One Young Viking Sounds Ready for the ‘Next Step’

Nov 11, 2022; Munich, Germany; Large helmets of NFL teams at fan activation event at Odeonsplatz. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Much of the Minnesota Vikings offseason has revolved around Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Adam Thielen, and rookie Jordan Addison at wide receiver.

One Young Viking Sounds Ready for the ‘Next Step’

Jefferson is on deck for a cyclopean contract extension. Osborn was tentatively slated for WR2 duty for about three months. Adam Thielen was released and signed with the Carolina Panthers. And Addison is the next big thing, according to draft pundits and Vikings fans.

But don’t forget about second-year playmaker Jalen Nailor. That’s the word from the Vikings coaching staff, anyway.

Viking Sounds Ready
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine (35) defends during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Nailor was tremendous at OTAs, cultivating chemistry with alma-mater-mate Kirk Cousins and creating fancy highlights. The Vikings social media team uplifted one play in particular.

And the Nailor hype train isn’t derived from a single play at OTAs — the offensive coordinator’s words mirror the excitement. Wes Phillips runs Minnesota’s offense along with Kevin O’Connell and is high on Nailor’s 2023 potential. He said last week, “Jalen’s a really good player. Every opportunity that he gets to show out, he shows up.”

Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) celebrates after making a stop against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Phillips continued, “We put together a lot of install tapes to teach the concepts as we go, and a lot of the things — whether it’s the opportunities against Chicago or Green Bay that he got to play, or whether it’s practice clips from last year, he just shows up a lot as far as doing the right thing, being where he’s supposed to be and then having the athletic ability to make the play. Really pleased with where he’s at.”

Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, Minnesota’s wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell reportedly ‘pounded the table‘ for Nailor. At Michigan State in 2021, Nailor tallied 695 receiving yards and six touchdowns. The man nicknamed Speedy ran a 4.5 forty-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine. He also placed in the Top 10 among receivers in several drills at the event. On any given Sunday, he’s around the third fastest player on the Vikings roster behind Kalon Barnes (CB) and Kene Nwangwu (RB).

'Rookie Watch' in Week 18
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Indianapolis Colts safety Trevor Denbow (43) breaks up a fake punt pass attempt to Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Then, as a rookie, Nailor registered 9 receptions for 179 yards, a touchdown, and some flashy clips to whet fans’ appetites for the offseason. He did most of his damage in ‘garbage time’ and will hope to recreate the rookie production in the beginning and middle of games as a sophomore.

Phillips was also stoked about the Vikings RB room. Uplifting Ty Chandler in particular, a 2022 draft mate of Nailor, Phillips said, “Ty’s obviously a great athlete — it’s the reason why we brought him here, but he’s a real pro. He’s been working really hard at it, as has that whole [running back] group. It’s a really special group of guys as far as Alex [Mattison], Kene [Nwangwu] and Ty, and then of course [fullback] C.J. [Ham] being involved with that, as well.”

Jefferson, Addison, and Osborn will dominate the early-season headlines — rightfully so — but don’t rule out Nailor’s continued emergence as a playmaker. The Vikings are point-blank affirming his real-deal potential.

Vikings mandatory minicamp kicks off Tuesday.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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