All arrows are pointing to Sept. 11, the day the Vikings open the regular season on Monday Night Football against the New Orleans Saints. But first things first: There are some issues that still need to be sorted out, starting here in training camp. From Xavier Rhodes’ contract to finding a replacement for retired Chad Greenway, these are some of the more pressing questions facing the Vikings today:
1. Will the offensive line come together?
The Vikings got serious about fixing their offensive line in the offseason, handing out nearly $100 million in partially guaranteed contracts to offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers and trading up to draft center Pat Elflein in the third round. With Alex Boone and Joe Berger returning at guard, the only camp competition up front is between Elflein and young veteran Nick Easton. Hopefully, the Vikings will get that one figured out quickly so a starting quintet has time to click. Depth remains a major concern, though, after injuries at tackle loomed large in last season’s collapse.
2. Who seizes starting jobs on defense?
The departures of Greenway and Captain Munnerlyn, and a career-threatening medical issue with Sharrif Floyd, mean that coach Mike Zimmer has three significant roles to fill on defense. At Greenway’s old weak-side linebacker spot, Emmanuel Lamur and Edmond Robinson will duke it out. Vying to replace Munnerlyn as the slot cornerback are the ageless Terence Newman and second-year pro Mackensie Alexander. And a handful of players are in the mix at defensive tackle, with Tom Johnson looking to hold off newcomers Datone Jones and rookie Jaleel Johnson at that position.
3. When will Xavier Rhodes get his deal?
Last season, his fourth in the NFL, Rhodes established himself as one of the better cornerbacks in the league. While he still experiences lapses in intensity and is prone to penalty flags, he’s difficult to beat deep and rises to the challenge against top pass catchers such as Odell Beckham Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Rhodes is someone the Vikings will try to lock up in the coming days. As long as he isn’t seeking a record-shattering payday, it is likely a matter of when and not if the Vikings sign the 27-year-old to a lucrative extension.
4. Can Laquon Treadwell keep up his strong play from spring ?
After a disappointing rookie season during which he couldn’t overtake Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson on the receiving depth chart and finished with only one catch, the 2016 first-round draft pick garnered plenty of praise from coaches this spring. Sure, maybe some of that was the Vikings trying to pump up his confidence after a tough debut. But Treadwell did look noticeably better during practices open to the media. Another year removed from a significant leg injury, he moved with more fluidity and had a bit more burst. Will he keep rising once the pads come on?
5. What’s next for Teddy Bridgewater?
Zimmer said Sunday that he thinks Bridgewater, who is now 11 months removed from the devastating knee injury that put his young career in jeopardy, will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list. The fact that the coach didn’t declare that with certainty shows how far Bridgewater has come in his recovery. He is far enough along that he will at least continue throwing to uncovered receivers during position drills before ducking out to do rehab work. The question is whether he can make enough progress to get the green light to jump in team drills down here.