With training camp only 15 days away, many are wondering the areas we need to question and evaluate as the Vikings practice for several weeks in Mankato. Today Daniel House will profile the defense and answer many "burning" questions.
In this series we will ask one question about each position group and writer Daniel House will answer with his thoughts. When training camp is over, he will answer the same set of questions to add any analysis he has developed during his time in Mankato.
Defensive Line: Can Jared Allen rebound after a season plagued by injuries in 2013? Will Sharrif Floyd see extended action in the middle of the defense?
Jared Allen had a disappointing season last year and there is no other way to say it. He was like a helpless puppy most of the 2013 season and couldn't recover from the torn muscle in his shoulder. He managed to play through the injury and was subsequently successful at moments during the season. Allen is in a contract year and will need to play well in order to justify his contract being extended. With Everson Griffen emerging, the Vikings may be leaning towards the cheaper alternative, but only time will tell.
Sharrif Floyd probably won't start in 2013, but could make his way into the heart of the defense with preseason success. Floyd's supposed "short arms" are causing people to shy away from the thought of him being an option in the heart if the defense. Don't be concerned, he's a former gator, which leads me to believe he has alligator arms.
Linebackers: How will the linebacker corps be structured from a positional standpoint? Can Desmond Bishop make an impact in 2013?
The linebacker position has arguably been one of the biggest talkers for the old folks down at the local breakfast cafe. With Erin Henderson facing little experience in the middle of the defense, the Vikings snatched Desmond Bishop just days after he was released by the rival Green Bay Packers. Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti were added in the draft to supply depth. Bishop is anticipated to be ready for the season and as discussed in previous posts, he is a major upgrade to the defense. His veteran leadership, combined with his elevated play in his tenure with the Packers, all provide optimism to the position group.
Cornerbacks: Will Xavier Rhodes transition well from college to the NFL?
I find this storyline one of the more interesting areas to evaluate during my time in Mankato. If Rhodes struggles, the team will have problems handling the "pass-happy" NFC North. He is known for being an athletic, lanky, 'Nole, who loves to take his talents to South Bea..oh sorry, excuse me. Of course there will be growing pains, but by playing against the best talent in the league on a frequent basis, he should make a quick transition. It certainly will be the position the Vikings will rely on heavily as they search for success in 2013.
Safety: Who will emerge as the starter next to Harrison Smith? Will it be a rotation between Jamarca Sanford, or will one player make a push to start?
Last season, the Vikings used a "merry-go-round" carnival system at the safety position. Jamarca Sanford was the cotton candy and Mistral Raymond provided the funnel cakes. Sanford proved he could make tackles, but Raymond was more stable in the coverage aspect. This position will be won in training camp through team drills and 7-on-7 passing success. I give the early edge to Raymond, but it is way too early to tell.
I will answer these questions after the completion of training and will provide my most thorough analysis.
We will release more specific information regarding our coverage at Vikings training camp in the next week. Stay tuned!