Description of 2022 Vikings Team Sounds Eerily Familiar
In recent years, when Vikings fans were asked about the strengths and weaknesses of their favorite football team, the answers were almost identical. The wide receivers and running backs were the strengths, while the offensive line and the cornerbacks were the weaknesses.
Sam Monson wrote an article for PFF, naming the biggest strengths and weaknesses of all 16 NFC teams. For supporters of the purple team, his points sound familiar.
Having a dominant receiving duo is nothing new for Vikings fans. Randy Moss and Cris Carter are arguably the best pairing of wideouts in NFL history. Also, in recent years, the team had some excellent tandems. All of them included Adam Thielen while his running mates changed. Stefon Diggs left the Vikings after five years in 2020, and general manager Rick Spielman immediately replaced him with Justin Jefferson in the draft.
“Justin Jefferson may already be the game’s best receiver and now expects to be featured in an offense that is far less run-focused than his first two years in the league. Only Davante Adams and Deebo Samuel have gained more yards per route run than Jefferson since he entered the NFL. Adam Thielen is one of the best receivers in the league against press coverage thanks to his releases off the line and route running. K.J. Osborn quietly emerged as a nice third receiver for this offense last year.”– Sam Monson, PFF, about the Vikings biggest strength
Jefferson is, indeed, already an elite receiver. No one recorded more receiving yards since he came into the league two years ago. His 3,016 yards also make him the most productive wideout in a player’s first two seasons in NFL history.
The tandem of Thielen and Jefferson led all receivers in receiving yards in the last two seasons. They also scored the most touchdowns in that timeframe. The Vikings searched for a productive third wide receiver for years and finally found one. K.J. Osborn had a nice and unexpected breakout year with 655 yards and seven touchdowns, including the game-winner against the Panthers in overtime.
Jefferson already stated that he has his eyes set on Canton, Ohio. He needs 1,147 yards to break the record from Randy Moss with the most yards in the first three career seasons. Thielen, meanwhile, is not getting any younger, but he is still an elite route runner. His hands are phenomenal. He also has the trust of his quarterback, Kirk Cousins, in the red zone, which leads to a lot of touchdowns.
Just like the strengths, the weaknesses are nothing new. The offensive line limited the team’s success for almost a decade and is still a big question mark. Sam Monson also chose the unit as his weakness for the Vikings, especially the interior offensive line.
“Minnesota’s offensive line has had a lot of work and the tackles now look to be in a good place, but the interior still looks like a weakness on paper. Ezra Cleveland has been solid as a run blocker at guard but has yet to finish a season with a PFF pass-blocking grade above 55.5, while Garrett Bradbury has averaged 27 pressures and almost seven penalties a season at center. Right guard has been a revolving door in recent seasons and is still there to be won by anybody showing quality play.”Sam Monson, PFF, about the Vikings offensive line
Darrisaw and O’Neill finally solidified the tackle position. The interior, however, is still a problem. Bradbury was supposed to be the franchise’s center for a decade but is a massive disappointment so far in his career. Cleveland is a solid player but occasionally has a bad game.
But there’s a reason for optimism. New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is trying to fix the right guard spot. Jesse Davis and Chris Reed are two free-agent signings with starting experience. He also drafted Ed Ingram in the second round of the 2022 draft. The goal is for one of the three to win the job and to offer solid play. Solid is a big upgrade over Oli Udoh and Dakota Dozier, the starters in 2020 and 2021.
The coaching staff has time in the upcoming training camp and the preseason to evaluate the players and to determine the starter for Week 1. The Green Bay Packers, especially Kenny Clark, caused problems for the Vikings’ interior offensive line in recent history. But fans should be excited that there’s finally a camp battle after filling the position with underwhelming candidates every year in the Mike Zimmer era.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. He chose the Vikings as his favorite team, despite Christian Ponder being the quarterback at the time. 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