CINCINNATI –In addition to the two rosters – nearly 200 players – that took the practice field near Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium Wednesday, a number of national football minds watched from the sidelines.
Vikings.com caught up with Sports Illustrated's Peter King, CBS Sports' Pete Prisco, NFL Network's Brian Baldinger and ESPN's Adam Caplan to pick their brains about the 2016 Vikings.
After Minnesota de-throned Green Bay for the division title last season, the NFC North is a hot topic of discussion. Both King and Prisco opined that the 2016 season will once again be a white-knuckled race between the two rival teams.
"[Minnesota] should be excited," King said. "Why in the world shouldn't the Vikings play absolutely on the same level as the Green Bay Packers?"
He went on to say that, while Aaron Rodgers is the more accomplished of the rival quarterbacks, King has been impressed by what he's seen of Teddy Bridgewater and won't count he and the Vikings out as possible repeat champs.
"What I am saying is […] Teddy Bridgewater played very well last year," King said. "Talking to [Vikings Offensive Coordinator] Norv Turner after this practice, talking to [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer, obviously he's having a really good camp and people should be bullish on Teddy Bridgewater."
Prisco said he thinks Green Bay will edge out the Vikings in the division but both teams will make the playoffs. He believes Minnesota is a postseason team based on the amount of young talent on its roster.
"There's a lot of young guys emerging [on the Vikings]," Prisco said before specifically naming Anthony Barr, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith on the defense and saying the offense also features up-and-coming players.
"It's a good group of guys," Prisco continued. "It's all about 26-year-old guys who are ready to take the next step, and [the Vikings] have a lot of them."
In addition to Minnesota's young players, Baldinger named a few key components of the Vikings that excite him, including adding wide receiver Laquon Treadwell as a first-round draft pick and two offensive linemen through free agency. Baldinger said both Alex Boone and Andre Smith – who has "always been a great run blocker" will upgrade Minnesota's offense.
"I love what Zim' has done defensively," Baldinger added. "I love the depth that they have, how they've continued to build this thing to become the fifth-best scoring defense in the league in two years. I mean, it's monumental."
Looking at the Vikings moving forward, Caplan said there's even more that can be squeezed out of Zimmer's defensive system, specifically creating more turnovers in the 2016 season. If the Vikings add defensive takeaways to an already-solid system, see Bridgewater take another step forward in year three and have Adrian Peterson continuing to perform, Caplan said the team is turning a corner.
"I think they're on the right path – it's been a long time coming, but what a great time to do it with the new stadium opening up," Caplan said. "I think it's taking the next step and the progression of where they will ultimately probably end up – being a Super Bowl team in the next two or three years."