Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

10 Takeaways from Vikings 2024 Offseason Program

EAGAN, Minn. — In just five weeks, Vikings players will be reporting in waves for training camp.

While that gap is sure to seem long for some and short for others, it offers us a chance to reflect on what we observed during the voluntary Organized Team Activity practices and mandatory minicamp.

A good bit of our efforts was spent becoming more familiar with new additions acquired during free agency, the draft and by inking undrafted free agents.

1. Early impressions of new QBs | by Craig Peters

For the first time since 2018, the Vikings will have a new starting quarterback.

Minnesota added Sam Darnold quickly as free agency opened in mid-March and then was able to patiently approach the 2024 NFL Draft. When J.J. McCarthy was available at No. 10, the Vikings moved up one spot at what they considered a minimal cost to make the Michigan man the highest-drafted quarterback in franchise history.

While there is deservedly great intrigue in seeing McCarthy transition to the NFL with the team he hoped would draft him, there should also be anticipation in seeing how Darnold does with arguably his best situation in the pros. We've recently seen other former high picks like Geno Smith and Baker Mayfield make upswings after changes of scenery.

Darnold had a strong spring, considering everything was new to him, and often showed arm talent that made him the No. 3 pick of 2018 by the Jets. He and McCarthy uncorked some eyebrow-raising throws during the practices.

The Vikings have indicated they plan on patience with McCarthy, who took some reps with the first team but spent a good bit of time with the developmental squad.

2. Contract extension lands 'Jets' for long term | by Lindsey Young

The deal is done.

Minnesota signed Justin Jefferson (a.k.a. "Jets") to a long-term extension, setting the second chapter of his Vikings career in motion and making him the highest-paid non-QB in NFL history.

Though Jefferson did not attend the Vikings voluntary OTA practices, he made a smooth re-entry for minicamp, taking the field less than 30 minutes after discussing his extension at a press conference. He worked back into rotation that day, participating in individual drills and catching several passes from Darnold during 11-on-11s.

Jefferson showed he'd kept in shape while away from the team and has received nothing but positive reactions from teammates – including the offensive line, which had some fun by dressing like "Jets" during Minnesota's second minicamp practice.

With Jefferson's deal now behind him, the freshly turned 25-year-old can focus on what he loves most: football.

He also helped provide a guide to avoid confusion with the Vikings adding another J.J.

3. Addison's strong spring showing | by Lindsey Young

Jordan Addison is looking well-prepared for his sophomore NFL season.

The Vikings receiver impressed during his second spring in Minnesota, running sharp, clean routes and making great grabs – a few of them for touchdowns – during OTA and minicamp practices.

Addison spoke with Twin Cities media members on May 29 and said he's been working at building trust with Darnold, as well as improving his releases off the line of scrimmage.

"That's been a main focus for me, and I feel like it's been paying off," Addison said. "My work is showing out there. Having a plan once I get to the line, being decisive and just really making sure I'm locked into my release.

"Last year, I wasn't as confident in my releases," Addison added. "I wasn't being decisive. I didn't have a plan when I was coming up to the line; I was kind of just freelancing, trying to do what I could do. Make something work. But now, like I said, it's my focus."

4. Running backs will be receiving options, too | by Craig Peters

Faster than a quick count, the Vikings snatched Aaron Jones upon his release by the rival Packers.

Jones, a great-natured guy who has tormented Minnesota aplenty in Border Battles, showed some juice and the versatility that has long been a part of the 29-year-old's game. Jones has 272 career receptions and 18 touchdowns through the air to go along with his career rushing average of 5.0 per carry (5,940 yards on 1,177 rushes).

He will be a threat as a receiving target, especially when defenses will direct so much of their attention toward other Vikings skill players. He also has demonstrated skills in blitz pickup.

View photos from the Vikings eighth OTA practice, which took place on June 11 at the TCO Performance Center.

Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips, who shares an alma mater with Jones, described himself as "really ecstatic" to add Jones.

"Aaron's been a great player. He's a UTEP Miner … second best player to ever play there behind Hall of Famer Don Maynard," Phillips said. "I knew what kind of person he was just from my contacts, the football ops guy that was still there."

"When he went to school there, I had heard about what a phenomenal human being he was," he added. "And then obviously, the playmaking ability on the field. He can pass protect, he can run routes out of the backfield, and he can obviously run the football, so a really big pickup for us."

Minnesota remains excited about the potential of third-year pro Ty Chandler, as well.

Chandler caught 21 passes for 159 yards on 25 targets last season in addition to rushing 102 times for 461 yards and three scores.

5. Tracking Hock and other tight ends | by Craig Peters

T.J. Hockenson has racked up 155 catches in 25 regular-season games since becoming a Viking during the 2022 season. It's clear Minnesota had a plan to involve him in the passing game when it acquired the former first-round pick from Detroit.

Hockenson has endured a long offseason recovery process after tearing his ACL when he took a helmet to the knee against the Lions on Dec. 24. Hockenson progressed to the point of running on a side field while other players were practicing and was described by O'Connell last week as "on schedule."

Those others included new addition Robert Tonyan, who was signed in May after impressing during a workout, and N'Keal Harry, who has been transitioning from receiver. Both showed receiving prowess on contested catches, as well as the ability to get open.

"It's kind of one of those workouts where you just watch the guy run and catch, and he understands what you're asking him to do from his experience," Phillips said. "Everyone just looked around and said 'Yeah, let's get him,' so I think he's really going to help us."

Harry was making several plays at receiver during training camp in 2023 before he got dinged up with an injury, and he is excited about the new opportunity.

"A position change is always unique, but we're hoping we're developing a guy that can grow into a real third down weapon, red zone weapon with his skill set," O'Connell said. "The more and more he can do from an all-down standpoint will only help his value as we continue to really put together that tight ends group."

Minnesota also has returned Josh Oliver and Johnny Mundt. Third-year pro Nick Muse underwent what O'Connell described as "a small clean up on his knee" and is expected to be a full participant at training camp.

6. Offensive line approach at guard | by Lindsey Young

When it comes to the Vikings offensive line, they're set at tackle and center, with Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill bookending the unit and Garrett Bradbury – or "Mr. Reliable," as Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell recently called him – anchoring the line at center.

View photos of Vikings players during minicamp practice at the TCO Performance Center.

But Minnesota has a few options at the guard spots.

Blake Brandel took a majority of the first-team reps at left guard during the spring, and Ed Ingram remained at right guard. The Vikings also have veteran guard Dan Feeney, whom they signed this spring as a free agent, and added another name to the mix May 31 when they re-signed Dalton Risner.

Feeney has 65 NFL starts under his belt, and Risner has 73.

According to O'Connell, there is expected to be a competition among Risner, Feeney, Brandel and Ingram during training camp for the team's two starting spots.

"We want to play the best five guys we can," O'Connell said earlier this month. "Could see a bunch of different combinations of guys in there, especially as we try to allow that competition to naturally play out."

7. Increased versatility for Flores | by Craig Peters

Much is made every offseason about who has been added, but the Vikings also are excited to bring back Brian Flores as defensive coordinator.

He helped Minnesota's defense improve its rankings in multiple categories with multiple innovations and by leaning on max pressures and max coverages. It's pretty clear in reviewing any tape that Flores believes a defense should attack.

Although the Vikings parted with Danielle Hunter in free agency, they have rounded out the options for Flores to attack with. Those options include outside linebackers Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel, as well as inside linebacker Blake Cashman.

All three were added in the initial moments of free agency, meaning they were at the forefront of plans concocted by Flores for his second season here.

Minnesota added to all levels of its defense during free agency, and Flores crafts an individual plan for each player, as well as develops systems for trying to capitalize on traits.

8. Turner's ability to turn on a dime | by Craig Peters

Minnesota's patience early in the first round — and the decisions of other teams — resulted in a big bonus for the Vikings. Fourteen consecutive offensive players were selected to open this year's draft. After seeing this, Minnesota jumped up from No. 23 to No. 17 to select Dallas Turner.

The quick-twitch display was particularly apropos to land Turner, who has showed explosiveness in drills, as well as a spin move that drew attention as Christian Darrisaw watched the move deployed on a teammate.

Turner has been comfortably welcomed to the NFL by teammates and has stayed grounded, despite some quick accolades.

Last week he reminded Twin Cities media members that pads have not been worn yet. They will soon enough once training camp gets rolling.

9. Ivan Pace, Jr., building momentum | by Lindsey Young

It didn't take long for undrafted free agent Ivan Pace, Jr., to turn heads as a rookie last season, and he's looking to pick up right where he left off.

Pace ran with the Vikings first-team defense throughout OTAs and minicamp, joining Cashman, a Minnesota native, in the base inside linebacker spots.

Pace, whom the Vikings signed out of Cincinnati last spring, told Twin Cities media members he's "always working to get better," and that work ethic has been paying off. It's clear he's trusted by Flores, who could potentially hand Pace the "green dot helmet" duties in 2024 – meaning he'd have a headset inside his helmet to relay calls from the sideline to the huddle.

"If that's good for the team for me to have the green dot – I know they brought in a couple of linebackers that have more experience and stuff – but if they can trust me enough to have the green dot, I'm ready for it," Pace said.

He did handle some of the green-dot duties late last season when Jordan Hicks was sidelined with an injury.

10. The plan at cornerback | by Lindsey Young

The approach by Vikings cornerbacks could look a little bit different in 2024.

This spring, Minnesota signed free agent corner Shaq Griffin, who brings seven seasons of NFL experience — and plenty of snaps in man coverage — to the Vikings defense. Griffin mainly manned one of the outside corner positions throughout Minnesota's OTA and minicamp practices, with 2023 draft pick Mekhi Blackmon taking the other outside spot.

The addition of Griffin then allowed Byron Murphy, Jr., to slide into the slot – a little more natural fit for the veteran defender.

O'Connell said "it's been great" having Griffin the fold, noting his size and ability in man coverage.

"You feel his competitiveness," O'Connell said. "When [Jefferson] got back for minicamp, you could feel those guys kind of picking up like they've been teammates for a long time, just pushing each other to get better."