Members of the Twin Cities media look forward to training camp for multiple reasons. A considerable amount of chatter, particularly in morning walk-throughs, involves determining each year's Mr. Mankato.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune cast his vote and made a case for rookie tight end David Morgan, a sixth-round pick this spring. Craig excluded players selected in rounds one through five because Vikings defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison were each selected in fourth rounds and because Stefon Diggs was a fifth-round find a year ago.
Morgan was the first offensive sub into Minnesota's preseason opener at Cincinnati and he finished with three catches for 38 yards, including a 22-yarder to set up the decisive touchdown run by C.J. Ham in the third quarter. The Vikings talked about Morgan's skill as a blocker when they selected him, but he's shown solid hands and smooth movements in the passing game as well.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has said it's possible that Rhett Ellison might be recovered from a knee injury by the start of the season. Zimmer was asked about the likelihood of keeping four tight ends on Minnesota's 53-man roster.
"Who said it's hard to keep more than three? We're going to keep the best 53 (players) we can," Zimmer said in a media session. "So, if it's four of those or two somewhere else, it won't be hard."
On to Craig's take on Morgan:
Mr. Mankato: David Morgan. Of all the rookies, including first-rounder Laquon Treadwell, Morgan is the one making the biggest impact with the starting units. He's also a sixth-rounder selected 188th overall out of Texas-San Antonio. The tight end essentially is being counted on to be Rhett Ellison until Rhett Ellison can be Rhett Ellison again. Ellison is coming back from a torn patellar tendon suffered about ninth months ago. He may never return to normal. Morgan was billed by the Vikings as the best blocking tight end in the draft. He hasn't disappointed there. He looks comfortable, sturdy, aggressive and confident blocking on the end of the line or from the backfield. He's also shown better-than-expected hands and an Ellison-like work ethic. Winner.
Treadwell among top projections for rookies
NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt believes Treadwell has a chance to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. The former Cowboys personnel guru tabbed Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott as the most likely to win the award, with Treadwell second in a list of six first-year players.
*The tough and competitive Treadwell will try to bury you in blocking. He plays much faster than his timed speed. As I've said before, Treadwell reminds me of Michael Irvin. He'll catch the quick slant to move the chains. He runs very good routes, has great athleticism and excels at tracking the ball over his shoulder. *
He is "Harry the Hitman"
The press box tally of tackles from last season's Vikings game at the Broncos doesn't indicate that Harrison Smith tackled Demaryius Thomas.
The Denver receiver, however, knows otherwise and told Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports that the hit in the third quarter in Week 4 lingered all the way through the Broncos title run.
But when asked if he was ever really healthy, Thomas sighs.
"Not where I wanted to be," Thomas told USA TODAY Sports. "After that fourth game, I took a hit from a safety for the Vikings (Harrison Smith), and it kind of bothered me throughout the whole season.
"My neck and my back, my hip – it never really got better, but I just kept playing."
Smith is nicknamed "Harry the Hitman" because of the physicality he brings to the safety position, balancing between playing tough and playing clean. A reviewing of the play with NFL GamePass, showed that Thomas caught a short pass and was first contacted by Robert Blanton. The 6-foot-3, 229-pound receiver was trying to break the tackle when Smith came in to finish the play.
The first indication of the hit's effects may have surfaced in the fourth quarter when it looked like Peyton Manning overthrew Thomas directly to Smith for an interception. Thomas had nine catches for 93 yards in the game, but just one reception for 15 yards after the hit by Smith.