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Minnesota Vikings 2014 Training Camp Preview

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(SportsNetwork.com) -

REPORT DATE: July 24

SITE: Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN

CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: The Vikings will finally sport a 21st-century defense now that Mike Zimmer has taken over the head-coaching duties from Tampa-2 acolyte Leslie Frazier. The real issue in Minneapolis, however, remains the game's most important position.

The franchise was set back years by 2011 draft bust Christian Ponder. For now, veteran Matt Cassel is the placeholder for rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater, an intriguing prospect who struggled in the pre-draft process but has drawn rave reviews from Minny offensive coordinator Norv Turner during offseason work.

On defense Minnesota re-built the front four (re-signing promising pass rusher Everson Griffen and inking ascending nose tackle Linval Joseph, along with underrated swingman Corey Wootton), and addressed cornerback as well (snaring slot star Captain Munnerlyn and the lengthy Derek Cox) in free agency.

KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Minnesota obviously needs the answer at QB and getting a player like Bridgewater, who was once considered a top-five-level prospect, with the 32nd overall pick is a prudent gamble. The Louisville product is the most polished and NFL-ready signal caller from this year's draft class.

"There is no pressure on this kid to come in and play," general manger Rick Spielman said. "We're very comfortable with Matt Cassel right now. He'll come in and compete and then the coaches will determine if he's even ready to play this year."

KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Munnerlyn is exactly what the Vikings needed. Minnesota mistakenly moved on from veteran Antoine Winfield before the 2013 season and the results were nothing short of disastrous.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Winfield was a rock at the Vikings' all- important left cornerback position and an even more critical lynchpin to the club's defensive scheme when he moved inside to play the slot on obvious passing downs.

Josh Robinson, a raw player with elite speed but little feel for coverage, was lost in Minnesota's antiquated cover-2 defensive philosophy as Winfield's replacement, and he and fellow corner Chris Cook, a lengthy player with no discernable ball skills who is now in San Francisco. were arguably the worst starting duo in the entire NFL last year.

In fact Xavier Rhodes, a first-round pick in 2013 out of Florida State, was the only bright spot at corner for the Vikings last season. Rhodes is penciled in as one starter opposite Munnerlyn, an undersized but scrappy option expected to take over the Winfield role as the corner who holds his own outside the numbers before moving inside in the nickel where "The Captain" was a difference maker with the Carolina Panthers.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):

Aug 8 - vs. Oakland, 8:00 PM Aug 16 - vs. Arizona, 8:30 PM Aug 23 - at Kansas City, 8:00 PM Aug 28 - at Tennessee, 8:00 PM

07/17 12:36:56 ET

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