What We Have Learned from Vikings OTAs
OTAs are underway across the NFL, and yesterday, the media was allowed into the Vikings’ practice. Several reporters were tweeting throughout practice. Thankfully so, this allows all of us to begin to form our opinions about the Vikings.
This is the first good look we have had at the new-look Vikings. There are many things that we can take away from this first look.
Foremost, there is a little bit of news that came out of OTAs. Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith were not practicing. Smith was busy with the birth of his first child, which is obviously far more important than football.
However, Eric Kendricks missing time could be concerning. There is no word about why he wasn’t practicing with the team. He was doing some off-field work. Although Kevin O’Connell is scheduled for a press conference on Wednesday, so we might learn more from that.
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be overly concerned. As long as this is not another “tweak” like Danielle Hunter had a couple of years ago, Kendricks will be on the field come September. That is really all that matters.
Let’s look at some of the more interesting things we can gather from this practice session.
Rookies Are Not Taking Starting Snaps
One of the big questions fans have is, why are the rookies not starting? Well, first, you need to recognize they are rookies. Nothing is going to be handed to them just because they were drafted. This is true even of first-round draft selection Lewis Cine.
All of these rookies, from Cine to Ingram to Booth to Asamoah, will have to earn their reps. Regardless of what fans want, this is the way NFL teams operate.
However, we should not be concerned. We are still four months out from any meaningful football. That is a long time for these rookies to win their job. To be honest, if they can’t win the job, do we even want them starting?
We all heard the rumors that Zimmer hated rookies, which wasn’t true. However, we have a new regime in town. So if the rookies are not starting, maybe we can assume they are not as good as the guy that won the job. Not that the head coach hated them because they were a rookie.
Vikings Defensive Front Begins to Unfold
One of the big questions this offseason was, what is this defense going to look like? It was time for a change of pace at defense. The team has been gashed for two years straight.
Now, Ed Donatell is in town, and he is ready to move this team in a new direction. What direction is that exactly? It is about getting creative with Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith.
This entire defensive scheme is going to revolve around them. We should expect pass-rushing concepts explicitly designed to get one of them one-on-one with a lineman. Based on what was reported in camp, that is exactly what is happening.
The “base” package that Donatell is running is essentially a 5-2-4. This means they have five defensive linemen, two linebackers, and four defensive backs. When they switch to nickel, they are running a 4-2-5 package.
Although, the key here is where Hunter and Smith are lining up. In the base package, they are technically referred to as “linebackers.” The three linemen are Armon Watts, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Harrison Phillips. This is what we expected to happen and is crucial.
By having three down linemen, the Vikings can use Hunter and Smith wherever they want in the formation. It’s exciting, as it will allow for some crazy exotic looks.
Hopefully, this new-look defense will push the Vikings back into the conversation as one of the best defenses in the league. They have the talent for it.
Mitch Massman is a life-long Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3