The Vikings begin Organized Team Activity practices Tuesday, the first of 10 sessions that signify the 2019 season is slowly appearing on the horizon.
Yet as each team around the NFL hits the practice fields, where is an area that each team will be focusing on?
Gennaro Filice of NFL.com recently posed a burning question for each team in the NFC, and opined that the Vikings will be looking for someone to stand out on the defensive line.
Filice said he is most interested in watching who steps up at the 3-technique spot.
Sheldon Richardson’s free agency departure left a glaring hole in one of the crucial spots of [Vikings Head Coach] Mike Zimmer's defense: the 3-technique.
This is the havoc-wreaking position that transformed Geno Atkins from fourth-round pick to first-team All-Pro during Zimmer’s days in Cincinnati — and it’s the one big question mark on Minnesota’s otherwise-stout front four. With Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen stalking QBs from the outside and Linval Joseph devouring space inside, the Vikings need an interior disruptor.
Shamar Stephen, a former seventh-round pick by Minnesota who took a one-year sojourn in Seattle before returning to the team that drafted him this offseason, figures to get first crack at the job. And apparently Zimmer calls him “The Big Fundamental,” so there’s that. If Football Tim Duncan doesn’t work out? Last year’s fourth-round pick, Jalyn Holmes, could be pressed into service.
Stephen spent his first four NFL seasons with the Vikings before signing with the Seahawks in 2018. He started 14 of 15 games played in Seattle, finishing the year with 25 tackles (11 solo), 2.0 sacks and two tackles for loss.
Holmes played in five games with 58 total defensive snaps as a rookie.
The Vikings are returning third-year defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson, and Minnesota also drafted Arkansas defensive tackle Armon Watts in the sixth round in 2019. Zimmer noted earlier this month that Watts could play both defensive tackle spots.
The Vikings also have interior defensive linemen Curtis Cothran and Tito Odenigbo on the roster.
Coller: Rookies to watch over next few weeks
Players such as Harrison Smith, Adam Thielen and Riley Reiff are all established veterans who will use OTAs and mandatory minicamp to hone their skills and get ready for training camp.
But for the roughly two dozen Vikings rookies in the building, the next few weeks offer a chance to make a strong first impression on coaches and teammates.
Matthew Coller of SKOR North recently wrote that he is looking forward to seeing how the first-timers fare on the field, and noted there are those who rise to the challenge every year.
Each year the Vikings seem to find an undrafted free agent or late-round draft pick who ultimately ends up playing a role in Year 1. Last year that was Holton Hill. In 2015 it was Stefon Diggs. There are plenty of contenders this year. For example, seventh-round corner Kris Boyd has a shot to earn a depth position with Hill suspended for the first four games. Marcus Epps, a sixth-round pick, could become Anthony Harris’s backup, [and] quarterback Jake Browning has an outside chance at winning the No. 3 QB gig.
Two years ago Tashawn Bower made the club as an undrafted free agent, and last year Mike Boone, Hill and Roc Thomas earned jobs out of camp. [Chad] Beebe was bumped up from practice squad midway through the year.
Minnesota currently has 25 rookies on its 90-man roster.