Through the first weeks of what looks to be a really good training camp so far, there are a few takeaways that I have for the Minnesota Vikings ahead of their first pre-season game against the Seattle Seahawks.
A Very Stacked Receiver Room
Possibly the most evident observation of Vikings training camp so far is how good the receiver room has shown to be. To start off with the obvious, Justin Jefferson was and still is the very best receiver in all of football. It seems like day after day there is just a truly amazing clip of Justin making either some great catch or tuning a tough route that completely shreds the corner guarding him. K.J Osborn heading into a contract season has been really solid of course and I can see still being the very reliable and mature hard working receiver that he is. Now the most shocking thing so far is how elite 1st round pick Jordan Addison looks right now. Especially in the night practice but overall it is just catch after catch and route after route that just looks so fluid and athletic. He’s effortlessly fast and shows great hands and field awareness, even making multiple toe tapping catches in practice. The room caps off with nice depth with Nailor showing flashes but currently dealing with injuries, Reagor and Powell in the midst of not only trying to make the team as a receiver but in an intense punt returner competition. Finally my absolute favorite is Trishton Jackson a guy who has come from Kevin O’Conell’s rams regime. Jackson has yet to make an NFL roster but has all the traits and ability of a capable NFL reciever, paired with NFL X receiver size.
Interior Offensive Line Woes
It is no secret that the interior offensive line was really bad last season and got pushed completely around. The catalyst of most of the Viking’s mistakes upfront last year all started with rookie guard Ed Ingram and guard Ezra Cleveland (Mostly Ed Ingram). The rookie ranked first in pressures allowed for interior linemen and was frankly terrible for the protection of Kirk Cousins, as was evident of course in the Netflix Documentary. The interesting part is that last week they brought in former Denver Broncos guard dalton Risner to sit down and have an Interview. Now as of right now it hasn’t amounted to anything and he has not signed, it is very telling of what their opinion is of the current situation at guard is.
Questionable Cornerback Situation
The cornerback room is under a lot of pressure to not be bad in defensive coordinator Brian Flores’s first season with the team. This is really interesting because of the amount of picks contributed to this room and the amount of scrutiny that this room has faced. In the offseason they signed a pretty good young corner in Byron Murphy from Arizona. Murphy was signed to be the teams CB1, so for his first season getting acclimated to Minnesota he’s going to have a lot of expectations and a large burden to carry with him likely guarding the opposing team’s best pass catcher week in and week out. The coaching staff also really loves sophomore corner Akayleb Evans who got some shine last year (primarily in the Commanders game), but his season was cut short due to multiple concussions. Coaches rave about his size and man to man instincts and I see him as a lock for the team’s CB2 position. The biggest disappointment is definitely 2022 2nd round pick Andrew booth who is currently pretty locked in as a backup right now and has had a career so far heavily plagued with injury. The biggest surprise is Meckhi Blackmon, the former teammate of 2023 1st round pick Jordan Addison seems to be sliding above the others and getting work as the teams CB3 as of right now. Nothing is for certain but it seems to be that this cornerback room is not as bad as people are making them out to be publicly.
UDFA Ivan Pace J.r is a starter?
Yes, somehow someway a undrafted free agent has made his way onto not only the main rotation, but on the first team as a linebacker rushing the passer. Now contrary to much belief this is not really a tell of the defense being bad. It is more of an example of Pace being much better than expected, so maybe Kwesi has found a diamond in the rough and a key steal as a UDFA.
What To Look for Next?
As the Vikings head into their match against the Seahawks, I would say to have an eye out for Lewis Cine and his playmaking potential because he is looking to try and overtake starter Cam Bynum for the team’s starting safety job. Another rookie that seems to be making waves is the rookie from LSU Jaquealin Roy. He could have a nice impact in the preseason and possibly make a case to eventually be starting. Finally Jaren Hall should be fun to watch but as of right now I don’t see him making the team. The same can be said for the kicking competition, Jack Podlesny has an absolute cannon for a leg and it should be fun watch him compete with Greg Joseph.