Three questions outside of the ongoing Vikings quarterback saga remain intriguing heading into Training Camp.
Will rookie wide receiver Percy Harvin make an immediate impact in the offense? How will center John Sullivan respond to replacing departed Pro-Bowler Matt Birk? And in a less pressing matter, how will third-round pick Asher Allen fit into the team’s plans at the cornerback position?
Let’s start with Sullivan. Here’s a guy who certainly proved in college he can earn respect on the field and play a pivotal role in an offense.
At Notre Dame, the 6'4", 301-pound Sullivan worked on the scout team during his first season with the Irish before jumping into the starting lineup in 2004. He’d remain in the starting lineup for his final three collegiate seasons.
Now second-year professional is assumed to be the one taking over for Birk, a six-time Pro-Bowler who spend the first 11 years of his career with the Vikings.
Known as a fixture of Minnesota’s line for a decade, Birk’s move to Baltimore creates an open hole in the middle of the Vikings offensive line, one the team thinks Sullivan can quickly fill.
For a Minnesota team dependent on its line to block for All-Pro Adrian Peterson, Sullivan’s immediate presence is essential. He’ll dictate just how quickly Minnesota adapts to having a new face in the starting center position.
Harvin’s situation is equally compelling. Known as perhaps the most dynamic offensive threat in college football last season, Harvin’s hands, speed and play-making ability—if smoothly translated to the NFL level—would make Minnesota’s offense devastatingly diverse.
The question lies in Harvin’s size, where at 5'11" and 192 pounds, he’ll need to be able to create separation from defenders if he wants to consistently get touches. Gut instincts say that a man with his track record on the field will be able to make such adjustments with the help of a well thought out game plan.
Perhaps the most obscure of the three question marks is Allen, who became a reliable corner at Georgia while playing in the ultra-physical Southeastern Conference.
Allen proved he can make plays when it counts, as he recorded a career-high 11 tackles against No. 16 Alabama in 2007 and had two interceptions against Hawaii in that season’s Sugar Bowl, according to the Bulldogs Website.
His 5-foot-10, 188-pound frame is quick and made for open-field tackles and pass breakups. He’s essentially Antoine Winfield’s size and, compared to Winfield’s career at Ohio State, is a comparable player.
But with Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Charles Gordon and Benny Sapp on the roster at the cornerback position, how much time might the rookie get?
That depends on Training Camp, of course, but judging by the Sapp’s keen knack for picking up untimely, costly penalties in pivotal junctures of Vikings games, one might think Allen could creep up the depth chart this summer.
And who knows? If Allen pans out to be the type of corner Winfield became during his NFL career, he could become a suitable replacement if Winfield does not re-sign with Minnesota next offseason.