As 32 teams prepare to start their training camps over the next two weeks, NFL.com is previewing each squad’s most important position battle, newcomer (or player returning from injury) to watch, and “looming camp question.”
NFL.com’s Grant Gordon rolled out his evaluations of the NFC North on Wednesday and called Minnesota’s battle at No. 3 wide receiver the team’s most important. He wrote:
Statistically speaking, Laquon Treadwell was the No. 3 wideout in 2018, but his 35 receptions were fifth on the team behind tight end Kyle Rudolph, running back Dalvin Cook and, of course, the stellar duo of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, who each racked up more than 100 catches.
[Treadwell] will be part of an intriguing competition for the No. 3 receiver behind arguably the NFL's most established receiving tandem. Fan favorite Chad Beebe could be the clubhouse leader, while 6-foot-5 addition Jordan Taylor could be a sleeper along with Brandon Zylstra. Seventh-round picks Dillon Mitchell and [Bisi] Johnson could surprise.
Gordon went on to say that first-round draft pick Garrett Bradbury is the player to watch. Bradbury was drafted 18th overall by Minnesota and immediately stepped into the starting center position as Pat Elflein willingly moved to left guard.
According to Gordon, Bradbury “instantly improves” the Vikings offensive line, which struggled to remain consistent in 2018.
The North Carolina State product’s workmanlike approach and head for the game has drawn quick acclaim within the Vikings ranks and hurried along the critically important relationship between the center and quarterback. While it’s still oh-so-early in Bradbury’s career, it wouldn’t be all that startling to see this guy centering the Minnesota offensive line for a long time to come.
And as far as the “looming camp question”? Gordon is watching to see how quarterback Kirk Cousins will perform in year two with Minnesota.
Cousins has had a laundry list of offensive coordinators lately and is currently adjusting to another new one in Kevin Stefanski (as well as [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor] Gary Kubiak). While that’s a notable change, Cousins leads a formidable offense that has the key pieces at receiver (Diggs and Thielen), tight end (Rudolph and [Irv Smith, Jr.]) and running back (Cook) along with an improved O-line. Predicting Cousins will once more find individual statistical splendor is safe, but whether he can lead the Vikings back into the realm of contender status is the prevailing question.
To see Gordon’s evaluation of the Vikings NFC North rivals, click here.
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Mackensie Alexander returning to hometown to host free football camp
Vikings cornerback Mackensie Alexander is entering his fourth season in Minnesota but has continued to remain committed to his hometown community of Immokalee, Florida.
This weekend, Alexander and three other current NFL players, all of whom graduated from Immokalee High School, are returning to host a free football camp for youth ages 6 to 16.
Andrew McDevitt of NBC 2 wrote about the upcoming event hosted by Alexander, Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson, Falcons defensive tackle Deadrin Senat and Browns running back D’Ernest Johnson.
The four Immokalee men will also be partnering with fellow NFL player, Tommy Bohanon, a North Fort Myers alum. “It's just a great way to get more guys out there with different stories. Obviously he's a guy from this area who's done great things in the league and is doing great things with his own charity, we just thought it would be good to have as many people as possible,” said Alexander of adding Bohanon to the mix.
“I’m coming back to my hometown and showing love and allowing the kids to see another perspective,” Alexander told McDevitt. “It’s a way for them to see that they can make it out of the city, they can be whoever they decide they want to be.”
Vikings safety Harrison Smith also returned this week to his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, to host the “Smith and Smith Football Camp” along with Bills tight end Lee Smith.
Browning listed among 8 UDFAs with ‘best chance’ of making NFL rosters
Undrafted free agents always are underdogs to make an NFL roster, but every season, a handful of UDFAs across the league impress coaches and make the cut.
Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling recently took a look across all 32 90-man rosters and highlighted eight players whom he believes have the “best chance” of making final rosters. Included on his list was quarterback Jake Browning, whom the Vikings signed after the draft. Roling wrote:
Browning started 53 games for the Washington Huskies and reeled in a Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year award in 2016. That he slipped into the undrafted realm wasn't the best sign, but it isn’t a disqualifier from making an NFL roster.
Roling pointed out that Browning will be competing behind Cousins with Kyle Sloter and Sean Mannion but said he has a shot if he “executes the Vikings system well.”
The balanced look in Minnesota should permit a steady developmental process for Browning as opposed to hinging everything on the quarterback alone.
Roling opined that if Browning “shows flashes in training camp, the Vikings aren’t likely to risk losing him on waivers.”