1 Week of Vikings Training Camp – What We’ve Learned
A week before the Vikings begin their preseason with a contest in Seattle against the Seahawks, the team is getting ready for the journey that is supposed to end in the Super Bowl. Coming off a 13-4 season, Kevin O’Connell’s unit is viewed as an overachieving team that will experience a harsh downfall in 2023. Proving those critics wrong is a major motivational factor for the franchise.
1 Week of Vikings Training Camp – What We’ve Learned
Players shine and show their potential, and others disappoint, that is life in training camp. There are some competitions for the open spots, the most fascinating storylines in the process. But what have we learned about the 2023 Vikings?
1. Jordan Addison Is for Real
Minnesota’s first-round rookie Jordan Addison missed all of the offseason workouts with an injury and then made headlines for driving way over the speed limit. Fans were rightfully concerned that he would turn into a headache instead of bringing joy.
One week later, he shines in camp, showing why the Vikings were high on him in the draft process and why they were excited after making the call to bring him to the franchise. Starting off with the second-team offense, receiving reps with the top unit after Jalen Nailor wasn’t present on the field because of an injury, Addison showed that he belongs.
If he can live up to the hype and get familiar with the offense to earn major reps for the Vikings early in his career, he would transform the offense to a different level. Helping Justin Jefferson and taking away some pressure off him is a big point of emphasis for the Vikings and Addison could be the key for that.
2. Andrew Booth Might Be in Trouble
A player who also came to the Vikings via the draft with high expectations, cornerback Andrew Booth is far away from earning a meaningful role. He missed most of his rookie campaign injured and when he was on the field, he didn’t look like he was ready for NFL football.
Now having a second chance with a new defensive coordinator, Booth is falling behind again. First-team reps are going to Byron Murphy, Akayleb Evans, Mekhi Blackmon, and Joejuan Williams while Booth is exclusively playing with the second-team. In addition to that, he left Tuesday’s practice with an injury, just adding to his extensive injury history.
The only reason why he is not a candidate to be cut is the fact that he was a second-round pick just one year ago.
3. Justin Jefferson Is Incredible
Technically this is not something we’ve learned during the 2023 training camp. The best receiver in the game has been making plays every time he steps onto the field and it doesn’t matter if it is a real football game or practice. His highlights go viral on social media on a daily basis.
Besides that, Jefferson met Cris Carter and received praise from Randy Moss. The Vikings legends are Hall of Famers, a place where Jefferson also wants to be after his career is over. Experiencing a remarkable training camp as the face of the franchise once again, his time will improve once he signs his huge contract extension.
4. The New Defense Is Different
Brian Flores replaced Ed Donatell as defensive coordinator in the offseason and his coaching style is the polar opposite. While Donatell wanted to use the bend-don’t-break approach, Flores wants to put pressure on the offense by sending extra pass rushers.
Harrison Smith had three sacks on Tuesday alone and Ivan Pace is slowly getting some run with the first-team as he is an excellent pass-rusher from the linebacker position. A similar thing to last year, the defense is struggling in pass coverage but the offense is always favored early in training camp when everyone is trying to play contactless. It should be a minor concern at this point and hopefully doesn’t turn into a major issue for the purple team.
5. Lewis Cine Is Improving
Similar to Booth, Cine has been a disappointment in his one season with the Vikings but injuries are to blame for at least some of it. He is now fully healthy after his injury derailed his debut season and is already flying around on the practice field.
Having a slow start to his professional career, Cine is showing his athletic upside and already made some highlight plays. His problem is that Camryn Bynum and Harrison Smith – the two starters from 2022 – and backup Josh Metellus are still on the team. Regardless, if he can continue to improve and play at a high level, he can push the starters.
6. Rookies Are Getting Serious Run
Four rookies have already received reps with the first-team offense and defense. Running back DeWayne McBride subbed in after Alexander Mattison had left practice on Tuesday, splitting the reps with Ty Chandler. The aforementioned first-rounder Addison is also running with the 1s.
On defense, cornerback Blackmon is firmly in the mix to be the nickel cornerback with the 1s. It appears as if the Vikings try different cornerback combinations. Byron Murphy is playing in the slot in some, Metellus does in others. The final one – Ivan Pace – is perhaps the biggest surprise as he was an undrafted free agent. He is drawing praise from various people, including defensive coordinator Flores.
Also coming in as an undrafted rookie, kicker Jack Podlesny is making life hard for incumbent kicker Greg Joseph, trying to achieve the upset like Bryan Wright. The punter beat out veteran Jordan Berry last year.
Quarterback Jaren Hall is having the usual problems of a rookie passer, misreading plays and coverages at times while lacking consistency. Still, there has been some positive feedback for the BYU product despite the expected growing pains.
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