What We Learned after 2 Weeks of Vikings Training Camp
The Vikings started into training camp when veterans arrived on July 26th. Multiple walkthroughs, unpadded practices, padded practices, and a night practice later, we learned a lot about the 2022 Vikings. The franchise missed the postseason in back-to-back seasons and is desperate to get back to the playoffs. The foundation of every season is the training camp. Here are six observations after the first two weeks, in no particular order.
1. Disastrous Centers
The center position was supposed to be fixed for a decade when the Vikings selected Garrett Bradbury in the first round of the 2019 draft. However, he didn’t pan out as expected. While he’s alright in run blocking, his pass protection is a disaster. He gets regularly run over by big bull-rushing defensive tackles, and training camp is not any different, as Harrison Phillips is dominating Bradbury.
His struggles are so severe that the Vikings are starting to move Chris Reed in training camp, who was signed to compete for the vacant right guard spot, to center. He’s taking snaps with the second team as a center. The problem is, Reed never played a meaningful NFL snap at that position and seems to struggle with snapping the ball. Even if the Vikings were to bench Bradbury, it’s no guarantee that Reed is even an upgrade. The Vikings could very well add another center to the mix via trade or free agency.
2. Veterans Don’t Go Down Without a Fight
The Vikings added three immediate impact players with the first three picks of their draft, safety Lewis Cine, cornerback Andrew Booth Jr, and guard Ed Ingram. All three have a chance to start in Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers. However, all three are still amidst training camp battles with veterans.
Camryn Bynum is doing his best to keep the starting job over Cine. He had two fantastic games in 2021 and started into the offseason as a starter. However, first-rounders usually start, but he’s playing at a high level in practice.
The same goes for Booth vs. Dantzler. Booth is a pro-ready player at a position the Vikings struggled, but reports suggest that Dantzler is the better player at the moment. He came out of Zimmer’s doghouse with new confidence. Guard Ed Ingram had to fight against veterans Chris Reed and Jesse Davis. Reed, however, is transitioning to center. Davis is getting the first-team reps unless he misses time with a veteran rest day.
All three rookies could still find their way into the starting lineup for the season opener, but to this point, the veterans are in the pole position.
3. Vikings TE Depth Is Surprisingly Good
Many people, myself included, wanted the Vikings to sign a proven veteran tight end as a backup for Irv Smith. Then, Smith went down, and suddenly Johnny Mundt was the top tight end on the team. The nightmare became reality. However, the backup tight ends are doing a great job, especially Mundt and Zach Davidson. The second-year player didn’t even make the 53-man roster last season, while Mundt was a backup TE for the Rams before he ended the season on injured reserve.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has confidence in his two weapons, and they can pick up the TE duties for a couple of games if Smith can’t play. Another player to watch is Ben Ellefson. He’s primarily a blocking tight end. Ellefson made the roster last year; probably only one of Davidson and Ellefson will be on the team.
4. Backup QBs Struggle
Veteran Sean Mannion and second-year player Kellen Mond are fighting for the backup QB job. Neither is playing particularly well in camp.
Mannion is his old self, a smart quarterback without exciting physical tools and uninspiring play. Mond, meanwhile, has the physical tools but is inaccurate and still struggles to read a defense.
After the struggles in training camp, the Vikings have to find someone else to back up Cousins. If something were to happen to him, the season would be over.
5. Insane WR Depth
Minnesota’s top trio of wideouts is an elite one, with Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn. Behind them, the Vikings have seven more wide receivers who are good enough to be on a roster.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette might be the favorite for WR4 duties. Veterans Albert Wilson and Olabisi Johnson are in the mix. Sixth-rounder Jalen Nailor, nicknamed ‘Speedy,’ is showing his speed in camp and is certainly interesting. Special teams ace Dan Chisena was a valuable part of the Vikings’ turnaround of the unit in 2021. Myron Mitchell, undrafted in 2021, and Trishton Jackson, undrafted in 2020, are turning heads in Vikings’ training camp. Especially Jackson might have a good shot to unseat one of the favored players.
I did not count Blake Proehl, who is still recovering from a torn ACL. Before that injury, he was a camp standout in 2021. It’s impossible to predict which receivers the Vikings will keep, and some good players won’t make the team.
6. Positive Culture Is Here to Stay
In the last years of the Mike Zimmer/Rick Spielman era, it seemed like the Vikings were a bunch of individuals who didn’t like each other. That changed now after the hiring of Kevin O’Connell and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
Both are positive, charismatic, and dynamic people. It feels like the players have more freedom to be themselves. Not only the players are having fun but also the players.
In addition to that, the Vikings added great personalities to the roster. Harrison Phillips and Akayleb Evans needed just a few days to become fan favorites in Minnesota. The new positivity surrounding the Vikings organization can help the team win games in the upcoming season.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt