Guest Post

Five Vikings Training Camp Questions–Part 1–The Offense

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD writer and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.

It’s time for Vikings training camp, and as in every season, there are some nagging questions we hope it will answer, So, I am going to go all Brett Favre on this piece, which means asking questions and trying to answer them—or at least answer by asking myself more questions. Actually, definitive answers here—this is a training camp primer in two parts to give all you camp dwellers something to watch for when the rookies report in about a week (July 23rd).

Today, in part one, we will go with the offense and look at some of the biggest questions and concerns going into to camp. Perhaps the biggest question is whether or not the camp at TCO Performance Center will be bigger and better than the one that took place for more than 50 years in Mankato. Bigger yes, but better? Well, longtime readers of this space know where I stand on that.

How quickly will Cousins assimilate?

The new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins hit the ground running in OTAs and then stumbled just a bit wending his way through mini-camp. He is key to the team taking it to the next level this season, and it will be important to watch how quickly he can assimilate the new offense, feel comfortable behind the offensive line and get in sync with his receivers.

In 2017, Case Keenum came in for the injured Sam Bradford (who, in his first game of the season looked like he was ready to go with the offense in his second season as a Viking) and barely missed a beat. We are hearing now that Keenum might not have been asked to do as much as Cousins will be asked to do, but he did get behind the wheel of the revving engine and took it for a deep ride in the playoffs.

That (and a lot more) will be expected of and needed from Cousins this season. The schedule doesn’t allow for a long get-acquainted period, and Cousins’ sizable contract doesn’t allow for a lot of patience from the Purple faithful. All eyes will be on No. 8 in camp. But I believe Cousins’ work ethic will have the offense humming early.

Can the O-line gel and protect Captain Kirk?

This question is, perhaps, number 1-A and moving up fast, since the above question will be great affected by the answer here. By now there isn’t a Vikings fan that isn’t clutching their purple brick and squeezing the life out of it, worried about how the line will do. We have heard that Cousins gets a little skittish under pressure and that PFF thinks the purple pocket protectors are going to be one of the worst in the league.

I have more confidence in this group than many (but that is cautious optimism—my default position), as I believe if Nick Easton and Pat Elflein can return to form and are joined by Mike Remmers at right guard, they make a decent interior. Riley Reiff will be solid at left tackle and there is a good battle going on over at right tackle. As of this writing, there is some depth (improved over what they have had in the past), but then injuries often happen on the offensive line. But I like the idea of the Vikings putting together a fast, athletic offensive line (with Rashod Hill losing some weight and Brian O’Neill gaining some) and watching them all get out in space this season. As they say, speed kills. It will be fun to see how much movement we see from them in camp and the preseason.

What will Cook’s return from injury bring?

There is precedent on this one, as Adrian Peterson once came back from a torn ACL to lead the league in rushing the following season. In fact, the returning from ACL surgery is becoming tantamount to Tommy John surgery when it comes to players recovering and resuming their careers following those devastating injuries. Vikings certified athletic trainer Eric Sugarman and his career know how to get the job done, and there was no greater sight at minicamp than seeing Dalvin Cook out there on the field running the ball.

But as I noted at that time, all the pass plays in the flat to him were to the right so he could plant his uninjured leg and then head up field. That tells me they are taking things slow and might continue to do so in camp (which will be something to watch—how many reps Cook gets), and that is find idea. They know what they’re doing.

That being said, we might just see a repeat of the AP treatment in the preseason, where the Vikings will hold Cook out of game action until the regular season starts. I don’t know if this will be the case, but it makes sense, given the team’s past handling of a franchise running back. The problem is that Cook only hand four regular season games in the offense last year and is learning a new one this year. The reps are more important to his development than they were to the veteran Peterson.

Cook has exhibited a great attitude toward his rehab, but he might be getting antsy by the time the third preseason games rolls around. This is one to watch.

Who is Wide Receiver Number 3?

As we said earlier, Cousins needs to get on the same page with his receivers, and we think he has been putting in the required time to do that with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. Only more time working together will increase this.

But as you more than likely have read regarding the springtime workouts, Laquon Treadwell became one of Cousins’ favorite targets and the two hooked up quite often in OTAs and minicamp. We’re not sure yet if this was a product of the defense blanketing those two aforementioned starters or Treadwell is indeed taking the next step in his development. Perhaps Cousins sees the field better than his purple predecessor (many observers say this is true) and it coincides with Treadwell finally making putting things together.

Whatever the case, the coaches, who installed Treadwell as the number three wideout, and Cousins, who has consistently gotten him the ball, are giving him every opportunity to grab that role. There are players barking at Treadwell’s heels for starting reps, so keep an eye on this camp battle to come.

Will there be bumps with the new offense?

Last season was the first full season with Pat Shurmur’s offense. The season before that was Norv Turner’s offense. This season the offense belongs to John DeFilippo—the third new offense offensive coordinator in three seasons. That means there could be issues: issues in understanding the offense, issues in confusing it with a previous one and issues on marrying it with this roster. As Bette Davis once said, “Fasten your seats, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” (Link submitted for those millennials who don’t know who is Bette Davis is.)

Well, a bumpy training camp, maybe. But that is what training camp is for, smoothing out those bumps and getting ready for the regular season. There will be some smoothing out to do with the new OC, new quarterback, kind of new running back and a slightly revamped offensive line. But then every season there is new personnel, so there is some version of this going on in every camp.

Regardless, I like DeFilippo’s energy and work ethic. He is an intense individual who impresses you as someone not interesting in putting up with players not learning their assignment. He works hard and he expects the same out of the players. DeFilippo will do what it takes to get his offense installed and operating at a high level, as this season is likely his audition for a future head-coaching job. It’s a big camp for everyone.

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Joe Oberle

Joe Oberle is a veteran sportswriter/editor/reporter and has covered the Vikings since 2008. The author of three books, he has been published in numerous periodicals and websites. He is the managing editor for VikingsTerritory.com and purplePTSD.com, as well.

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6 Comments

  1. Although 1st Round Pick CB Mike Hughes has been impressive, I’m still in denial that we passed on Will Hernandez at Guard. You assume Zim and Spielman know what they are doing with their picks and must have been satisfied enough with Remmers at RG and Hill at RT or whomever; but Hernandez is a beast who looks like a 10 year All-Pro prospect (a potential Randall McDaniel). We could have left Remmers at RT, but I guess with the hyper-talented QBs in our division, you can’t go wrong with another solid player in the secondary. O’Neill has bulked up a bit, but it’s not even about him being a starter, but an effective starter at RT. If O’Neill can’t do it, we would be looking at pulling Remmers back to RT or maybe Hill (another question mark) and then who plays Guard? Elflein and Easton to C? With a new QB and O-coordinator, stabilizing the line and having some depth would have started with drafting Hernandez. Thoughts?

    1. Ugh you guys all gotta let this draft opinion go. It didn’t go the way you hoped, but it’s not like they didn’t immediately draft for the OL in the second round. That IS addressing the position. I’m getting a little worn down by people acting like they didn’t do so. They just didn’t do it the way everyone wanted. Also Hernandez does look good, but he doesn’t fit the blocking scheme and style the Vikings are running now. He’s a big bruiser, barrel you over kind of guy. We are running a zone blocking scheme which requires speed, technique, and skill. Hernandez doesn’t really fit. Based on that fact, oniell is actually the higher rated prospect. It was also a widely held opinion that picking Hernandez there would have been a pretty big reach for need. Which if we have learned anything from our fearless leader, trader rick, we absolutely never do. His philosophy is literally to never reach for position and instead, especially high in the draft rounds, take the highest talent. You may not like it but it has served all of us fans extremely well.

      1. Drafting a cb with your #1 pick instead of a guard is a smart move. CBs cost much more money in cap space – Trae Waynes can leave after next year, which will save tons of $ in cap space. A guard is relatively inexpensive. If Zimmer/Spielman really think we need a better guard during training camp, we should be able to grab a pretty good one by trading a 3rd or 4th round pick in next year’s draft. If we don’t resign Richardson we will get that back as compensatory pick most likely. If O’Neil progresses to be a decent left tackle by next year or the year after, we can cut Reif to save more cap dollars. Now that we have a nice roster we have to think 2 or 3 years down the road when we draft. High-priced positions will take precedence over lower-priced positions.

        1. I conceded Spielman and Zim rarely make a bad choice (Ponder exception) and superduperk’s cap space comment explains their decision to pass on Hernandez very well. Hernandez and O’Neill grade out fairly close, but Hernandez is tremendously stronger and bigger than O’Neill, with O’Neill edging him in raw athleticism. But I don’t think Hernandez lacks the athleticism to be ineffective in a zone blocking scheme. Again, Zim must believe Remmers can fill the void at RG with Hill and O’Neill to battle at RT; but plugging and playing our O-line the past 3-4 has cost us in critical games. Moot point now anyway…

  2. Just joking but when someone says Hernandez doesn’t fit the Vikings blocking scheme I always think he must not fit the scheme of getting the quaterback killed.

  3. I believe the young OL on this roster are thought far more highly of as players than some of fans do ~ I too had the Vikings drafting a OG in round one and said I wouldn’t be shocked if the Vikings when OL in 2 of the first 3 rounds ~ That being said I wonder what the coaching staff will do filling the shoes of Tony Sparano who passed away today ~ Very sad day for the Vikings and its fans ~ Best wishes and prayers for his family and the Vikings ~

    JMHO here ~ I think the KO rules might have edged out OG for a CB who could start in the next couple of years but be a key player on ST now ~ I have always been a Marcus Sherels homer but with the drafting of CB Mike Hughes I believe for the first time in many years Sherels could be gone ~ While I hate that after rooting for him for so many years to make the final roster I want the Vikings to filled the best 53 man roster weekly ~

    As for the #3 WR I don’t know for sure that Treadwell’s improvement this spring will carry over to the field ~ He is the last of Norv’s requested draft pick ((( have I missed someone ??? ))) and could soon be gone ~ The man I’m keeping a eye on is K. Wright ~ I think he takes the job and runs with it ~ And if Diggs misses his average of 2+ games again this season it’s just a gut feeling for me that Wright will be the man that takes his place ~ And if he plays well that could mean the end of seeing Diggs being on the field when he is far less than 100% used as a decoy ~ So I would say don’t sleep on Wright while I’m in my last hopping stages of Treadwell finally showing he really belongs in the NFL ~ I am also excited about a couple of young guys but I’m not holding my breath on one of them stepping up this year ~ But I’m hoping ~

    As for RB’s and what Cook means to the Vikings ~ If he is the same as the old Cook he will be the lead RB ~ And even if it takes the first month before he is fully ready I will be more than comfortable to let Murray handling the job ~ Ham could be the #3 if none of the young guys step up to replace McKinnon ~ Just read somewhere today that Ham saw more time this spring as the #3 guy this spring with the 3rd team offense than he did at FB ~

    Will there be bumps with the new offense?

    I for one don’t think so ~ The Vikings are still going to be doing everything they did well last year and it will show early on as the Vikings have everyone on the coaching saft returning outside of Tony Sparano who passed away today and Pat ~ While John DeFilippo is the new OC who will bring some new plays to the offense it want be so many the players will have trouble understanding the play calls ~ Zimmer and John DeFilippo have both said that it will be a gentle process moving to his full vision he has envisioned for the Vikings offense ~ So far all of the coaches have said DeFilippo has been great to work with ~ You can find most of the Vikings offensive coaching staffs interviews over on https://www.vikings.com/ ~

    I believe there are question heading into training camp ~ However I don’t believe they are as big as we personal might feel like they should be outside of replacing Tony Sparano ~ Will they let ASS. OL coach Andrew Janocko take over and hire a new Ass. for him ~ Or will they move TE coach Clancy Barone to head OL coach because of his past of coaching some very good zone blocking OL with the Broncos ~ ??? Or will they hire someone from outside and who is left in the coaching ranks that could step in this late in the offseason with TC starting in two days for rookies and 5 days for vets ~ ???

    Lastly ~ Kirk will be just fine IMHO as long as the OL is healthy and the running game is working ~

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