State of the Vikings Heading Into Training Camp

Vikings rookies and select veterans are due to report today and practice for the first time on Tuesday, and vets will arrive on July 25. The first practice open to the public will be Friday, July 26. Here’s a look at the Vikings roster situation as it stands now, including returning players, fresh faces and what fans can watch for during Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

Visit Vikingsplaybook.com to flip through this year’s training camp guide and be sure to pick up your free copy at camp.

QUARTERBACKS

Kirk Cousins now has a complete season – and two springs – in Minnesota under his belt. He put up big numbers in 2018, finishing the campaign with a career-high completion percentage (70.1). He started all 16 games for Minnesota and threw for 4,298 yards and a career-high 30 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. Cousins’ quarterback rating was 99.7. His debut season in Purple extended his streak of 4,000-plus-yard and 25-plus-touchdown seasons to four. Cousins is joined in the Vikings QB room by one other returning player from last season, Kyle Sloter, and two newcomers.

Fresh Faces: Minnesota signed former Rams quarterback Sean Mannion in free agency and inked Washington standout Jake Browning to a UDFA deal after the draft. In four seasons, Mannion has played in 10 games.

What to Watch: Cousins is accustomed to Minnesota but playing in his second offensive system since joining the Vikings in March 2018. All eyes will be on Cousins under Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski, who took over the role last winter after John DeFilippo was relieved of his duties. Cousins will also learn from Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak and quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak.

RUNNING BACKS

Dalvin Cook is looking to stay healthy in year three. The running back had his rookie campaign cut short by a torn ACL in 2017 and dealt with a nagging hamstring injury in 2018. In 11 games last season, he totaled 133 carries for 615 yards and two touchdowns. Fans will get a better look at Ameer Abdullah, who joined the Vikings in November after being released by the Lions. Fullback C.J. Ham, a Duluth native, is returning with the crew, along with 2018 rookie RBs Mike Boone and Roc Thomas.

Fresh Faces: The Vikings drafted Boise State standout Alexander Mattison 102nd overall in April. Mattison played three seasons for the Broncos and became the first Boise State player to lead the conference in a season by totaling 1,415 rushing yards as a junior in 2018. The Vikings also signed UDFA fullback Khari Blasingame.

What to Watch: If Cook staves away the injuries this season, the sky is the limit for the talented back. With the departure of Latavius Murray in free agency, it will be interesting to see how Abdullah and/or Mattison share responsibility out of the backfield. This spring, running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu called Ham the “perfect fit” at fullback in Minnesota’s new offensive system.

TIGHT ENDS

Kyle Rudolph is back for a ninth season in Purple. The Vikings signed Rudolph to an extension in June, just before the team’s minicamp. Rudolph finished 2018 with 64 catches for 634 yards and four touchdowns. Tight ends Tyler Conklin and David Morgan are back for their second and fourth seasons, respectively, and Cole Hikutini remains with Minnesota after spending 2018 on the practice squad.

Fresh Faces: The Vikings used their second-round draft pick to select tight end Irv Smith, Jr., out of Alabama. He recorded 58 receptions for 838 yards (14.4 yards per reception) and 10 touchdowns in 38 games for the Crimson Tide. Minnesota also signed undrafted free agent Brandon Dillon.

What to Watch: How will Rudolph and Smith be utilized together? The Vikings offense is yet to be fully seen, but Minnesota could implement 12 and 22 personnel packages under Stefanski.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, perhaps the league’s best receiving duo, are back after combining for 215 catches, 2,394 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Thielen’s 2018 outing earned the Minnesota native his second career Pro Bowl nod. The pair will continue to pack a 1-2 punch for the foreseeable future, as both have signed extensions with Minnesota.

Fresh Faces: The Vikings drafted a pair of receivers in the seventh round, snagging Dillon Mitchell and Bisi Johnson out of Oregon and Colorado State, respectively. Former Bronco Jordan Taylor signed with Minnesota in free agency, and the Vikings added undrafted free agents Davion Davis and Alexander Hollins.

What to Watch: The battle for WR3 promises to be an interesting one. The reps were split during OTAs mainly between Taylor and Chad Beebe, whom the Vikings signed last year as an undrafted free agent. In addition to the group of rookies, fourth-year receiver Laquon Treadwell, Jeff Badet and Brandon Zylstra also remain in the mix.

OFFENSIVE LINE

The Vikings have a new center in town, first-round pick Garrett Bradbury, but Pat Elflein has embraced his role of sliding to left guard. After missing the first two games of the 2018 season while continuing to rehab injuries, Elflein played in the final 14, starting 13 of them. Riley Reiff returns at left tackle alongside the Ohio State standout, and Brian O’Neill, who started 11 games as a rookie in 2018, will remain at right tackle. Rashod Hill, who started eight of 16 games in 2018, is back for his fourth season. Other returners are Aviante Collins, Cornelius Edison, Danny Isidora, Brett Jones and Storm Norton.

Fresh Faces: Minnesota’s offensive line will have two new faces in its starting five, with Bradbury, whom the Vikings snagged with the 18th overall pick, and former Titan Josh Kline, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent. Kline seemed solidified at the right guard spot throughout OTAs and minicamp. Another free agency addition was former Jets guard Dakota Dozier. The Vikings traded up to draft Oklahoma’s Dru Samia in the fourth round and later selected Elon tackle Olisaemeka Udoh in the sixth. Western Michigan center John Keenoy joined the group as an undrafted free agent.

What to Watch: Bradbury, who won the Rimington Trophy at N.C. State as the nation’s best center in 2018, stepped into the starting role from day one and appears confident anchoring the line as a rookie. It will be interesting to see how Minnesota’s starting five fare with a new look this season.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The Vikings are returning almost their entire defensive line from last season, including Pro Bowlers Everson Griffen, Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph. Shamar Stephen has returned to Minnesota after a year away in Seattle and looks poised to start at defensive tackle. Hunter racked up 14.5 sacks over 16 games last season, bringing his career total to 40. Defensive end Stephen Weatherly, who started a career-high six games in 2018, will likely continue to develop in a larger role.

Fresh Faces: The Vikings drafted Arkansas defensive tackle Armon Watts in the sixth round and added three additional defensive linemen as undrafted free agents: Stacy Keely, Tito Odenigbo (the younger brother of Ifeadi Odenigbo), Anree Saint-Amour. Former Northern Iowa defensive tackle Karter Schult signed after playing in the AAF.

What to Watch: While the starters are pretty well set, several younger players will vie for roles in the line’s rotation. Behind Stephen, Jalyn Holmes, Jaleel Johnson, Hercules Mata’afa, Watts and Curtis Cothran will battle for reps during training camp. Ifeadi Odenigbo and Tashawn Bower remain in the mix at defensive end, and Ade Aruna returned to the field after spending his rookie campaign on Injured Reserve.

LINEBACKERS

Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr are sticking together after Barr took less money to re-sign with the Vikings in March. Kendricks has led the team in tackles in each of his four seasons, including 108 in 2018. Ben Gedeon and Eric Wilson are expected to continue contributing on defense in addition to consistently playing special teams. Kentrell Brothers, Devante Downs and Reshard Cliett are back.

Fresh Faces: The Vikings added to the linebackers room through the draft, snagging USC’s Cameron Smith in the fifth round (162*nd overall)*. Over 47 games with the Trojans, he racked up 354 total tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and four interceptions. Minnesota also signed Greer Martini after his time in the AAF.

What to Watch: Are there any new ways that Kendricks and/or Barr will be deployed?

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The Vikings continue to keep the core of their secondary together, led by All-Pro safety Harrison Smith, who enters his eighth season in Minnesota. In 2018, Smith recorded three interceptions, six passes defensed, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Starting corners Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes will be back in action, as will Mackensie Alexander, who has largely filled the slot corner role. Anthony Harris is expected to fill the safety role opposite Smith after making nine starts last season.

Fresh Faces: The Vikings waited longer than usual under Head Coach Mike Zimmer to draft a defensive back, waiting until the sixth round to tab Wyoming safety Marcus Epps. In the seventh round, Minnesota drafted Texas cornerback Kris Boyd, who joins former Longhorns teammate Holton Hill in the secondary. Young players also include Craig James and undrafted free agent additions Micah Abernathy, Terrence Alexander, Nate Meadors and Isaiah Wharton. Duke Thomas and Derron Smith signed after playing in the AAF.

What to Watch: Mike Hughes, whose rookie campaign was cut short by a torn ACL in Week 6, has spent the spring continuing to rehab and looks to make a return to the field. Hill started three games last season after signing with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. Minnesota could end up utilizing safety Jayron Kearse in a more significant defensive role this season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Vikings are returning kicker Dan Bailey, whom they signed after Week 3 last season. Bailey spent his first eight NFL seasons with Dallas before joining Minnesota. Last season, he made 21 of 28 field goal attempts and was 30-of-31 on extra-point attempts. Also returning with Bailey is long snapper Kevin McDermott, entering his fifth season in Purple, and punter Matt Wile, whom the Vikings signed prior to last season.

Fresh Faces: The Vikings used their final draft pick of 2019 to select Air Force long snapper Austin Cutting.

What to Watch: For the first time in a long time, the Vikings will have a punt returner not named Marcus Sherels. Who will follow the setter of multiple franchise records?

Advertising