The 2011 Minnesota Vikings training camp is rolling along, and although there is a long way to go before the final cuts, the roster is beginning to take shape.
The Vikings have a lot of work in a very short amount of time. Coaches are trying to evaluate players, while players fight for roster spots.
After spending a few days watching the Vikings practice in Mankato and reading countless news articles, I have compiled a list of 12 players that have been impressive through the first week and a half of training camp.
There are certain players that we expect to look good in training camp. For that reason, I will be excluding the following players: Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, E.J. Henderson, Chad Greenway, Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin (who is coming off back-to-back knee surgeries, but is a true professional).
For a rookie, Mistral Raymond has demonstrated reasonably solid fundamentals.
He has spent most of his time with the second-team defense, but has shown good instincts and ball-hawking ability.
Coach Frazier seems to be pleased with Raymond's performance so far.
Though Raymond has virtually no chance of winning a starting job in training camp, he has pretty much solidified his roster spot. And there's always a chance that he could work his way into the starting lineup later in the season.
As an undrafted rookie, Devon Torrence is making a good impression. When the ball is thrown his way, he always seems to be in a position to make a play.
On Friday, Torrence picked off Ponder's pass intended for Stephen Burton and took it back for a touchdown. Then on Monday, Torrence almost picked off two more of Ponder's passes.
Torrence is unlikely to make the final roster, but he has a great shot at making the Vikings' practice squad.
D'Aundre Reed had a great day on Monday, recording two sacks while working with the second-team defense. The first sack came against veteran Ryan Cook, and the second one was against newly acquired journeyman Scott Kooistra.
Early last week, Reed made an impressive play by breaking up a screen pass during team drills.
Displaying good strength and quickness off the edge, Reed has flashed great potential, but he still faces an uphill battle to make the Vikings' final roster.
Matt Asiata is another undrafted rookie who has looked good in camp thus far.
He has displayed good athleticism and has shown that he can catch the ball out of the backfield.
Asiata would likely be used as a fullback, but is getting more reps at halfback as training camp progresses.
He is making a strong case to be included on the Vikings final roster, but he must beat out Ryan D'Imperio for the job.
Lorenzo Booker has been having a strong camp.
There was one particular play that stood out last Friday. Going against a full defense, Booker took the handoff from Ponder and started left. The blocking broke down and Booker reversed direction, beating Everson Griffin and Heath Farwell to the pylon for a touchdown.
Booker has also been working on returning kicks and punts.
He has been hitting the holes quickly and decisively, and could challenge Toby Gerhart for the third-down role this season.
Jamarca Sanford, who started the final two games of the 2010 season at free safety, has been showing up around the ball a lot during the early stages of training camp.
Early last week he made a nice play on a deflected pass to come up with the interception. He has also looked quick to the ball during blitzing drills.
He is known as a hard hitter, but will have to wait until the first preseason game to really lower his shoulder pads and deliver a big blow.
Sanford is the early-camp favorite to win the starting free safety job.
Jaymar Johnson is another young player that is pushing for more playing time this season. After spending all of last season on injured reserve, Johnson looks stronger, faster and ready to contribute.
He has put on a good showing at receiver, making many nice catches while working with the second-team offense.
He has also looked sharp while returning punts in practice, showing his exceptional quickness and speed.
Johnson appears to be in the driver's seat for the Vikings' fourth-receiver spot, and is likely a top candidate to return punts this season.
Last season, Letroy Guion was impressive in a backup role, and it looks like he has carried that momentum into training camp.
Although he has jumped offsides a handful of times, Guion has looked very quick getting off the snap and is quickly becoming a disruptive force on the defensive line.
Guion will get a chance to display his skills on the field this Saturday during the Vikings' first preseason game against the Tennessee Titans.
He has been steadily improving over his young career and could be an opening day starter if Kevin Williams is forced to serve his four-game suspension.
With the loss of veteran Ben Leber, Erin Henderson looks primed to take on a starting position.
Henderson added yoga to his offseason training routine in an attempt to increase his explosiveness, and it appears to be paying off.
He has consistently shown the ability to penetrate into the backfield and make stops.
Henderson has been "penciled in" as the starting weakside linebacker, and it doesn't appear that things will change.
The Vikings' newest wide receiver, Michael Jenkins, is clearly comfortable with Bill Musgrave's offense.
While Jenkins hasn't looked particularly explosive coming out of his breaks, he has also shown deceptive speed and good hands.
Last week during team drills, Jenkins toasted cornerback Chris Cook for an 80-yard touchdown reception.
Jenkins may not have the ability of a player like Sidney Rice, but he has been impressive so far and is a lock for one of the Vikings' top three receiver spots.
Left to right: Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Kevin Williams
After spending four years buried on the depth chart behind Ray Edwards, Brian Robison will finally get a chance to become a full-time player for the Vikings' defense.
Robison, who is known for his athletic ability, looks quicker than ever this year. He has had no trouble embarrassing the Vikings' right tackle, Phil Loadholt, during team drills.
He has recorded several sacks throughout camp and appears ready for the increased workload this season. He has also shown improvement in his run-stopping ability.
Robison will start at left defensive end, opposite Jared Allen.
On his first day of practice, McNabb immediately completed four out of five passes (all to tight ends), but eventually began to show off the big, powerful arm that he is known for.
He is having a good camp. He is learning the offense and getting familiar with his new weapons.
McNabb has struggled at times, but it looks like the Vikings made the right choice when they traded for him.
Although both Christian Ponder and Joe Webb have looked good at times, McNabb gives the Vikings the veteran leadership needed to compete for a Super Bowl this season.