Vikings OC Foresees a Higher Usage of the Hometown Guy in 2023

Vikings Need a WR2
Wes Phillips

When Kevin O’Connell and his staff, including offensive coordinator Wes Phillips, came to the Vikings in 2022, he was expected to implement an offense similar to their previous stint in Los Angeles with offensive mastermind Sean McVay at the helm. Indeed, an increased focus on the passing game and sets with three wide receivers on the field was obvious to see in their first season in charge.

Vikings OC Foresees a Higher Usage of the Hometown Guy in 2023

Vikings OC Foresees a Higher Usage of the Hometown Guy in 2023
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The additional usage of 11 personnel helped some guys, but others disappeared from the gameplans. K.J. Osborn logged 873 snaps compared to the 774 in 2021, although Adam Thielen played almost 300 more snaps than in the previous season in which he missed time with injuries. Those additional snaps for WRs cost other players reps, as there are always 11 players on the field. Subsequently, C.J. Ham’s role within the offense declined. He played 33% of the plays in 2021 and only 15% in 2022. Instead of 376 snaps on offense in 2021, he only logged 169 the following year.

Because of that steep decline, it was expected by most that Ham’s roster spot could be in jeopardy. O’Connell came from an offense that didn’t employ a fullback, and he rarely used him in his first season in Minnesota. But instead of parting ways, the Vikings extended the contract of the Minnesota native, to the surprise of most fans and pundits.

The Vikes don’t plan to make the offense more McVay-like. A Kyle Shanahan offense appears to be the way to go. That includes a fullback and a heavy usage of one or more tight ends. The signing of Josh Oliver and the trade for T.J. Hockenson clearly show the team’s priority at the position.

The Vikings 2022 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 15
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Offensive coordinator Phillips talked about Ham and his possibly increasing role in 2023 after the extension:

I think when you first come in and you’re implementing an offense, we were a very heavy 11-personnel type offense coming into this situation. Then you have a talented guy and you try to incorporate some of those things but you just seeing how good a player he is and how productive he is, and then implementing some more schemes with him involved. And now even potentially with three tight ends involved. You get a Josh Oliver on board, and you have Johnny Mundt and T.J. Hockenson. We feel like we’re having a lot of different personnels depending on week-to-week what we feel like is best to attack the defense, to give them issues.

Wes Phillips

It seems as if the Vikings have a plan to go with heavier formations instead of three wideouts. Of course, the opponent sometimes dictates how the offense must attack them. Jordan Addison’s development will also influence the frequency of the formations. If he is the real deal and K.J. Osborn is taking another step, the coaching staff will still try to run primarily sets with three wideouts.

Verdict Is in for Ham
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Having more heavy guys on the field can benefit the running offense. The Vikings had a bad rushing attack in many different metrics. While the passing offense was top 10 in many categories, the run game ranked in the bottom tier in most metrics. It ranked 28th in DVOA, 29th in EPA/Play, 27th in yards, 25th in yards per attempt, and 27th in getting first downs by a run.

Oliver and Ham are fantastic run blockers who can open up holes for Alexander Mattison and his backups Ty Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, and DeWayne McBride. Ham has also proven to be an asset in the passing game over the years. A target with reliable hands, Ham is looking at increased opportunities in 2023 in an offense that will be just like the new defense, much more versatile.

As the Viking with the third-longest active tenure on the team, Ham has played 96 games with the Vikings since 2017 after spending his rookie season on the practice squad. He has logged 33 starts, 70 receptions for 610 receiving yards, and 97 rushing yards on 36 carries, of course, most on short-yardage situations. The fullback has found the endzone five times.

Ham just turned 30 and is under contract for three more seasons

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