Is It Time to Hit the Purple Panic Button?
Reports out of training camp can cause legitimate concern and overreactions. The Vikings have plenty of developments happening during their practices, but should we really hit the panic button?
Irv Smith Injury
Once again, Smith was supposed to be the Vikings’ breakout star of the season. With under 700 career yards and seven touchdowns in three seasons, it has not happened yet. The missed 2022 season because of injury didn’t help him to reach his potential, and the new injury could slow him down again. The tight end is expected to be back for the Week 1 matchup against the Packers after undergoing thumb surgery.
After campaigning for the signing of another tight end during the whole offseason, the Vikings seem to be just fine. Johnny Mundt stepped up as a pass catcher after playing a blocking role for the Rams in recent years. The fact that he can do both is enough to be a second tight end. It would even be fine if Smith missed a couple of games during the season and Mundt had to step in. However, a lengthy absence would be a disaster.
The other tight end who’s making the most out of the opportunity of getting reps in place of Smith is Zach Davidson. The second-year player was a big project last year but improved a lot. He makes big plays every day, and the 6’7″ frame combined with great speed for a TE make him a potential impact player in his second campaign. Ben Ellefson, a primary blocking tight end who made the 2021 roster, is still a candidate to be on the team. He has to beat out either Mundt or Davidson. The depth is better than expected.
Panic Button – No, unless Smith misses a big part of the season.
The struggles of center Garrett Bradbury are well documented. Since he came into the league in 2019, his biggest issue has been pass protection, especially against big bull-rushing defensive tackles. Despite gaining weight in the offseason, he did not get stronger, as he lost rep after rep against free agent signing Harrison Phillips. Granted, Phillips is a strong player, but his pass-rushing abilities are not on the level of star interior pass rushers Akiem Hicks or Kenny Clark.
The Vikings didn’t address that weakness of their offensive line in the offseason. They added three serious competitors for the right guard spot, another weakness, but they added virtually no real competition for Bradbury. After Bradbury’s struggling start to camp, guard Chris Reed seems to get work at the center position. He had never played center in the NFL, though. It showed when multiple fumbles happened during the snap exchange. Snapping the ball is not as easy as it looks. Also, it’s a question mark if he can call out protections as well as Bradbury.
Reed isn’t a serious competitor for the starting spot unless Bradbury continues to struggle badly. It’s not sure, however, if Reed would even be an upgrade. It would be wise to bring in a real center to compete for the job via free agency or a trade.
Panic Button – Yes. The issue has the potential to ruin the offense and should be addressed.
Battle for Backup QB
Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion continue their battle for the backup spot. Neither of the options seems to be a good one at the moment. Mannion, the veteran, might be a great backup in the meeting room, but when he has to take snaps during the game, his uninspiring play doesn’t put the Vikings in a position to win a game.
Mond, meanwhile, is still struggling with accuracy, consistency, and reading a defense. He didn’t take the expected step toward becoming a backup quarterback. One of Cousins’ biggest strengths is to stay on the field. However, if he had to miss a game, the Vikings would have virtually no chance to steal a victory with the current backup QB options.
Once again, a free agency pickup or a trade makes sense. The old saying that the backup QB is the second most important player of the team might not be accurate, but once the starter goes down, he is the most important. And the Vikings’ options are a problem.
Panic Button – Yes. Unless someone can step up, neither should be the backup QB.
Vikings Receivers Win Most Drills
The Vikings’ receivers beat the cornerbacks more often than not. However, the wideouts are phenomenal. Jefferson is unstoppable. He will be double-teamed all year. Not even elite cornerbacks can cover him one-on-one. Thielen is a crafty playmaker. His athleticism might not be at its peak level, but he has always been incredibly smart.
K.J. Osborn seems to be at the beginning of another breakout year. After the same thing happened last year, it’s possible that he takes another step and becomes a serious threat for defenses and even for Thielen’s WR2 spot. Rookie receiver Nailor shows his speed and makes plays, Albert Wilson started to turn heads recently, and Trishton Jackson’s and Myron Mitchell’s names surface regularly.
All of that could mean that the cornerbacks once again are a weakness of the team. Patrick Peterson was re-signed, Cameron Dantzler escaped the Mike Zimmer doghouse, and rookies Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth were drafted. All of them made plays at times during the first two weeks of camp, but not at the rate of the receivers.
Panic Button – Absolutely not. The WRs are just awesome. The young players deserve some patience.
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