EAGAN, Minn. — Welcome to the 2018 edition of Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
Players and coaches have had more than a month off to rest up for the upcoming grind, as rookies and select players reported to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Tuesday.
The group will begin practice on Wednesday, with remaining veterans scheduled to report Friday before the first full team practice on Saturday.
Here are a handful of first-year players to watch this week in Eagan:
Offense by Eric Smith
Running back Mike Boone
The top two running back spots are set in stone with Dalvin Cook returning from ACL surgery and Latavius Murray coming back after an 800-plus yard, eight-touchdown season. And fullback C.J. Ham has carved out a role for himself in the offense. But with Jerick McKinnon departing in free agency, the third running back gig is up for grabs. Boone, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Cincinnati, impressed during spring drills, especially in the passing game. Boone’s versatility could stand out in camp and preseason games.
Tight end Tyler Conklin
Veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph has established himself as one of the top players in the league at his position, especially in the red zone. But the addition of Conklin could give Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo another passing threat to pair with Rudolph. As a senior in 2017, Conklin played in eight games – and started five – after missing the first five with an injury. The team captain was named Third-Team All-MAC after recording 35 catches for 504 yards and five touchdowns.
Wide receiver Brandon Zylstra
Some around Minnesota already know Zylstra’s name from his time as a standout wide receiver at New London-Spicer High School and then at Concordia College in Moorhead. But the Minnesota native could draw some buzz with Vikings fans if he continues to impress coaches after a strong showing this spring. Zylstra had 100 catches for 1,687 yards and five touchdowns in the Canadian Football League in 2017, but he is classified as a rookie. During minicamp in June, DeFilippo said was “one of the guys that can line up anywhere, we could put him at any position.”
Defense and special teams by Craig Peters
Cornerback Mike Hughes
The Vikings first-round pick of 2018 turned in an impressive spring showing nice speed and fluidity in movements on defense and impressing coaches with his approach and readiness to learn. Hughes’ selection bolstered a defensive backs group that already includes four first-round picks (Terence Newman in 2003, Harrison Smith in 2012, Xavier Rhodes in 2013 and Trae Waynes in 2015), along with 2016 second-round selection Mackensie Alexander. Hughes signed last week, completing the business end for his Vikings draft class. In addition to watching him on defense, fans should make sure to keep an eye on him during the special teams periods of practice that involve kickoff and punt returns.
Defensive tackle Jalyn Holmes
The Vikings have a dynamic group on the defensive line, but the relentless group is always looking to be even better. Minnesota should be in good shape with starting defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter joined by nose tackle Linval Joseph and offseason addition Sheldon Richardson, a former first-round pick who was picked up in free agency. Holmes could add an element as an interior pass rusher in Minnesota’s nickel rush unit.
Cornerback Holton Hill
After going undrafted, Hill signed with the Vikings as a rookie free agent. Standing 6-foot-2, Hill has the length to go up against tall receivers. He showed several attributes that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has looked for in cornerbacks, and it will be interesting to see Hill engage in the press man technique once players don pads.
Kicker Daniel Carlson
A fifth-round selection who stands tall at 6-5, Carlson was able to show his strong leg in the offseason practices. The rookie from Auburn will compete with 5-11 veteran Kai Forbath. The competition is likely to continue into preseason games, but make sure to take a look at how Carlson has learned to use his long legs.