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Lunchbreak: Vikings Land at 12 in The Athletic’s Preseason Power Rankings

The Vikings are 10 days away from their preseason opener in New Orleans, and 40 days away from the kickoff for the 2019 regular season.

There is still plenty of work to be done until Sept. 8, when Minnesota and Atlanta will square off at U.S. Bank Stadium.

With football season on the horizon, The Athletic released its preseason power rankings.

A panel of 10 experts from the website had the Vikings at No. 12 on their list, which was a small climb from the 15th spot they were in at when the 2018 season ended.

Lindsay Jones of The Athletic wrote:

A year ago this time, most of the NFL was looking at the Vikings as a Super Bowl favorite. Not so this year, though our panel sees some improvement from the end of 2018. We like the commitment to improving the offensive line, but we really want to see how much Kirk Cousins can do in his second year in Minnesota.

The Vikings were the second-highest team listed from the NFC North, as Chicago was ranked eighth by the site.

Minnesota was the sixth NFC team listed behind the Rams, Saints, Eagles, Bears and Cowboys.

Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s squad missed the playoffs in 2018 with an 8-7-1 record, but Minnesota has had plenty of success in recent odd years, going a combined 24-8 with a pair of division crowns in 2015 and 2017.

View photos of the Vikings during training camp practice at TCO Performance Center on July 29.

Ham, Smith showing versatility on offense

The Vikings have a well-earned off day Tuesday, one day after practicing in pads for the second straight day.

The entire team has practiced together for four days in all. Rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans wrapped up their seventh consecutive day of practice on Monday.

Matthew Coller of SKOR North listed his takeaways from the first week of Verizon Vikings Training Camp, and noted that the Vikings could get a multitude of players involved on the offensive side of the ball.

Coller wrote that he’s noticed fullback C.J. Ham and rookie tight end Irv Smith, Jr. used in creative ways under Vikings Offensive Coordinator Kevin Stefanski. Coller wrote:

You would be hard-pressed to find someone in Eagan who wasn’t a big fan of C.J. Ham. The Vikings fullback has played a high percentage of first-team reps in 11-on-11s and considering Gary Kubiak’s teams generally use the fullback on a regular basis, we could be seeing Ham often in 2019.

Likewise, Irv Smith has been in routinely at the same time as Kyle Rudolph. If you considered Smith more of a receiver than tight end, he would be the “number three” wide receiver. The Vikings have lined him up all over the field during practices, and it doesn’t seem like they will deviate from the plan to use two tight ends unless Smith struggles during preseason games.

Ham is entering his third season on the roster and has been used as a blocker, rusher and pass catcher in the past. Smith, a 2019 second-round pick out of Alabama, recorded 58 receptions for 838 yards (14.4 yards per reception) and 10 touchdowns in 38 games in college.

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