The Top Question in the Vikings Orbit

Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; A Minnesota Vikings helmet sits on the field during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

June has been a tumultuous month for Minnesota Vikings fans who had to say goodbye to another longtime star of the organization. Dalvin Cook was released. In addition to the Cook news, trade rumors about defender Danielle Hunter surfaced. The Vikings reportedly take trade calls for their star pass rusher.

The Top Question in the Vikings Orbit

The Top Question in the Vikings Orbit
Aug 14, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) in the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports,

Not only the roster construction is interesting, but also the on-the-field decisions. Roughly three months out of the regular season opener, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Minnesota, the players are already fighting for roster spots and jobs in the starting lineup.

With the departure of Cook, one of his backups must claim the running back gig. Alexander Mattison, who re-signed as a free agent, is the leading candidate. Someone also needs to replace the departed defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and the competition between K.J. Osborn and Jordan Addison for the second wide receiver spot will be intriguing. According to Alex Ballentine from Bleacher Report, the race for the starting CB job is the biggest question surrounding the Vikings.

Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, Cam Dantzler Sr. and Duke Shelley were the snap leaders at cornerback for the Vikings last season. None of them remain on the roster in 2023.

The unit was a major reason the Vikings ranked 28th in scoring defense so it isn’t shocking that the team moved on from all of them. But different doesn’t always mean better and there’s a lot of young and unproven options vying for playing time.

Alex Ballentine, Bleacher Report

Indeed, new doesn’t always equal better. The Vikings should know that going from a bad offensive guard to a different bad offensive guard for years. Similar things can be said about the franchise’s quarterbacks over the years.

Vikings Unveil Footage
Dec 5, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy (7) runs with the football after his interception in the second half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The cornerback group has been a disaster for three seasons since the departure of Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes in free agency. However, the pass defense was bad enough to rule out the possibility of running it back with the same group. The front office had to make changes, and they did.

Byron Murphy Jr. was an interesting addition in free agency. He has four years of experience and is just 25 years old but he suffered a back injury that limited him to nine games last season.

Second-year corners Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. will be counted on after dealing with injuries in their rookie season. Third-round draft pick Mekhi Blackmon will be a factor too.

Alec Lewis of The Athletic noted that Blackmon got a lot of work with first-string defense primarily working out of the slot at OTAs.

Alex Ballentine

Murphy can become a fantastic CB, and the Vikings bank on that potential. His back injury is not believed to be a concern moving forward, and he is fully practicing. The former Cardinal is by far the most experienced player in the CB room, and he has one of the two starting spots already locked up.

Be Slept
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marquez Callaway (1) catches the ball as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) defends in the fourth quarter during an NFL International Series game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Saints 28-25. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Behind him, the Vikings will have their most intriguing competition. Evans and Booth must stay healthy. Booth is reportedly looking much improved, while Evans had some promising performances in 2022. It should also be noted that Joejuan Williams is receiving reps with the first team in practice.

Ballentine also referred to the new defensive scheme and coordinator Flores as a potential help for the young unit.

Brian Flores will take over as the defensive coordinator. His aggressive blitz-heavy front will ostensibly make life easier for cornerbacks, but they are still going to have to hold up their end of the bargain.

Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

More blitzes will lead to more pressure up front with all the negative effects for the passing attack, including disrupted timing and early throws, which means the guys in coverage don’t have to stick with their receivers as long. The downside for the cornerbacks is that they will have to go up against receivers in single coverage more often than in Donatell’s usual cover-2 with two deep safeties. That didn’t work very well, so the Vikings changed it up with their new DC. Rookie Blackmon mentioned recently that he enjoys playing on that kind of defense.

The Vikings will have their defensive personnel running with the first and second teams in training camp, and it will be exciting to see who is getting reps with which team.

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