EAGAN, Minn. — Organized Team Activity practices have arrived.
The Vikings on Tuesday began the first of 10 OTA practice days that will be spaced out over the next three weeks before a mandatory minicamp in June.
The defending NFC North champs have been hard at work during the voluntary offseason program, but players and coaches can now take the preparation for the 2018 season a bit further by hitting the field for practice in helmets and spend more time in meeting rooms.
The Vikings will hold 10 practices over the next three weeks at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
Here are six storylines we will be watching during OTA practices:
1. All eyes on Cousins
The Vikings made perhaps the NFL’s biggest free agent splash this past offseason by signing quarterback Kirk Cousins to a three-year deal.
Now, after weeks of getting to know his teammates and going through drills, Cousins gets his first chance this week to lead Minnesota’s offense in an actual practice.
All eyes will be on the Vikings new franchise quarterback as he tries to establish a quick rapport with new teammates (and new Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo), while showing the skills and traits that helped him throw for 4,000-plus yards and more than 25 touchdowns in each of the past three seasons.
2. The return of Dalvin Cook
Dalvin Cook flashed plenty of potential in three-plus games as a rookie, rushing for 354 yards and two scores early on in his NFL career.
But a torn ACL cut the running back’s season short, and the former second-round pick has since been hard at work rehabbing while eying a return in 2018.
Cook’s workload during OTAs remains to be seen, but getting the dynamic playmaker back in the huddle will only give the Vikings offense an added boost.
3. Turning the page
There are plenty of fond memories from the 2017 season, whether it be a division title or deep playoff run to the NFC title game.
None of that matters now, and that’s the message Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer will likely preach to his team — if he hasn’t done so already.
The start of OTA practices means the 2018 season is drawing closer, and these sessions give Minnesota a chance to keep working as a tough schedule approaches. You can bet Zimmer won’t let the Vikings rest on their laurels from 2017.
— By Eric Smith (@EricLSmith)
*4. Richardson supercharges defensive line *
Brian Robison is back. Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen are not. The Vikings selected two defensive linemen in the draft – Jalyn Holmes in the fourth round and Ade Aruna in the sixth. Oh yeah, and they signed Sheldon Richardson to start next to Linval Joseph.
While a few staples – Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter, Joseph and Robison – remain, the addition of Richardson is what stands out about this group heading into OTAs.
What’s the rotation behind Joseph and Richardson? Who are the nickel pass rushers? All of these questions and more will begin to be answered this week.
5. Let the kicking competition begin
The Vikings have two place kickers on the roster right now but are more than likely going to enter the regular season with one.
Will it be veteran Kai Forbath, who has made 47 of 53 field goals since signing with the Vikings in 2016? Or will it be Daniel Carlson, who was selected in the fifth round out of Auburn?
Forbath has been here before, having defeated Marshall Koehn last summer in a kicking competition. Can he do it again? The kicking competition is now underway.
6. Offensive line – who’s playing where?
Tasked with projecting the Vikings starting offensive line for 2018, sound football minds could easily disagree at this stage of the equation.
The Vikings have five linemen with significant starting experience returning for 2018, but only left tackle Riley Reiff and center Pat Elflein seem like rock solid bets to be at the same spots.
Nick Easton is the incumbent left guard, but the Vikings experimented with Mike Remmers in that spot when Easton was lost to injury late last season. Plus, the Vikings have added two draft picks – Brian O’Neill in the 2nd round and Colby Gossett in the 6th round – and a free agent – Tom Compton – who could cause the right side to be shuffled.
— By Mike Wobschall (@wobby)