Entering training camp for the 2009 season, the Minnesota Vikings have some key position battles that will be going on with some young and up-and-coming players.
Most notable will be the quarterback position and this is assuming Brett Favre won't be involved.
The Vikings wanted to bring in some competition for third-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who has been inconsistent his entire career.
These are the top five position battles that will be taking place at Vikings training camp this summer in Mankato, MN.
1. Starting Quarterback: Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels (Brett Favre?)
As much as Tarvaris Jackson has struggled in his career, my belief is that his struggles have been completely blown out of proportion compared to when he is able to effectively lead the offense.
Now, I am not saying Jackson is the future of this organization. I am just saying that it is too early to count him out.
With the addition of Rosenfels, Jackson will have his work cut out for him this summer. He will need to prove to the coaching staff that he has made progress reading defenses and can step up in the face of defensive pressure.
On the other hand, Rosenfels is a veteran who has yet to prove himself in this league. When most people hear the name Sage Rosenfels, they think of his helicopter fumble last season that led to an implosion of the Texans against the Colts and a loss at home.
For Rosenfels to win the job, he will need to show he can take care of the ball and effectively manage the offense by just doing enough.
2. Nickel Corner: Charles Gordon, Asher Allen, Benny Sapp, Karl Paymah
Gordon looked like a promising young corner in this league before suffering a severe ankle injury against the Packers last season on a punt return that ended his season. The coaching staff will like to see how his injury has progressed and if he has fully recovered, expect Gordon to have a good shot at winning back his old job.
In the third round of this year's draft, the Vikings brought in cornerback Asher Allen out of Georgia. Although Allen is a very talented corner who is not afraid of contact, I don't think he will be the day one nickel corner due to the coaching staff having other players that know the system ahead of him. Expect Allen to get more playing time as the season goes on, maybe even taking over the nickel job if whoever is starting shows inconsistency.
The Vikings acquired Benny Sapp as a free agent in 2008 and he showed some promise last year when he was thrust into the nickel job when Gordon went down. However, Sapp needs to prove that he won't commit silly penalties in critical moments of the game like he did last season.
In the 2009 free agency period, the Vikings brought in former-Bronco cornerback Karl Paymah. Paymah didn't have much playing time in Denver but obviously the personnel department liked his skills enough to bring him in. He is a speedy corner and this is the opportunity he is looking for to prove he can be an effective corner in the NFL.
3. Starting Left Defensive End: Ray Edwards, Brian Robison
Edwards was selected in the fourth round of the 2006 draft and produced right away for the Vikings up front, putting pressure on the quarterback as well as against the run. In 2007, he recorded five sacks as a backup end who came in on third downs.
However, when he was put into the starting role in 2008, he underachieved, with five sacks. Many thought Edwards was destined for more after the addition of defensive end Jared Allen on the right side, who would get more attention from the offense. This year, Edwards needs to get back to his 2007 form and pressure the quarterback to keep his starting job.
Brian Robison came to Minnesota when the Vikings selected him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft. Robison played very well in his rookie campaign, recording 4.5 sacks along with 26 tackles.
In 2008, Robison really came on towards the end of the season and played well in the Vikings playoff game against Philadelphia, pressuring quarterback Donovan McNabb into rushing his passes. This summer, Robison will try to keep that intensity and get after the quarterback to potentially land a job as the starter in 2009.
4. Center: John Sullivan, Ryan Cook
In last year's draft, the Vikings took center John Sullivan in the sixth round. They must have known that starting center Matt Birk's time as a Viking was running down and wanted a young center to learn from one of the best.
Well, this offseason, Birk signed with the Baltimore Ravens and now Sullivan will compete for a job that is mostly his to lose. After learning all of last season from a former Pro Bowl center in Birk, Sullivan will try to show the coaches he can take command of the offensive line as the starter in 2009.
Ryan Cook has had a roller coaster experience as a Viking after being selected by the team in the second round of the 2006 draft. That pick was the one the Vikings received from the Miami Dolphins in a trade in which they gave up quarterback Daunte Culpepper that previous free agency period.
Since, Cook has had some high expectations and has struggled when playing at the right tackle position. Penalties and problems with his pass blocking have haunted him. Now, Cook will move back into competing for the center position, the job he had in college.
If Cook indeed shows second round talent at that spot, it could be an interesting battle for the starting position this summer.
5. Starting Punt Returner: Bobby Wade, Bernard Berrian, Aundrae Allison, Percy Harvin
The Vikings premier starter in 2008 was wide receiver Bobby Wade but the coaching staff also used wide receivers Bernard Berrian and Aundrae Allison in that role during last season.
Berrian seemed to be the only player to make a splash at the position, taking a punt back 82 yards for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals in week 15.
In the draft, the Vikings drafted the explosive wide receiver Percy Harvin with the No. 22 overall pick. Harvin has tremendous speed and is cut out for a job as a punt returner. He reminds me a lot of Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who was a nice addition as a receiver and punt returner in Philadelphia last year after being selected in the second round.
Overall, this looks to be a very entertaining training camp for the Minnesota Vikings. Many positions are up for grabs, including two guys vying to lead the offense under center.
Trust me, I will be there to break down these position battles for you when summer arrives and the crack of the pads is heard in Mankato, Minn.
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