We Have an Early Camp Standout for Vikings

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Training camp kicked off on Wednesday, one day after the remaining veterans, including Justin Jefferson and Danielle Hunter, arrived at TCO Performance Center. The group now has only two weeks to get ready for the first preseason game on the road against the Seattle Seahawks. Like always, some promising players are shining during practices.

We Have an Early Camp Standout for Vikings

Most folks remember K.J. Osborn and his breakout camp campaign in 2021. He was buried on the depth chart in his debut season, and his roster spot was in jeopardy. Osborn blew everyone away in practices, clinched the third WR gig, and has been an important contributor since. His clutch heroics in overtime, including the game-winning score against the Carolina Panthers in 2021 and his efforts against the Indianapolis Colts in the largest comeback in NFL history, are memorable.

We Have an Early Camp Standout
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A second-year player wants to copy the rise to relevance – Jalen Nailor. He was a sixth-round selection in the first draft of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s reign. Also buried on the depth chart as a rookie. Even making the roster as a WR5 was a success a year ago.

When Jalen Reagor struggled and some others were rested late in the season, Nailor looked like a future star. He was one of the very few bright spots in the blowout loss against the Packers, dropping 3 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.

Throughout his rookie campaign, Nailor had 9 receptions for 179 yards and 1 score. Another memorable play was the fake punt in London when punter Ryan Wright showed his past as a college QB and threw it in the direction of Nailor, who came down with the ball. He also starred as a gunner on punt coverage.

A promising rookie season with some flashes was followed with only minor roster turnover at his position. Adam Thielen departed and Jordan Addison was added, so Nailor is still in the same position as last year. He is a backup receiver, and those could lose their roster spots despite having some talent if only one of the other rostered receivers steps up.

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But for Nailor, it appears he is on the Osborn route rather than looking for a new job in September. The former Michigan State receiver looked great on the first day of camp, according to multiple reports.

Will Ragatz (Si.com) wrote in his training camp recap, among other intriguing tidbits: “Nailor was the biggest winner of OTAs/minicamp, in my eyes, and he continued to stand out on the first day of camp. He had at least three catches during 7s (there was no 11-on-11 action today) and continues to get open.”

And he wasn’t the only one. Alec Lewis (The Athletic) wrote on Twitter: “Lots of training camp thoughts coming, but we’ll start here: Jalen Nailor looks goooooood.” He wrote in his training camp report: “He [Nailor] impressed throughout the spring and again Wednesday. Speed has never been the issue for the 2022 sixth-round pick, but he looks lean and shifty.”

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Multiple reporters praising the same guy can’t be a fluke. While it is fully expected that rookie Addison will play a significant role in the offense and Osborn is going nowhere, there might be a world in which Nailor earns a meaningful role in Kevin O’Connell’s passing attack.

Addison received some snaps in the first-team offense, an encouraging sight after missing the offseason practices. It is still notable that Nailor received most snaps next to Justin Jefferson and Osborn in three-receiver sets.

Nailor’s nickname is ‘Speedy,’ and the Vikings don’t have a real deep threat on the roster, other than obviously Jefferson, who is dangerous on all levels. When Nailor emerges as that guy, he could draw some safety help away from the star wideout or be a serious deep option for Kirk Cousins. It was only one day at training camp, but it will be fascinating to monitor if Nailor can continue to play this well.

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