5 Reasons for Vikings Fans to be Concerned Heading into 2023
Recently I wrote about five reasons for Vikings fans to be optimistic heading into the new season. In the search for balance, I’m flipping things around and giving five reasons for Vikings fans to be concerned heading into 2023.
Everything isn’t entirely rosy in Minnesota, nor should it be seen as all doom and gloom. There are things to be optimistic about, but also things that fans have every right to be concerned about. Let’s take a look at those.
5 Reasons for Vikings Fans to be Concerned
1. Loss of Leaders
The Vikings have decided to move on from several senior players heading into the new season. A decision, I think, was warranted, as the time for younger players to step up had come. However, the 2023 Vikings lining up without Adam Thielen, Eric Kendrick’s, Dalvin Cook, and (to a lesser degree) Patrick Peterson and Za’Darius Smith will feel strange. The first four of those names were all teams captains in 2022, and Smith’s enthusiastic character was felt across the team. That’s a lot of leadership for one team to lose.
The Vikings still have players with leadership qualities and experience on the team. Players like Kirk Cousins, C.J. Ham, Brian O’Neill, Harrison Phillips, and Harrison Smith stand out. It’s also time for new players to step up into leadership roles, such as Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and/or Josh Metellus.
2. Interior Offensive Line
A tale as old as time: concern with the Vikings interior offensive line. The unit wasn’t as bad as in previous seasons, but rookie Ed Ingram had major struggles early on. Ezra Cleveland and Garrett Bradbury were solid if unspectacular, but the Achilles heel of the Vikings offense continues to be pass protection in the interior of the offensive line.
Bradbury was re-signed and the other two were kept in place as Minnesota looks to go with the same three guys as last season. Even the backups are unchanged, as the Vikings have made no significant moves to strengthen the position group. They appear happy to hope for improvement from the guys they already have, particularly Ingram in Year 2.
3. First Place Schedule
Finishing first place in your division means a first-place schedule, which in theory, means a tougher schedule for the Vikings in 2023. What does that mean for the Vikings? Four games against 2022 division winners that include the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals, and San Francisco 49ers. That’s four of the four teams that competed in last year’s championship round. The Vikings are certainly going to be tested.
4. Lack of Defensive Reinforcements
The Vikings seem to be hoping Brian Flores can work the necessary magic to turn the Vikings defense around with his coaching. As well as Kendricks, Peterson, and Za’Darius Smith departing, Dalvin Tomlinson, Duke Shelley, and Cam Dantzler have also gone elsewhere.
The most significant acquisitions for the Vikings defense are CB Byron Murphy and OLB Marcus Davenport. Other notable signings are CB Joejuan Williams and LB Troy Reeder, who will add good depth to the roster. Minnesota needs some of their young players to step up this season if they are going to take a significant leap as a unit.
5. Still No Resolution to the Danielle Hunter Situation
Uncertainty surrounds the future of Danielle Hunter with the Vikings. Hunter is unhappy with his contract and didn’t report to the mandatory minicamp. We await to see if he will report to the upcoming training camp in roughly two weeks. If no resolution is reached regarding his contract, there is a good chance he won’t. The Vikings defense can ill afford to lose its best player and most dominant pass-rusher. I remain hopeful a resolution is just around the corner, but until one is confirmed, the future of Hunter is a reason for anxiety among the Vikings fanbase.