EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings Training Camp presented by Omni Viking Lakes Hotel transitioned to the field Wednesday with its first practice session open to media members.
As the team continues its ramp-up period, Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune is providing a "training camp preview" that dives into each position. He recently rolled out his prospectus on Vikings running backs, noting that Alexander Mattison is stepping "into the largest role of his career as the leader of a young backfield."
[Ty] Chandler, the 2022 fifth-round pick, split second-team reps this spring with [Kene] Nwangwu, the dynamic kick returner. Head Coach Kevin O'Connell mentioned both running backs when discussing the open competition behind Mattison. [DeWayne] McBride, the seventh-round pick out of Alabama-Birmingham, will also be in the mix.
[C.J.] Ham, the fullback who turned 30 this month, signed a two-year extension in March before entering what would've been a contract season. The Duluth Denfeld graduate returns as one of the longest-tenured Vikings players on a deal scheduled through 2025.
Krammer opined the top competition within the position group is for a No. 2 back behind Mattison, and he called Mattison his "player to watch."
View photos of players during 2023 Vikings Training Camp practice on July 26 at the TCO Performance Center.
Lastly, Krammer offered one "big question" for the group: Will the run game become a counterpunch?
O'Connell said the Vikings have prioritized finding better ways to counter the defensive attention receiver Justin Jefferson commands. One possibility is a more efficient run game after the Vikings ranked 26thin yards per carry, 27thin attempts and 31stin big-play runs (20-plus yards) last season. [Vikings General Manager Kwesi] Adofo-Mensah allocated the resources, [extending] Ham and inking ex-Ravens tight end (and well-rated run blocker) Josh Oliver. … The Vikings also return the entire starting offensive line, which helped produce 107 rushing yards per week through nine games before left tackle Christian Darrisaw's first concussion. They averaged 84.3 rushing yards in the final nine games while injuries ravaged the line.
'Purple Insider' spotlights Trishton Jackson
The Vikings receivers room has ample talent, and while the bigger names – Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn and first-round draft pick Jordan Addison – are well recognized, other youngsters in the room are vying for a role on the team.
Matthew Coller of "Purple Insider" spoke with Trishton Jackson Wednesday about his growth and training camp goals. Coller wrote:
Along with K.J. Osborn and rookie Cephus Johnson, Jackson stayed around to get more reps on the Jugs machine, catching rocket after rocket at close range on the empty field at TCO Performance Center.
Since arriving at training camp last year, all Jackson has done is catch everything that comes his way. He won a practice squad job over former draft pick Ihmir Smith-Marsette and then showed out during OTAs and minicamp this year when Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison weren't practicing.
Jackson told Coller he "channels his basketball background when it comes to making high-difficulty catches."
In high school, Jackson averaged 22.5 points per game as a junior and was named to MLive.com's Detroit "Dream Team" as a senior. But despite his natural ball-tracking ability, Jackson has taken a long road to the point where he's competing for a roster spot with the Vikings.
Coller noted that Jackson went undrafted after a "breakout junior year" at Syracuse and signed with the Rams in 2020 as a UDFA.
The following season, Jackson was part of L.A.'s final cuts. It's ironic that he was signed to the practice squad by the Vikings in early September 2021 because a year later his former Offensive Coordinator Kevin O'Connell would show up in Minnesota as the Vikings new head coach. That gave him an instant advantage considering the challenges that KOC's offense creates for receivers.
"The hardest thing is knowing every position," Jackson told Coller. "We play a big part of the offense in the run game and the passing game, so it's marrying both of them and learning every position to do so. Staying book heavy in the run and pass game, lining up everywhere across the field, cut splits, max splits, it can get confusing to some people."
Jackson, who turned 25 in March, helped bring along the other receivers in the room last year. The more he helped teach everyone how O'Connell wanted things, the better he learned himself. Coming into Year 2, he said everyone is marching to "one beat" and they can all assist rookie Jordan Addison.
Click here to read Coller's full feature.