The 2018 NFL regular season has yet to kick off, but plenty of predictions already are being made about which teams – and which players – will finish on top.
NFL.com's Elliot Harrison recently projected the 2018 All-Pro Team, and Vikings fans will see a familiar name on the list. He tabbed Harrison Smith, who led Minnesota with five interceptions last season, as one of two safeties on the predicted lineup and wrote the following:
Smith continues to be a stud for Mike Zimmer's defense. He keeps making plays, like his interception of Blake Bortles last week. His pick in Chicago last season saved the day for the Vikings. Smith is a smart player who has been outstanding in run support when needed.
Harrison's other pick at safety is Marcus Williams, whom he said will be even more motivated after his missed tackle of Stefon Diggs in the Divisional Round playoff game that played a part in the Minneapolis Miracle. The other defenders predicted are below.
Edge rushers: Cameron Jordan (Saints), Von Miller (Broncos)
Interior linemen: Aaron Donald (Rams), Fletcher Cox (Eagles)
Linebackers: Telvin Smith (Jaguars), Bobby Wagner (Seahawks), Luke Kuechly (Panthers)
Cornerbacks: Jalen Ramsey (Jaguars), Marshon Lattimore (Saints)
Defensive back: Tyrann Mathieu (Texans)
Active leader in NFL picks, Newman says Krause's record will never be broken
Terence Newman said it's "not even on [his] mind" that he stands as the active NFL leader in interceptions.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune approached the veteran cornerback Monday after practice to talk about his 42 interceptions over 221 career games as Newman enters his 16th NFL season.
Craig also pointed out that Newman would need an additional 40 picks to break the record of Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause, who played for the Vikings from 1968-79. Krause snagged 81 interceptions in just five more games than Newman has played thus far.
"One thing I do know, is that's one record that will never be broken," Newman told Craig. "I think you'd have to play 25 years."
Craig spoke to Krause, as well, who said, "I hate to say I hope it never gets broken. But doggonit, I like that record."
Newman said that it's a "completely different game" than when he entered the league in 2003, pointing out the rule changes that affect defensive backs.
Craig wrote the following in response to Newman's take:
Krause played 14 of his 16 seasons before the NFL opened up the passing game in 1978 with major rule changes, including illegal contact and permitting pass protectors to extend their arms and use their hands.
Pass attempts have been on the rise ever since. In 1977, teams averaged 24.9 attempts and 12.8 completions per game. Last year, teams averaged 34.2 attempts and 21.2 completions.
Offenses have gotten more sophisticated and efficient. In 1977, teams completed an average of 51.3 percent of their passes with 13.9 touchdowns and 20.1 interceptions in a 14-game season. Forty years later, they completed 62.1 percent of their passes with 23.2 touchdowns and 13.4 interceptions. That's 6.7 fewer interceptions in two more games.
Cronin provides progress report on Vikings 2018 draft class
Heading into the Vikings third preseason game, ESPN's Courtney Cronin took a look at each player Minnesota drafted this spring and provided a progress report.
Cronin spoke highly of the Vikings first-round draft pick, cornerback Mike Hughes, who has received reps both in the slot and on the outside on defense, as well as being utilized on special teams. Cronin wrote:
Hughes has earned something from Vikings coach Mike Zimmer not a lot of rookie cornerbacks experience: expansive praise over his early contributions. Minnesota is loaded at corner, and while it was anticipated that the UCF product would make his biggest impact on special teams as a rookie, Hughes has given the Vikings every reason to consider him for a sizable role in the secondary. Good performances in preseason games and an untimely injury for Mackensie Alexander (ankle) could further Hughes' time with the first-team defense, allowing him to continue his push toward earning the nickel corner job.
Cronin said that injuries to Minnesota's offensive line have forced second-round pick Brian O'Neill "to expedite his process of getting NFL ready."
He's taken a number of first-team reps at right tackle in place of Rashod Hill and could be a candidate to fill that job at some point this season. O'Neill didn't allow a sack, pressure, hit or hurry in 41 pass-blocking snaps during the first two preseason games.
Take a look at Cronin's article to see her thoughts on Jalyn Holmes, Tyler Conklin, Daniel Carlson, Colby Gossett, Ade Aruna and Devante Downs.