Training camp is going to be a critical time for the Minnesota Vikings.
After a disappointing season, the Vikings find themselves searching for answers across the offensive line and other positions as well as finding a way to get back to the playoffs.
However, training camp always offers exciting times for the team’s players and fans. Here is a list of positions to keep an eye on during training camp and the preseason:
The purple gang still boasts a top-five defense, and that’s not about to change anytime soon.
On the defensive line, the Vikings boast three pro-bowl players in Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen (who despite his personal health issues is still a quarterback nightmare) and Linval Joseph.
Last season the team signed Sheldon Richardson to a one-year deal. Long story short, Richardson tore it up and helped the Vikings reach the highest sack total (50) since Mike Zimmer was hired in 2014.
Now that Richardson left for the Browns in Free Agency, that leaves a big hole on the other side of Linval Joseph who constantly requires a to double-team from opposing offensive lines.
The Vikings selected Jaleel Johnson in the fourth round (109th overall) of the 2017 NFL draft. Johnson didn’t see much action in his first year (appeared in five games, recorded one tackle), but played in all 16 games for the Vikings in 2018 and recorded half a sack.
The Vikings also selected Jalyn Holmes out of Ohio State in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL draft. Holmes also didn’t see much action in his first year with the Vikings, but still managed to record one sack against the Jets in week seven last season.
General Manager Rick Speilman was excited about the development of Holmes, saying that Holmes was over 300 pounds when he reported for offseason training.
The latest addition to the defensive line was Armon Watts who the Vikings got in the sixth round (190th overall) of the 2019 NFL draft.
Watts was only a one-year starter at Arkansas, but recorded seven sacks and proved to be one of the only bright spots on an otherwise porous Arkansas defense.
Look for Shamar Stephen to have his hands full, and the competition at defensive tackle to be a lively one.
I know. The Vikings don’t need another top wide receiver on account of boasting one of the best wide receiver combos in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
But, the Vikings could use someone to take the pressure off of Thielen and Diggs.
Other than Thielen and Diggs, the Vikings don’t have a viable option for a third wide receiver.
After losing Aldrick Robinson, who caught 17 passes and five touchdowns last year, the Vikings need one of the receivers on the roster to step it up.
Laquaon Treadwell’s fifth-year option was declined by the Vikings which indicates that he won’t be around after this year.
Treadwell to this point has been an absolute first-round bust and hasn’t lived up to the expectations of a number-one wide receiver. Especially after catching just 56 passes for 517 yards and scoring one touchdown in the last three seasons with Minnesota.
In the seventh round of the 2019 NFL draft, the Vikings took Dillon Mitchell out of Oregon.
Mitchell broke Oregon’s single-season receiving yards record last season (1,184 yards) and scored 10 touchdowns for the Ducks.
Mitchell also ran a 4.46 at the NFL combine, and while he may need to work on his hands, he should at least compete with Treadwell for the third receiver slot.
The Vikings also selected Olabisi Johnson from Colorado State in the seventh round with the 247th overall pick.
Johnson may not be an elite athlete, but he runs solid routes and has good hands. Johnson also caught 54 passes for 796 yards last season for the Rams and wrangled in four touchdowns as well.
This unit was the Achilles heel of the Vikings last year.
The offensive line allowed Kirk Cousins to be sacked 40 times last year. Cousins was also pressured on most of his dropbacks last season.
With the 18th pick in the 2019 NFL draft, the Vikings took Garrett Bradbury from NC State. Bradbury will be plugged in to start at center which will push Pat Elflein to guard where he should thrive as it’s more of a natural position.
The Vikings also selected Dru Samia, a guard from Oklahoma in the fourth round with the 114th pick. Samia at the very least will come in and fight for a guard spot if not take it.
Samia’s toughness, grit, and attitude should make him a future starter and possible pro bowler in the NFL.
Brian O’Neill, who was a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL draft a year ago, played admirably in his first year with the Vikings. O’Neill can’t become complacent and must push to continue to be a viable option at right tackle for the Vikings.
Reilly Reiff was a serviceable left tackle for the Vikings last season, and shouldn’t expect any competition in training camp. However, Reiff turned 30 last December, and the Vikings could look to find his replacement in the near future.
2017 fifth-round selection Danny Isidora has appeared in 21 regular season games for the Vikings, starting three over the past two seasons.
The Vikings signed guard Josh Kline in free agency. Kline had a down year for the Titans in 2018 but could bounce back for the Vikings next season.
Elflein, Samia, Isidora, and Kline will all battle for the guard spots. Expect a dog fight.
In the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, the Vikings took tight end Irv Smith Jr. who caught seven touchdowns for Alabama last year.
The Alabama pass catcher also ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the combine, and the speed shows on tape.
Kyle Rudolph has never been a blazing tight end or an elite tight end for that matter. Rudolph has never elapsed the 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns mark in a single season.
However, he has been key component of the Vikings passing game as he is the all-time leader in touchdown catches by a tight end (41). That’s not even to mention what Rudolph does in the community for the Vikings.
Still, it’s looking as if Rudolph won’t be with the Vikings for much longer. Smith Jr. is the better receiving option and is younger and cheaper. The only knock on Smith Jr. is that he’s not the kind of blocker that Rudolph is.
Depending on how the competition in all of these positions goes, the Vikings could find a way into the playoffs if everything goes according to plan.
Expect a strong preseason from the Vikings, and some no-name players get their shot on the 53 man roster.