National journalist Peter King attended training camps of 21 different NFL teams in 2019, filling his voluminous "Football Morning in America" columns after conducting deep dives with coaches and players.
Earlier this month, King visited Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center to report on all of the changes that have been implemented to prepare the Vikings headquarters for Verizon Vikings Training Camp during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Rookies, quarterbacks and select players reported July 23, and the remainder of the roster arrived Tuesday, starting the ball rolling after a virtual offseason program.
King spoke with Vikings Entertainment Network's Gabe Henderson and outlined what he expects from the Vikings in 2020.
In homage to his column's recurring feature "10 Things I Think I Think," here seven big thoughts King shared.
1. Expecting an explosive offense?
King said the Vikings "have a chance to be an explosive offense" because he likes the combination of QB Kirk Cousins and RB Dalvin Cook.
"If I was a Vikings fan, what I'd be really excited about is a healthy Dalvin Cook, theoretically for a full season. Dalvin Cook is what Kirk Cousins really, really needs," King said. "He can definitely be a quarterback's best friend.
"The one thing that you saw last year that the Vikings handled well is an offense that basically threw the ball 10 times a game less in 2019 than in 2018," King later added. "It was actually a better offense, so I do think if they can have that good 1-2 punch at the running back position [with Cook and Alexander Mattison] that they had last year, I really like what I'm going to see out of the Vikings."
2. A good investment
Even if the Vikings lean heavily on the run game under Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak, but it's still a quarterback-driven league.
"I can't think of a single team out there that's a contender to play deep into January that doesn't have a quarterback that's a top-10-or-12 quarterback in the NFL," King said.
"I think Kirk Cousins is going to have a very good year," he added. "I think he's going to prove that the Vikings made the right decision in investing in him, even though it's more for the mid-term future. I think they did a smart thing in investing in him so that he can be the quarterback going forward for the next three years."
3. Replacing Diggs' production
Stefon Diggs was traded to Buffalo in March after totaling 4,623 yards and 30 touchdown catches in his first five pro seasons. He led Minnesota with 1,130 yards and six scores on 63 receptions and 94 targets in 2019.
Adam Thielen missed all of six games and parts of two others because of a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 7 at Detroit. He opened 2019 ablaze with six scores in the first seven weeks of the season.
" 'Adam Thielen, is he going to be healthier than he was a year ago?' Even though they're without Stefon Diggs, you look at it and say, 'Have they replaced Stefon Diggs in this lineup?' I think they have, maybe not exactly the production, but you also remember that, theoretically, Thielen is there more and plays more effectively than a year ago, I think that is also going to make up for some of the loss of Diggs," King said.
View photos of Vikings veteran players returning to TCO Performance Center to kick off 2020 training camp.
4. More help on the way
King said he thinks the Vikings "drafted well and drafted smart." That begins with receiver Justin Jefferson, who was drafted at No. 22 with one of the picks obtained for Diggs.
"I'm not a huge college football watcher, but last year I watched two LSU games from start to finish, the Alabama game and the [FBS] National Championship Game, and Justin Jefferson looks to me like an NFL receiver, or he looked like an NFL receiver last year," King said. "I think he's a precise route runner, I think he's got very good hands and I think he's fearless. I think a lot of people will look at him and say, 'Maybe he's not as fast as a [Henry] Ruggs, maybe he doesn't have some of the experience of a Stefon Diggs,' but I thought, you can always say this about players in the draft, I thought he would be gone by 15 or 17, somewhere around there."
5. Eyes on Gladney
The Vikings drafted twice in the first round for the first time since 2014. After picking Jefferson, Minnesota traded down from its initial position at 25 to 31 and tabbed cornerback Jeff Gladney.
"I think as much as you question how Justin Jefferson is going to do and how important he is to this team this year, I'll tell you, Gladney is huge to this team this year," King said. "He's huge, because if you are in a division where Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers, both of them have a good chance to throw for over 4,500 yards, one quarter of your season schedule is against two quarterbacks who are top five in the league in yards by the end of the year. You know that both of those guys are going to be looking at this young Minnesota secondary and are going to be testing a guy like Gladney very early and very often."
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of January 4, 2021.
6. Hand in hand
Those tasked with covering opponents can get a big help from a good pass rush, which generations of Vikings fans have observed over decades.
The seventh decade in franchise history has a new look up front.
Sure, pass-rush prodigy Danielle Hunter is returning after back-to-back seasons with 14.5 sacks, but longtime veteran Everson Griffen opted to void his contract and become a free agent. He remains unsigned.
"The one other thing about the Vikings that I wonder about ... I'm going to be interested to see what happens now with Danielle Hunter with or without Everson Griffen," King said. "I've always thought Everson Griffen is potentially such a difference maker in almost every game he plays."
7. The effects of expanded playoffs
Heading into Week 17 of the 2019 season, the Vikings were locked in at the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
Zimmer deliberated which starters should play and how much, opting to rest most in a decision that may or may not have helped Minnesota upset New Orleans as a road underdog in the Wild Card round.
The playoffs have now been expanded by one slot for the NFC and AFC in 2020. Rather than earning a bye and hosting a Divisional game (like the 2017 Vikings did), the No. 2 seed in each conference will now host the No. 7 seed in the opening weekend of the playoffs.
Aside from adding an extra bonus to being the No. 1 seed, what does King think the expansion will cause?
"I think there's a better chance that every team is going to have to play 16 games than maybe two or three teams saying, 'Well, we're locked in to where we are, so we don't have to play in Week 17,' " King said. "One of the other really interesting things is over the years, obviously teams want that No. 1 seed, but in essence, if they already have one of those two seeds clinched, most coaches are going to lean toward resting a few players if these coaches can. I think that's probably going to change. You're probably going to see more meaningful football played in Week 17."
Sounds great, except for the No. 2 seeds.