Leading up to the start of training camp on July 29, we will set the stage for Vikings camp by taking a look at where things stand at each position group. Today, we will continue the series with their running backs.
A QUICK REFRESHER: The team, #asexpected, kept 2015 first-team All-Pro Adrian Peterson on the roster and will pay him $12 million this season. And with that salary cap figure on the books, you can count on Peterson, who turned 31 this spring, taking on a large workload again this season. But third-year back Jerick McKinnon had a strong spring and should cut into his carries, at least a little bit, this season. The Vikings also retained fullback Zach Line and reliable veteran backup Matt Asiata with one-year deals and added rookie free agents C.J. Ham and Jhurell Pressley.
HOT CAMP STORYLINE: Peterson, as he seemingly does every other offseason, has vowed to become a better pass-catcher. But what is more relevant in regards to his playing time is whether he will be able to adapt to the shotgun spread attack that better suits third-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Peterson struggled running out of the shotgun early last season, so the Vikings started calling more under-center plays. They figure to go back to a more shotgun-centric offense this season, which means Peterson will have to make the most of his shotgun carries. He will finally get a chance to take some in contract drills during training camp.
TOP BATTLE TO WATCH: Asiata is not the fastest, strongest or most elusive runner around, but he is trustworthy, cheap and versatile, which is why the Vikings keep him around. That being said, Asiata is not secure enough to the point that he does not have to reclaim his roster spot every summer. The young whippersnappers angling for his job this year are Ham, the Duluth native who starred at Augustana, and Pressley, a record-setting back at New Mexico. Good luck snatching his spot, fellas.
POSSIBLY IN DANGER: Line showed improvement in his first year as a starter but will again have to fend off second-year fullback Blake Renaud, a former collegiate linebacker who spent 2015 on the practice squad. Line appears to have a good hold on the position, but you never know…
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Peterson remains the man in Minnesota, but McKinnon, his uber-athletic backup, reminded the Vikings late last season that he can make plays, too. Barring an injury to Peterson, McKinnon does not figure to get more than 75-100 carries this season. But if he has improved enough in pass protection, the Vikings will be able to unleash him in passing situations, when he can put his elite quickness to use.
EARLY ROSTER BREAKDOWN:
- On the 90-man roster: 5 running backs, 2 fullbacks
- Projected to make the 53-man: 3 running backs, 1 fullback
- Roster locks: 2 (Peterson, McKinnon)
- Good bets: 2 (Asiata, Line)
- Longshots: 3 (Ham, Pressley, Renaud)