2 Veteran Vikings Have a Golden Opportunity

Year 1 of the O'Connell Era
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) reacts after losing a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Some key players for the Vikings organization had to leave in the 2023 offseason. Dalvin Cook is currently a free agent while Adam Thielen and Eric Kendricks found new teams. They will both meet their old franchise in the upcoming season. Because of those departures, some chances presented themselves to a couple of veterans.

2 Veteran Vikings Have a Golden Opportunity

Brian Asamoah is expected to take over the role of Eric Kendricks as one of the starting inside linebackers. Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be his first starting adventure after a year as a special teamer and backup.

A duo of more experienced players also have an opportunity of a lifetime.

K.J. Osborn

2 Veteran Vikings Have a Golden Opportunity
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The former Miami and Buffalo receiver came into the NFL as a receiver with the ability to work as a kick returner. 2020 offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak was a fan of the prospect and wanted general manager Rick Spielman to draft him. As a rookie, Osborn exclusively worked as a returner with limited success. When the Vikings selected Kene Nwangwu to take over the return duties in 2021, it was seen as a real possibility that Osborn wouldn’t make the roster as he hadn’t played a single snap on offense at that time.

The receiver was a surprise standout in training camp leading up to his second season and unexpectedly won the job as the third WR next to Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen. He posted 655 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns, including some clutch plays. Most fans remember his game-winning score in overtime against the Carolina Panthers. Now an established WR3, Osborn was expected to make another leap with the arrival of Kevin O’Connell, as he came from the Rams with their three wide receiver attacks. However, Osborn basically repeated his 2021 stat line and fired up 650 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) catches a touchdown pass to win the game in overtime as Carolina Panthers safety Sean Chandler (34) defends at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With Thielen’s departure, the Vikings have an opening at the WR2 spot and Osborn started the offseason as the top candidate. Some fans were concerned because a big chunk of his production came in three games, while he was quieter in the others. Others expected him to improve his production with the extra opportunities.

The Vikings added Jordan Addison in the first round, throwing a monkey wrench into the Osborn expectations. Regardless of Addison’s undeniable talent, it is still an open competition. Osborn is more experienced and should have the advantage when it comes to getting ahold of the playbook. In addition to that, Addison missed most of the offseason workouts because of a minor and undisclosed injury, giving Osborn the chance to be the Week 1 starter over the rookie.

Alexander Mattison

The running back came into the league as a third-rounder out of Boise State in the 2019 draft, a couple of rounds after the Vikes selected Garrett Bradbury. Mattison became the backup for Dalvin Cook and he stayed in that role for four seasons. Despite the public opinion, Cook has been fairly durable in the last few seasons, so Mattison started only six games.

mattison ready
Oct 9, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (2) runs with the ball against the Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith (58) in the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

He has done an admirable job in those contests, rushing 117 times for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns. That equals 19.5 carries a game, a really high number, showing that he can handle the big workload of a true bell cow running back. He also caught 23 passes for 216 yards and 2 more touchdowns.

With Cook’s release, it is now Mattison who is in the pole position to take over the job as the lead back. Mattison was a free agent at the beginning of the offseason but the Vikings surprisingly re-signed him on a two-year $7 million deal, which should be classified as starter’s money, and not the salary of a backup.

Mattison faces competition from Ty Chandler (a 2022 rookie), this year’s seventh-rounder DeWayne McBride, and kick return ace Kene Nwangwu. Head coach O’Connell stated that he expects Mattison to be the top guy and the other three candidates to compete for the remaining snaps.

Mattison has the chance to prove that he can be a RB1 in the NFL and he claimed that he is ready for his opportunity.

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