The Vikings are a little more than a week into training camp, meaning there is still plenty of work to be done, even before the preseason opener on Aug. 9 in New Orleans.
But players and coaches have been around long enough for those who watch practice to begin to get a glimpse as to where things will eventually shake out.
ESPN Vikings beat writer Courtney Cronin recently wrote that she believes that rookie Irv Smith, Jr., will play an important role this season, as Cronin has been impressed with the 2019 second-round pick from Alabama.
Minnesota is planning to employ more two tight-end sets this season, and even with Kyle Rudolph on the field at the same time, Smith will show the Vikings how critical he can be early in his career. Smith's ability to run deep corner routes will bode well for Cousins when Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs inevitably receive extra attention from defenders this season.
Finding out which situations the Vikings can best utilize Smith will force mismatches and spark the explosive plays Minnesota lacked a year ago. Oftentimes, the No. 3 “receiver” in Gary Kubiak’s offenses are typically a tight end. By the end of training camp, Smith will show Vikings coaches that he’s on his way to being ready for that role.
The Vikings have employed multiple tight ends in various formations throughout practices so far, with Rudolph, Smith, Jr., and Tyler Conklin all working with the first-team offense.
Each of the three had a nice showing in Wednesday’s practice, when Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins threw four touchdowns from inside the red zone.
Rudolph caught two of them, and Conklin caught another on a leaping snag.
Smith, Jr., also had a nice moment when he caught a 5-yard touchdown from quarterback Sean Mannion.
Smith, Jr., recorded 58 receptions for 838 yards (14.4 yards per reception) and 10 touchdowns in 38 games for Alabama. He had 33 receptions that gained a first down or scored a touchdown in college.
View images from the Vikings Training Camp practice on July 31 at the TCO Performance Center.
Graff highlights Taylor’s ‘incredible journey’ in NFL
Jordan Taylor is still one of the fresh faces on the Vikings, but his backstory might be an interesting as anyone.
Chad Graff of The Athletic recently sat down with Taylor to talk about his winding road from Rice University — where he began his college career as a quarterback — to the current training camp with the Vikings.
Taylor spent the first four seasons of his career in Denver, with a coach who is now on Minnesota’s staff. He was on the practice squad in 2015 when future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50.
His NFL career began with a phone call from Gary Kubiak, then the Denver Broncos head coach and now the man tasked with helping revamp the Vikings’ offense. At first, Taylor was awed by life in the NFL after his years at Rice. Just before minicamp in June, Taylor got a text message from an unknown number. It was Peyton Manning inviting him to a U2 concert.
“You save that number real quick,” Taylor said with a laugh. “So I went to the concert, and we had a blast.”
Taylor detailed his relationship with Manning, which grew when the wide receiver was on the practice squad and the quarterback was rehabbing from a few injuries.
[Manning] just needed a wide receiver to throw to. So Manning phoned Taylor, then the lone wide receiver on the practice squad. He asked Taylor to meet him for early morning throwing sessions, something Taylor initially thought might be a casual affair.
“It was very surreal,” Taylor said. “It was just me and him and the equipment guy snapping the ball. Really just us three. It was awesome to see how he goes about his business when nobody is watching, the cameras are off, he’s still giving it everything he’s got mentally and physically. I mean, we were doing full two-minute drills up and down the field with just us two. My biggest thing was, ‘Be in the right spot and don’t screw this up.’ It was obviously an exceptional learning curve for me to be able to learn from him and spend that extra time.”
Graff’s full feature on Taylor can be found here.
The 6-foot-5 Taylor has been running with the first two offensive groups thus far in training camp.