The Vikings added former head coach Tony Sparano as part of their offseason focus on the offensive line and brought in a second former head coach, Pat Shurmur, to lead the tight ends group. They weren't the only team to make coaching changes, however. Each of Minnesota's NFC North rivals made some adjustments on the offensive side of the ball. Viking Update's John Holler wrote:
Like the Vikings, Green Bay made a pair of outside coaching hires [...] Of the three new coaches in new positions, all of them are at offensive skill positions – the hiring of former Rams running backs coach Ben Sirmans and tight ends coach Brian Angelichio, formerly from Cleveland. Coming off a year when the Packers had their share of offensive struggles following the loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson, change came quickly to the supporting staff, which also includes the internal promotion of wide receivers coach Luke Getsy.
Bears Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase accepted the head coaching gig in Miami, and Chicago promoted its quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator. The Bears then hired former Tennessee and Washington assistant Dave Ragone as the new quarterbacks coach as well as adding Tulane Head Coach Curtis Johnson.
The Lions added Brian Callahan (formerly with the Broncos) as a quarterbacks coach, former Colts running backs coach David Walker and former University of Miami Head Coach Ted Golden, who will coach the tight ends in Detroit.
At a time 25 percent of the league is getting to know new head coaches, that wasn't the case in the NFC North. McCarthy is entering his 10th season as the head coach of the Packers, [Mike] Zimmer and [Jim] Caldwell are both entering their third season in Minnesota and Detroit, respectively, and John Fox is in his second season with the Bears.
Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson among Vensel's takeaways
With organized team activity practices and minicamp now in the books for 2016, the Star Tribune's Matt Vensel put together 10 takeaways from the Vikings offseason practices. Vensel said Charles Johnson stood out among the wide receiver corps.
In an 11-on-11 red-zone drill, Bridgewater lobbed a pretty pass to the back right corner of the end zone. Johnson made a leaping catch and tapped down two feet for the touchdown. Later, in a feisty team drill, Johnson ran a sharp dig route on third down and moved the chains with a catch in traffic, leading to loud cheers from his offensive teammates and groans from defenders. I still think top pick Laquon Treadwell, who had a solid spring with the second team, will be the Week 1 starter. But Johnson did well this spring to suggest to the coaching staff that the guy they saw late in 2014 might still exist.
Vensel also highlighted receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, saying Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer noted his performance this offseason.
Patterson appears to be more focused and we will see if that translates to actual games. At the very least, it seems the coaching staff is committed to trying to get him the ball on offense here and there. In each of the two minicamp practices, Patterson got a touch in an unconventional way.
Among Vensel's other takeaways were the offensive line, where he said the competition will be fascinating; Adrian Peterson working on versatility on offense; Xavier Rhodes, who seems to be making another stride forward entering his fourth season; and the safety spot opposite starter Harrison Smith.
Position battles will ensue at offensive line
The Vikings played all 16 games in 2015 with the same five offensive linemen, but Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press said starting positions this season aren't guaranteed. With John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt returning to the roster healthy and Alex Boone and Andre Smith joining through free agency, position battles could be intense heading into training camp. Tomasson wrote:
[Left tackle Matt] Kalil and left guard Alex Boone, a free-agent signee, are most secure in their jobs. Sullivan was impressive in the spring and seems to be in good shape to start, despite Berger being ranked the NFL's No. 1 center last season by Pro Football Focus.
Tomasson also pointed out that Sparano will have an impact on this season's starting five and said "all the linemen must prove themselves to a new boss."
"The way they work, the way they do things, everything is different (under Sparano)," Zimmer told Twin Cities media during minicamp. "It's a different mentality and a different work ethic, and different techniques as well."