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Lunchbreak: Vikings Middle of the Pack in ESPN’s ‘Most-Improved’ Rankings

NFL rosters change every year, and teams hope to come out of an offseason as a better version of themselves than the previous season.

The Vikings are no exception, having added new players through free agency and the NFL Draft, including first-round pick Garrett Bradbury, who stepped directly into the starting center role.

ESPN writers Dan Graziano, Kevin Seifert and Mike Clay recently collaborated to rank all 32 teams in order of most-improved. They stipulated that the list “does not consider how good or bad a team actually is, but rather only how the roster changed since last season.”

Considerations used for the rankings were free-agent signings, trade acquisitions, draft selections and coaching changes.

The trio ranked the Vikings in the middle of the pack, calling Minnesota the 18th most-improved squad heading into 2019. Clay wrote:

Minnesota’s offseason was rather uneventful, but it’s easy to make a case that the team is slightly worse on paper with impact defensive starters [Sheldon] Richardson and [Andrew] Sendejo gone and not truly replaced. The defense remains strong with the likes of Harrison Smith, Danielle Hunter, Linval Joseph, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr still in place. Bradbury and [guard Josh] Kline figure to play major roles on an offensive line that has been the Achilles’ heel for this team for several seasons.

Editor’s note: Clay did not mention the role of safety Anthony Harris, who recorded career highs of 43 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups in nine starts. Pro Football Focus gave Harris a grade of 89.0, which ranked third among safeties who played at least 300 snaps in 2018.

The Packers and Lions were ranked fifth- and sixth-most improved, respectively, and the Bears were ranked 22nd.

B/R lists Hughes among ‘NFL sophomores poised for bounce-back season’

Mike Hughes started his rookie season off hot but had it cut short by a torn ACL suffered during the Week 6 matchup against the Cardinals.

The cornerback will look to rebound this season, and Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski believes he’ll do just that. He included Hughes in a list of nine “NFL sophomores poised for bounce-back season” in 2019. Sobleski wrote:

The Minnesota Vikings epitomize the “You can never have too many good cornerbacks” approach. This became obvious last year when [General Manager] Rick Spielman chose Mike Hughes with the 30th overall draft pick.

[…]

Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander and Holton Hill form a solid quartet. But Hughes provides excellent ball skills, as evidenced by a pick-six in his first professional game.

A healthy Hughes brings versatility as an inside-outside option. Last year, Alexander won the competition to start at nickel corner, while the rookie struggled to find a home. Now, the second-year defender could be used all over the field, which would provide the Vikings with more flexibility.

Also highlighted by Sobleski were Dolphins quarterback Josh Rosen, Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny, Steelers wide receiver James Washington, Seahawks tight end Will Dissly, Buccaneers defensive tackle Vita Vea, Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport, Packers linebacker Oren Burks and 49ers safety Tarvarius Moore.

Take a look back at some classic pictures from Vikings Training Camp in Mankato and TCO Performance Center through the years.

Tiny Vikings fan overcoming obstacles at U of M Masonic Children’s Hospital

The Vikings have a long-standing relationship with the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, and recently a powerful story was posted about one of its young patients.

According to an article posted on the hospital’s website, Michael and Erika Powell’s daughter, Abigail, was not expected to survive after suffering a severe brain injury. But she is continuing to prove she is a fighter.

Abigail was born on a Vikings game day, Nov. 4, and declined over the week. The following was written about her first miracle:

On Sunday, Nov. 11, at around kickoff, Abigail was taken off life support. “We held our breath – and she took a breath,” Erika said.

Abigail did not pass away that day. “She just kept breathing,” Mike said. “We spent every minute just enjoying her.”

As the day went on, Abigail continued to fight. She was even able to nurse briefly. The Powells prepared to take Abigail home, supported by hospice care. By noon on Monday, the new family of three was on the way home, although they did not know how long this respite would last.

Incredibly, Abigail thrived at home. “The hospice team came once a week, and every time they visited, Abigail was right on track with her breathing, her heart rate and her growth,” Erika said.

According to the article, Abigail continued to progress, and she was released from the hospice program at 6 weeks old.

Today, they participate in physical therapy appointments at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and attend the NICU follow-up care clinic. They see changes in Abigail every week.

To read the entirety of Abigail’s story, click here.

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