EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- After a year on the Vikings' practice squad, the timing might have worked out just right for Bobby Felder.
He's competing for a cornerback spot after the Vikings let Antoine Winfield go, reducing their depth at the position and putting it mostly in the hands of younger players. He's the kind of rangy, physical corner the team is now trying to groom after drafting Xavier Rhodes and making plans to include more press coverage in their repertoire. He is competing for the punt returner job with Marcus Sherels, who took one punt back for a 77-yard touchdown last September but averaged just 6.77 yards on his other 31 returns. And so far this preseason, Felder has proved adept at downing rookie Jeff Locke's Australian-style punts deep in opposing territory.
The 22-year-old has become one of the surprises of Vikings camp largely because of all the ways he's shown he can add value to their roster. In the end, he might do enough to get himself into game action this year.
Felder got beat for a 34-yard touchdown in the Vikings' first preseason game when he jumped too early to take a ball away from Houston's DeAndre Hopkins, but was able to break up two goal-line passes thrown in his direction later in the game. His night on defense wasn't as busy last Friday against Buffalo -- "He made the plays that were at him," defensive coordinator Alan Williams said -- but Felder shone on special teams, downing two of Locke's punts inside the Bills' 10-yard line and taking one punt return back 37 yards.
He could be another option for the Vikings if Josh Robinson isn't able to replace Winfield at slot corner, and the Vikings will take a long look at him on defense this Sunday night against San Francisco.
"This will be a big week for Bobby. He’s going to get some extended snaps in the nickel situations as well as special teams," Frazier said. "He did some good things in the Buffalo game; those returns were very good, he was good in covering kicks as well, so we need to get some views of him this week and next week and try to see where he is."
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer praised Felder's work on Wednesday, too, and when decisions have to be made on the final roster spots, the special teams coordinator often plays a key role in determining who stays and who goes. If the Vikings like Felder more than Sherels as a punt returner and coverage man, it could mean as much as their opinion of both players on defense.
Whatever happens, Felder has put himself in the mix for a job with the Vikings. And if he wins a spot, he could have a confluence of fortunate circumstances to thank.