Minnesota’s Camp Star Reveals His 2023 Goals

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Minnesota’s rookies arrived at TCO Performance Center on July 23rd and the veterans two days later. Since that time, we’ve learned a lot about the state of the Minnesota Vikings. First-rounder Jordan Addison looks fantastic, and he is on pace to earn a significant role in the passing game next to Justin Jefferson. Fellow rookie Mekhi Blackmon seems to have the lead in the race for the nickel cornerback spot.

Minnesota’s Camp Star Reveals His 2023 Goals

Camp Star Reveals His 2023 Goals
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

But a different first-year player has been stealing the show from them. Cincinnati’s undrafted rookie linebacker Ivan Pace is THE attraction at Vikings camp, especially because the fanbase craves an improved defense after three tough years. That’s why Brian Flores is in the building — to form a solid unit. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah brought in many new players to help him do that.

But someone who wasn’t expected to make much of a difference after not hearing his name called during April’s draft was Pace. Of course, he expected to be a game-changer when he publically announced that the league “f—.d up” on his Instagram profile. Fast forward three months, he didn’t bluff — he looks sensational. Pace actually making the 53-man roster is much more than just a popular bold prediction now.

He was asked about his goals for the upcoming season: “Just getting as much playing time as I can, as an undrafted rookie, and just doing my best.”

Pace sounded much less aggressive than in his Instagram story (or his play on the field would suggest), but it is a positive sign that he is focusing on doing his best and earning playing time. Despite the buzz he has created, it is still quite the rocky way to stand on an NFL field for more than just mop-up duties.

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The starters at the inside linebacker positions are basically set in stone with Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks, but it shouldn’t be ruled out for Pace to receive playing time because of his skill set. He possesses the ability to rush the passer, and he is outstanding at it.

Pair that ability with Brian Flores’ coaching style of attacking the offenses by throwing blitzes at him on every other play, and you get an opportunity for Pace, who seems like he is a perfect fit for the new defensive coordinator.

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Star safety Harrison Smith recently called Pace the “under-the-radar player to watch” in the upcoming preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on August 10th, exactly one month ahead of the regular season opener. While it remains to be seen if Pace will play in the regular season, he will certainly get a lot of run against in Seattle. It will be his first extensive exposure since his college tenure.

On the released depth chart, Pace is listed as the fifth linebacker behind the two starters and the two veterans Troy Dye and Troy Reeder, but it is becoming obvious that Pace is more than just a third-stringer in training camp practices. The number of plays he runs with the first-team defense is not a coincidence.

Flores said about his young defender, “I’m excited to see him moving forward just like I’m excited to really see a lot of the guys in that room – It’s a lot of competition in that room. But Ivan he’s a young player, he’s got some ability.”

Continuing to play at a consistently high level is the next step for the 22-year-old rookie, who is set to easily exceed the expectations of an undrafted rookie.

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