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Lunchbreak: ESPN Experts Predict ‘Biggest Story’ of the 2019 Season

As the 2019 season fast-approaches, ESPN posed a question to its panel of experts: “2018 was defined by the league’s offensive explosion. What will be the story of the 2019 season?”

Of the six writers who responded to the question, five different answers surfaced. It will be interesting to see how accurate these appear as the season plays out and which answers may be most relevant to the Vikings.

Senior NFL writer Mina Kimes opined that the play-action pass will be this year’s biggest storyline. She wrote:

My interest was piqued recently when I read a quote from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who mentioned that the team’s analytics staff was pushing the offense to use play-action more often because of its efficacy. The three teams that ran play-action passes the most in 2018 were the Rams, Patriots and Chiefs; more offensive coordinators around the league will try to replicate their success.

Analyst Matt Bowen and senior writer Jason Reid each projected rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, whom the Cardinals drafted No. 1 overall, will overcome other stories. National NFL writer Kevin Seifert also included Murray – along with other passers – in his response, saying “quarterback reckoning” is what to watch this year.

Fantasy writer Mike Clay said this year’s NFL will “return to Earth,” explaining that he believes the offensive scoring “figures to level off or dip this season.”

That especially applies to the Chiefs (more on that here) and Seahawks, who broke logic with super-efficient and unsustainable 2018 campaigns. We should also expect bounce-backs from perennial contenders Green Bay and Pittsburgh, who disappointed last season but are still among the league’s better teams on paper.

And lastly, Dan Graziano pointed to the pass-catching running back.

Christian McCaffrey set a league record for running backs with 107 catches last season and was one of four backs who caught more than 80 passes. I say someone breaks that record in 2019, whether it’s McCaffrey again, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, David Johnson ... someone. And the number of backs catching more than 80 passes a year continues to go up.

In 11 games last season, Dalvin Cook hauled in 40 catches for 305 yards; if he remains healthy, it’s possible the third-year running back will be more involved in the Vikings passing game in 2019

Thielen lands in Top 10 in Lake Tahoe

Over the weekend, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen and tight end Kyle Rudolph traveled to Lake Tahoe to compete in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship.

After tying for 18th in last year’s tournament, Thielen tied for ninth this time around. His 49 points tied with former North Stars center Mike Modano.

Finishing ahead of Thielen were former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who repeated as champion with 71 points; former MLB pitcher Mark Mulder; tennis star Mardy Fish and former pitcher Derek Lowe, who tied for third; actor Jack Wagner; former Vikings quarterback Case Keenum; and Warriors guard Steph Curry and former NHL center Jeremy Roenick, who tied for seventh place.

Rudolph finished tied for 71st with Rams safety Eric Weddle and actor John O’Hurley.

Ham hosts football camp for hometown youth

Vikings fullback C.J. Ham returned to his hometown of Duluth, Minnesota, over the weekend to host his first C.J. Ham Football Camp.

According to FOX 21’s Claudia Chakamian, more than 270 young people between the ages of 8 and 16 participated in the camp, which included “life lessons” from Ham in addition to various football drills.

“It’s football, we’re out here, having fun, doing drills, learning the fundamentals of the game, playing some games as well, just to get some competition,” Ham told Chakamian. “On the life part, it really is just about working hard and not letting anybody tell you anything different. If you have a dream, to go out and chase it.”

The Duluth native, who starred for Denfeld High School in football as well as track and field, told Chakamian he always appreciates being in town and giving back to the community.

“I love it here. I love everything about it, especially [since] I grew up in the Lincoln Park area,” Ham said. “To be able to see all of these people here for an event that I’m putting on is humbling in it of itself, and I’m just really blessed to be out here.”

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