's best chance to see as much playing time as possible would be to play slot. Unfortunately for the Vikings, that's a position he told the Star Tribune that he has never played and didn't study last season.

    Robinson is likely to go through ups and downs as he acclimates himself with his new role. That's to be expected, but he must also show signs of growth in the process. He can't make the same mistakes repeatedly without punishment or reduced playing time.

    It's on Robinson to show the coaches that he can handle his new job or else they'll find someone who can.

Linebacker Erin Henderson

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    Notice the position designation of Erin Henderson atop this slide? Linebacker. Not outside or middle linebacker. Just linebacker.

    That's because we don't really know where Henderson will play this season.

    Most expect him to move back outside, but as Fox Sports North reports, nothing has been determined yet.

    Henderson was adamant that he would be Minnesota's middle linebacker before the Vikings signed former Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop. Back on June 18, Henderson told 1500 ESPN, "I'm playing the Mike."

    Henderson also said that he hadn't played anywhere other than middle linebacker and he hadn't been asked to play elsewhere.

    To the outside observer, it makes sense (on paper) to move Bishop to middle linebacker at his natural spot and have Henderson play outside linebacker, where he's played his entire career.

    Training camp will determine Henderson's fate for 2013 and possibly the rest of his Vikings' career.

Defensive Tackle Letroy Guion

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    There were no doubts last season about who was starting next to Kevin Williams at defensive tackle.

    It was Letroy Guion.

    Fred Evans, however, has something to say about that entering this training camp.

    Evans took the first round of first-team snaps during OTAs, which led to speculation about Guion losing his spot next to Williams.

    Head coach Leslie Frazier confirmed to 1500 ESPN that coaches on his staff would like to see Evans get a shot to start.

    "We'll just see if he can continue to elevate his play, and if he does, he'll be in line for more snaps with the first unit," Frazier said.

    Guion, 26, didn't overwhelm in his first full season as a starter with his 31 tackles, two sacks and zero forced fumbles. He showed glimpses of potential, but nothing consistent.

    Meanwhile, the 29-year-old Evans was much more consistent down the stretch last season and has more experience than Guion.

    Given this team's plan to compete for the postseason again in 2013, Guion's upside can only carry so much weight.


Wide Receiver Jerome Simpson

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    Round 1 in Minnesota didn't go so well for Jerome Simpson.

    He's hoping Round 2 will be better, and so are the Vikings.

    With a very young receiving corps in Minnesota, Simpson is the veteran of the group at 27 years old and with just one 16-game season under his belt.

    Last season, Simpson caught 26 passes for 274 yards with no touchdowns. He was supposed to be the deep threat that Minnesota had lacked.

    Instead, he was just a deep disappointment.

    This year, Simpson is expected to open training camp as the starter opposite of Greg Jennings.

    Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota's third first-round pick of the 2013 NFL draft, isn't expected to be polished to open the season. That's should provide Simpson an opening to start out.

    These are big expectations for Simpson and nothing is a given for him. Should he struggle or he have off-field issues, Patterson will get his shot.

    Minnesota has some depth at receiver this year, which means Simpson must earn his playing time. If he struggles, he could quickly slide down the depth chart.

Safety Mistral Raymond

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    It's always amazing what a difference a year makes.

    One year ago, Mistral Raymond was expected to be the leader of the Vikings' safeties, with Harrison Smith and Jamarca Sanford expected to compete for the spot next to him

    Most had projected Sanford to start and eventually concede to Smith.

    Fast forward to now, where Smith is the leader of the safeties and Raymond is on the verge of becoming a backup.

    Smith and Sanford are penciled in as the starters entering camp, but Raymond should have a shot to unseat Sanford. Smith, the 29th overall pick in 2012, is an all-around play-making safety who has solidified as a starter. That's not the case with Sanford.

    Smith has been in and out of Minnesota's starting defensive backfield while being a standout on special teams.

    Sanford is known as a hard hitter who excels in helping the run defense, but not in coverage. Raymond is known for his cover skills, but is prone to mental mistakes.

    If Raymond doesn't step up in camp, or luck out and have an injury create an opportunity for him, the new status quo in the secondary could have him as a backup.