Vikings Verizon Training Camp has arrived, as the 2019 season is upon us.
While Tuesday marks the first practice with 37 players who reported Monday, the first full-team practice with all 90 players will be held Friday. The Friday session is the first that is scheduled to be open to the public.
There will be plenty on intrigue and storylines to follow over the next month or so, but ESPN Vikings beat writer Courtney Cronin believes Minnesota’s offensive line will be under the biggest spotlight going forward.
The state of the offensive line dominated the conversation throughout the offseason and continues to be a major talking point as the team works through the early stages of installing a new offense.
View photos of rookies arriving for 2019 Vikings Training Camp at TCO Performance Center.
The Vikings could have as many as three new starters in a different position than the unit had in 2018.
While tackles Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill return from this past season, the interior of Minnesota’s line could be completely different.
The Vikings drafted center Garrett Bradbury in the first round, shifting former center Pat Elflein to left guard. Free agent addition Josh Kline was the starting right guard during spring practices.
With Bradbury slated to play center, Elflein is expected to move to left guard, a position he thrived at in college. Riley Reiff is an above average left tackle who has managed to stay relatively healthy throughout his time in Minnesota, and the Vikings are eager to see how another year in the NFL with time to add size to his frame will help Brian O’Neill grow at right tackle. On paper, the Reiff-Elflein-Bradbury-Kline-O’Neill starting five is a considerable upgrade.
Aside from the top names, there 11 other offensive linemen currently on Minnesota’s roster.
Cronin believes the battle for depth spots could be just as interesting as how well the starters fare in training camp and the preseason.
No team has an abundance of starting-caliber offensive linemen. However, the Vikings are in a far better position now versus a year ago where depth was tested early with Easton sustaining a neck injury that caused him to miss the season, Elflein and [former guard Mike] Remmers missing camp with injuries and backup tackle/guard Aviante Collins being placed on IR after Week 1. The area where the Vikings have the most depth is with their guards and centers, between [2019 fourth-round pick Dru] Samia, Brett Jones, Dakota Dozier and Danny Isidora and a handful of others who could wind up on the practice squad. Tackle is a bit shakier, but Rashod Hill has started multiple games for the Vikings over the past two seasons.
The Vikings also have a new offensive line coach, as Rick Dennison was hired in February to lead the unit and also be Minnesota’s run game coordinator.
Krammer interested to see how Bailey fares
By the time Week 3 rolled around during the 2018 season, the Vikings were trying to incorporate a new kicker and a new punter/holder into the mix.
Kicker Dan Bailey was added in Week 3, while punter Matt Wile joined the Vikings in the days leading up to the season opener.
Both players are back, and while Kevin McDermott and Austin Cutting will battle for the long snapper job, Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune said he’s interested to see how Bailey fares in his first full season in Minnesota.
The Vikings kept status quo at kicker when re-signing Dan Bailey to a one-year deal in March. However, they added a new long snapper, Austin Cutting, to compete with incumbent Kevin McDermott. The Vikings also brought in a kicking coach, ex-Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding, to improve their field-goal operation alongside first-year Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf.
This spring, Kaeding worked closely with punter Matt Wile on holds and with Bailey on kickoffs and field goals. This came after Bailey, who signed in Week 3 last season, missed a career-high seven field-goal attempts (one blocked) for the Vikings. Bailey hopes settling into a routine with Wile, who was also an early-season signing, can bring him back to form as the Vikings prolonged search for a long-term kicker continues.
Bailey made 21 of 28 field goals in 2018, along with 30 of 31 extra point tries. He ranks fifth all-time with a field goal percentage of 86.6, as Bailey has made 207 of 239 career field goal attempts.
Wile averaged 45.2 yards on 72 total punts, and had 27 of them land inside the 20-yard line in 2018.