The Minnesota Vikings are entering the closing days of training camp in Mankato and preparing for their preseason opener next week against the Buffalo Bills.
Over the 11 practices the team has held so far, here are 10 players who might not have been well known before camp (and have little-to-no NFL experience) that will leave Mankato having put themselves on the map as must-watch players for the preseason…
If you checked out of the Vikings’ Week 17 win over the Chicago Bears last season, you missed a solid performance by Hill, which gave the team enough confidence to keep him as the backup left tackle. On the first day in Mankato, Riley Reiff suffered a back injury that has kept him out since then. On a daily basis, Hill has matched up with the likes of Everson Griffen and the rest of the top-notch Vikings defensive line. The undrafted tackle who was picked up off the Jaguars’ practice squad has handled himself better against the first team than other backups have against the second team. If Hill carries over his performance to preseason games, he will be a diamond-in-the-rough find for the Vikings and a far better backup option than the team had last year at left tackle.
Looking back at college scouting reports for the former Michigan linebacker, it was clear that he had the tools to fill the spot Chad Greenway left open upon retirement. Gedeon has impressed the coaching staff enough to see first-team reps and second-team reps at three different spots – possibly preparing him for a backup role if either Eric Kendricks or Anthony Barr gets hurt during the season. Gedeon was an All-Academic player at Michigan and lauded for his instincts. Judging by his increased first-team usage, those skills are showing.
The seventh-round pick from Miami has made a strong first impression, showing his speed and ability to separate from cornerbacks. Early in his college career, Coley was a deep threat for the Hurricanes but he grew into an all-around receiver by his senior season, but struggled with consistency, according to scouting reports. However, head coach Mike Zimmer praised his consistency so far in camp, noting on Friday that Coley has been one of the depth receivers to separate himself from the pack.
The other receiver to get a Zimmer shoutout was Rodney Adams, who entered camp as one of the most intriguing players and had perhaps his best day on Friday. Adams has shown that he’s comfortable playing the slot role – though he will still have to make strides as a route runner after playing in an offense at South Florida that didn’t ask him to run much more than “go” routes and screens. During the preseason, Adams will get a shot as a kick returner.
On multiple occasions, Zimmer has pointed out that he likes what he sees from Isidora, a fifth-round pick from Miami.
“He’s got a low center of gravity, he can recover, he’s got strong hands, he’s got some power, he’s got a chance,” Zimmer said Friday.
Isidora has only seen a few first-team snaps, but he’s emerging as a possibility for the first guard up if Alex Boone or Joe Berger get hurt.
The Vikings’ kicking competition has been close between the big-legged Koehn and veteran Kai Forbath since OTAs and Minicamp. Whichever kicker has more success in the preseason games will likely be the one to win the job.
The former LSU defensive end has shown some flashes of pass rushing skill in Mankato. Bower, an undrafted free agent, didn’t put up huge numbers in college (only 4.0 sacks last season), but his 6-foot-6 frame combined with quick feet have been enough to stand out. He’s facing stiff competition with several other quality DEs battling for snaps, so Bower will have to stand out in preseason games.
While sixth-round pick Bucky Hodges entered camp as a must-watch player, Carter has seen some time with the first-team three-TE package and made the catches he’s supposed to during offense vs. defense drills in practice. Carter didn’t put up huge numbers in college at Penn State, but has speed (4.64 40-yard dash) and athleticism. He was criticized in college for not dominating as a run blocker or competing for contested throws. If Carter shows improvement in those areas, he could win the No. 3 spot or force the Vikings to keep four tight ends.
A 26-year-old wide receiver-turned-cornerback, Sinkfield has shown some ability to track wide receivers using his athleticism. Whether he can nail down the technique of playing the position in game situations is yet to be seen, but there’s a chance that if he performs well during preseason games, the former Hopkins standout could win a job on the 53-man roster.
The Northwestern standout put up huge numbers in his senior NCAA season, racking up 12 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in just 10 games last season. Odenigbo is a powerful rusher who has been a lot to handle for second-team offensive linemen.