Thus far, NFL coaches haven't been able to see their players practice in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that will change with the scheduled reporting of players to training camps this week and next.
The Vikings rookies and select veterans are scheduled to report on July 23, with the remaining veterans scheduled to arrive at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on July 28.
When full-team practices start up, which players will stand out as their roster’s most-improved?
NFL Network's Cynthia Frelund recently took a stab at answering that question for each NFC team. For Minnesota, she highlighted wide receiver Tajaé Sharpe, whom the Vikings signed in free agency. Frelund opined that Sharpe will take a step forward in 2020 after spending his first four seasons in Tennessee. She wrote:
Last season, the Vikings threw 12 touchdowns of 10-plus air yards to players aligned wide, per [Next Gen Stats], and while the team did draft Justin Jefferson, there should still be snaps to be had in the wake of Stefon Diggs' trade to Buffalo. In an offseason that included big-name wideouts changing teams and a very deep receiver class in the draft, Sharpe's signing in Minnesota did not draw many headlines, but the veteran was an actively sought-after free agent. The teams I spoke to that were interested in him consistently brought up his ability when aligning wide, something the former fifth-round pick did on 76 percent of snaps as a Titan last season, per NGS.
As for the Vikings division rivals, Frelund pointed to Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks, Packers safety Adrian Amos and Lions receiver Kenny Golladay, who has improved each season since entering the league in 2017. Last season, he racked up 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns en route to his first career Pro Bowl appearance.
Minnesota is currently slated to face Golladay at U.S. Bank Stadium in Week 9 and at Detroit in Week 17.
NGS shows that Golladay earned the second-most yards on deep targets in the NFL last season (546), which is even more impressive when you consider he averaged the fewest yards of separation on all targets (only 1.9 yards) among those with a minimum of 50 targets. With QB Matthew Stafford returning from an injury that cost him eight games in 2019 and [Offensive Coordinator] Darrell Bevell projecting to have more run-pass play-calling balance … it's reasonable to expect Golladay to work with more separation – and that typically correlates with a better catch rate. Given his deep-ball results even in tough circumstances, the increase in quality targets coming his way drives an increase in forecasted production.
CBS Sports tabs CB as Vikings most-important training camp battle
When Verizon Vikings Training Camp gets underway at TCO Performance Center, keep your eyes on the cornerback position.
Three established corners – Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander – departed this offseason, leaving the position group young and relatively unexperienced.
CBS Sports' Cody Benjamin took a look at the NFC North and pointed out each team’s “most important position battles” heading into training camp. He said the Vikings focus should be on the secondary, since it's hard to "replace three-fifths of your starting secondary with a snap of the fingers." Benjamin wrote:
First-round pick Jeff Gladney figures to make a nice transition to the slot CB role, and former first-rounder Mike Hughes has the wherewithal to man an outside job. The depth, however, is a total unknown. Third-rounder Cameron Dantzler, fifth-rounder Harrison Hand and reserve holdover Holton Hill will be fighting for big roles this summer, especially considering the Vikings pass rush also took a hit with the loss of Everson Griffen.
Benjamin said the biggest position battle in Chicago will be at quarterback, where the Bears brought in Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles via trade to compete with 2017 first-round draft pick Mitchell Trubisky.
In Detroit, Benjamin expects some solid competition between running backs Kerryon Johnson and D'Andre Swift, whom the Lions drafted 35th overall.
And in Green Bay, Benjamin highlighted the receiver spot.
Davante Adams is a borderline top-five wideout when healthy, but even if you lump the tight ends into this group as potential pass catchers for [Aaron] Rodgers, you're left with a whole lot of uncertainty for a team that'll be vying to replicate its 13-win 2019.
Allen Lazard is penciled in as the No. 2 WR opposite Adams, and his numbers were serviceable for a former undrafted backup-turned-spot starter. Ideally, however, Green Bay would have one of its other vets push him down the depth chart. Marquez Valdes-Scantling flashed big-play ability but had an awful catch percentage in 2019. Equanimeous St. Brown's promising rookie year seems like ages ago.
Benjamin pointed out that Devin Funchess, whom the Packers signed as a free agent, "might have the best chance of breaking out as a red-zone target."