Vikings 2nd-Year WR Doesn’t Look Hurt Anymore
When Minnesota Vikings minicamp occurred in June, second-year WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette was a spectator, nursing an injured leg and walking in a boot.
Now, as training camp begins, Smith-Marsette appears back to normal, at least per a video the Vikings main Twitter account posted on Sunday.
Smith-Marsette said, “Let’s get a ring, baby,” as he strutted into Vikings training camp in Eagan. Minnesota’s rookies and a handful of veteran players, including the team’s QB1 Kirk Cousins, reported to training camp this weekend.
A healthy Smith-Marsette is quasi-significant as the Iowa alumnus will contend for the Vikings WR4 job this season. He sizzled down the stretch of the 2021 season, creating hope for some fans that the emergence would carry over into his sophomore campaign. All told, Smith-Marsette was only targeted six times in 2021 by Kirk Cousins and Sean Mannion, but he tallied 116 yards and two touchdowns on those opportunities. And scoring 33% of the time when targeted ain’t bad.
Smith-Marsette could also feast on punt-returning duties. Last season, Dede Westbrook was the franchise’s primary punt returner, but he remains a free agent as of late July. The Vikings seemed intrigued by a Westbrook reunion in 2022 but opted for the services of Albert Wilson, a veteran wideout, instead. With no Westbrook on the depth chart, Smith-Marsette will compete for the punt returner job, presumably with K.J. Osborn, Albert Wilson, and rookie Jalen Nailor in the mix, too.
The June injury for Smith-Marsette was also noteworthy because Vikings fans are a cynical breed. In the summer of 2020, Danielle Hunter was beset by a small injury — that turned into a season-ender. Accordingly, anytime henceforth a player is nagged by a summer injury, the worst is expected — a lesson learned from the 2020 Hunter experience.
Moreover, the Vikings WR4 — whether that’s Smith-Marsette or someone else — should get more exposure this season. Minnesota fired Mike Zimmer in January, and he was not known for WR4 utilization as a priority. Hell, it was a chore for the Vikings old coaching staff to groom a WR3, let alone a WR4. But Kevin O’Connell was hired to replace Zimmer, and his former team, the Los Angeles Rams, experienced no standoffishness with letting WR4s cook in an offense. So, if Smith-Marsette can indeed win the WR4 gig, he figures to be a crucial piece of the offensive puzzle.
The Vikings first preseason game takes place in less than three weeks on the road at the Las Vegas Raiders.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).