Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Vikings training camp snapshot: Defensive line

Posted by: under Vikings, Brian Robison, Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Vikings training camp Updated: July 26, 2013 - 12:41 AM

Aaaaand …. here we go! In many ways, the Vikings’ 2013 season officially gets underway Friday – first training camp walkthrough at 10:30 a.m., first practice at 2:45 in Mankato. And yes we know a lot can and will happen between now and Sept. 8, the day the Vikings open the regular season at Detroit. But taking the 90 players currently on the roster, we’re delivering our in-depth position-by-position report as a primer for the opening of camp.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Currently on roster: 16

Likely to make opening day roster: 9

Certain to make the team: Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, Brian Robison, Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Letroy Guion, Fred Evans

On the bubble: Christian Ballard, Lawrence Jackson, Everett Dawkins, D’Aundre Reed, George Johnson

Practice squad candidates: Chase Baker, Anthony McCloud

Camp depth: Collins Ukwu, Marquis Jackson

Biggest offseason developments: The Vikings were stunned when star defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, widely projected as a top 5 pick for April’s draft, was still on the board when they came on the clock at No. 23. They didn’t hesitate a second in making Floyd their top pick, the first of three first-rounders they nabbed. … The Vikings also restructured the contract of defensive tackle Kevin Williams, reducing his 2013 pay by $2 million and eliminating the 2014 season from his current deal.

What we’ll be watching: Allen and Robison were each hampered significantly in 2012 by injuries. Allen dealt with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a meniscus issue in his left knee for most of the season. And Robison played through an elbow injury for most of the year before a severely sprained shoulder hindered his mobility even more for the final two regular season games and the playoffs.

Those physical setbacks were a partial reason the team’s sack total dipped from 50 in 2011 to 44 last season. But now both veteran ends feel as if they are back at full strength and aiming to stay as fresh as they can.

Allen’s disdain for the dog days of training camp are well documented. And he figures to add at least a couple of quips weekly to reinforce those sentiments. So it won’t be a surprise if the coaching staff ends up giving Allen several afternoons off during the stay in Mankato to keep him fresh physically and mentally.

On the interior, once the pads come on, we’ll be eager to see just how quickly Floyd adapts and excels in the middle of the defense. And it will also be a big camp for Guion, the incumbent starter at nose tackle who will have to fend off Evans to retain that role.

Star Tribune offseason excerpt:

All in all, Allen feels terrific. He’s re-energized. He’s dedicated. He’s eyeing a dominant 2013 and believes he has three or four more good seasons left.

But there is also an intriguing subplot lurking.

In April, Allen turned 31. Two months earlier, he had surgeries to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder and a meniscus problem in his right knee. And, oh yeah, he has entered the final year in his six-year contract.

So with all factors considered, could this really be Jared Allen’s last season as a Minnesota Viking? A farewell tour?

To be clear, that’s not Allen’s desire. But it could be his reality. Which is why he refuses to spend much time thinking about life beyond January.

“I pray about it,” Allen said. “I talk to my wife. And we’ll end up going where the good Lord takes us. But I don’t know where that path is headed.”

-- May 24

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