EAGAN, Minn. — As Verizon Vikings Training Camp continues and the 2020 season nears, plenty of players will play key roles for the Vikings.
But some players will be in the spotlight more than others, whether because of roster turnover or their own progression in recent years.
This is a 10-part series about X-factors on the roster, consisting of players who could be primed for more playing time and a chance to help the Vikings more than in years past.
Rookies are excluded, as are veterans who have already cemented themselves as Minnesota's vital players.
Up first? Vikings center Garrett Bradbury. Here's why he could be an X-factor in 2020:
— Rookie season under his belt
— Consistency on an interior that has some questions
— Built for the Vikings offensive scheme
View the top photos of Vikings C Garrett Bradbury from the 2019 season.
Stat line: 16 games played (16 starts), 989 offensive snaps, 8 penalties, 4 sacks allowed
After the Vikings tabbed him as their first-round draft pick in 2019, Bradbury stepped in as the team's center and never looked back.
He started all 16 regular-season games and both playoff contests as a rookie, experiencing the ups and downs one might expect from a first-year player. Analytics site Pro Football Focus gave Bradbury a 41.4 grade in pass blocking and 60.7 in run blocking.
Despite a lower grade in the passing game, he is credited with allowing just four sacks throughout the season, which according to PFF was tied for second-best among centers. Bradbury's eight committed penalties, including being flagged five times for holding, tied for fourth-fewest among centers.
Measuring in at 6-3 and 305 pounds, Bradbury fit the mold of quick, athletic offensive linemen that Minnesota looks for. He proved his ability to get to the second level and advance to block defenders in the flat when necessary. Against defensive lines defined by their brute strength, the rookie was sometimes out-muscled.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke with media members earlier this offseason and was asked where Bradbury can take a step forward.
"I think Garrett had a heck of a year. He played a lot of plays, played a lot of games, made a lot of the right calls," Zimmer said. "I would say just continuing his development. Early in the year he had some holding penalties that he needed to clean up with some of his hands, so partly that. Part of it would be pass protection."
Bradbury also spoke with reporters this spring and said he'd had a chance to reflect back on Year 1 and self-scout.
"In terms of improvement, consistency is kind of the biggest thing for me," Bradbury said. "It's such a long season, so you watch a few stretches where you have a good game, then you don't have such a good game.
"Something I pride myself in is the ability to get better, whether it's year-to-year, or game-to-game," he added. "My goal this offseason, and for this coming season, is just to be better in Year 2 and make the improvements that I want to."
Best Splash Play So Far
It's a little bit tougher to choose one "splash play" for an offensive lineman, but how about a splash game?
Let's take a look at the Vikings Week 3 contest against the Raiders last season. It was the first of two games (Week 5 at the New York Giants) that Minnesota racked up 211 rushing yards, but the home game also featured three touchdowns on the ground.
Bradbury helped Dalvin Cook eclipse 100 rushing yards for the third consecutive game, with "The Chef" cooking up a 110-yard performance. Reserve backs Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone added 58 and 28 yards, respectively, and even quarterback Kirk Cousins rushed four times for 16 yards.
Cook, Mattison and Adam Thielen notched rushing scores on the day.
"We're rewarding those guys, but they don't get a lot of rewards because they do the dirty work," Cook said of the offensive line. "To rack them yards up — and one point we looked over and we were at 150 — but the guys said, 'Let's keep going.' When you've got that type of mentality up front, you definitely want to run the football."
What can Vikings fans expect from Bradbury in 2020?
The 25-year-old said that despite the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, he "feels as good as [he's] ever felt" as far as strength and conditioning and has dedicated himself this offseason to upping his game.
The simple fact that Bradbury has one NFL season under his belt now will certainly prove helpful.
View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of December 2, 2020.
"You have so many more questions answered, and you know what you need to work on, and you can just attack it," Bradbury said. "Starting in January, I've understood what I need to work on, I've just been getting after it, and I feel great. There is a lot of craziness in that rookie year and a lot of unknowns.
"I feel so good right now. I feel much more comfortable with the system, much more comfortable with expectations and routines, so I feel great heading into Year 2," he added.
Bradbury provides Minnesota consistency on the interior of an offensive line that has a few questions heading into Verizon Vikings Training Camp. The Vikings did not return guard Josh Klein, who played to Bradbury's right in 2019, and although Pat Elflein is back for a fourth season, it's been said that both guard spots could be fair game.
While he could have a new player on each side, Bradbury knows the Vikings offensive system itself.
Kevin Stefanski left Minnesota for Cleveland's head coaching job, but the Vikings offense will look largely the same under Gary Kubiak, who joined the team in 2019 as assistant head coach/offensive advisor and this season will take over play-calling duties.
And as we saw last season, Bradbury is well-suited for the zone-blocking system.
Kubiak said Bradbury will benefit from a "baptism-by-fire" rookie campaign, and he expects the center to take a step forward in 2020.
"He played against a lot of great players. Was there every play this year except for when I think we took him out against Chicago [in Week 17]. That's the way you get better in this business," Kubiak said. "He loves to play. He's very bright. He's got good people around him."