Sean Borman’s 2023 Vikings Prediction
Before I get into my 2023 season predictions, I wanted to share my takeaways from the Titans and Cardinals joint practices so they’re on the record.
Sean Borman’s 2023 Vikings Prediction
Remember that this was written before roster cuts, so some of these notes are a bit outdated, and I probably took some L’s.
Most of the discussion surrounding the Vikings cornerback group this offseason highlighted the lack of experience and depth. The youth and unknown talent have been a cause for concern among fans. So, I wanted to focus on the top corners during my time in Eagan. Here are a few thoughts:
- Byron Murphy Jr., as I noted after the first public practice, will be a nuisance for opposing offenses. Sticks to receivers incredibly well. Elite quickness. Knows when to be physical. Was pushed around at times by larger blockers, but when he avoided the block was effective in run support. He flashed continuously throughout training camp, culminating with a dominating performance against his former team. Why the hell did Arizona not bring him back? It feels like Murphy still has the potential to become a premiere lockdown corner. How will he be deployed each week? From the snaps I saw, he seemed to be the most comfortable and most dangerous in the slot. Instinctual player. Hoping he’s able to stay healthy all year
- Saw Akayleb Evans get beat a few times. Overall he played okay, but he was inconsistent. The mistakes he made resulted in big plays for the opposing offenses. Evans is learning a new defensive scheme, so this was the time for mental blunders. He made a great play against Tennessee, nearly picking off Malik Willis in the end zone during full-team situationals. Evans dropped back into zone, read the quarterback’s eyes, and jumped the route. Plays bigger than his 6-foot-2 frame. Has the speed to keep stride on deep routes. If it wasn’t training camp he would have dished out some huge hits against the Titans. Almost exclusively played on the right side during joint practices (when facing the offense)
- Mekhi Blackmon IS the unquestioned CB3. The job is his. He’s an older rookie at 24 years old, and it showed in camp, in a good way. Blackmon moved with confident poise, and he played patiently. Outside of the preseason game in Seattle, I didn’t see him get too grabby, which was a knock of his coming out of USC. Honestly, he looked like a vet at times. Will that carry over into the regular season? What I saw from him was a very small sample size (he was banged up a bit during camp). Very curious about what his ceiling is
- Joejuan Williams, who will provide depth at corner, is an asset. He competes on every rep, he’s a consistent player, and he made very few mistakes in camp. Williams has good size at 6’3,” is a good fit in Brian Flores’ defense, and is only 26 years old. Now earning a practice squad salary, he could easily be one of the best value-over-APY performers on the team. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s eventually signed to the 53
More camp notes:
- Ivan Pace Jr. potentially becoming a starter at linebacker this year as a UDFA is a big deal. He earned the opportunity with superior performances throughout camp and the preseason
- To me, both interior lines are areas for concern
- Pass protection is still the main issue for the interior offensive line, which, when you have a quarterback who can tear apart defenses when there’s time to throw, isn’t exactly ideal. When facing the Jeffrey Simmonses of the league the IOL has to bring better energy than what it did in camp. This was not the case when they faced the fire-sale Cardinals
- The defensive line may be helped by scheme and the offseason additions of Dean Lowry and Marcus Davenport, who are both very large individuals, but how will Lowry, Harrison Phillips, Jonathan Bullard, and Khyiris Tonga perform in short-yardage situations on game day?
- Would like to see a role carved out for rookie Jaquelin Roy
- With all due respect to Nick Mullens, he looked terrible in joint practices. The second-team offensive line did him no favors, so keep that in mind. But even knowing that there’s going to be a considerable drop-off after the Vikings’ first-team offense led by Kirk Cousins, it was downright brutal to watch. During the last practice against the Cardinals, Mullens had multiple passes tipped at the line of scrimmage with at least one resulting in a pick. He looked flustered under pressure. Now, Mullens is a smart player, and he gets along well with Cousins, but KNOWING where the ball is supposed to go and actually GETTING it there are two different things. He would likely perform at a considerably higher level behind the first-team offensive line, so there’s that, but it’s tough to envision Mullens stepping in and winning games if forced into action
- Trishton Jackson and Thayer Thomas had very strong performances in joint practices. Thomas had a couple of muffed punts in the preseason, which surprised me because he looked like a natural returner in camp. Even so, Jackson and Thomas could find their way onto the practice squad if they clear waivers
- Same goes for Blake Proehl, who had a strong finish to camp
- Luiji Vilain earned more playing time with his preseason and camp performance. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings try to trade someone like DJ Wonnum (who has a $2.73M base salary) in order to shed cap and give Patrick Jones and Vilain more snaps. It would allow them to keep Andre Carter on the 53 as well. Might be tough to find a team willing to take on Wonnum’s salary, though
Assuming there are no major injuries, I predict the Vikings will finish 9-8 in 2023. They’ll lose in the first round of the playoffs. The offense is very similar and potentially better than the 13-win team from yesteryear. But Cousins, unless there’s vast improvement up front, will continue getting beat up behind the interior offensive line.
The defense should be improved, and while it’s guaranteed to be more aggressive under Brian Flores, I also expect the unit to give up a number of big plays. That, along with a shaky kicking game, will be costly. The Vikings are defending the NFC North crown, and they face a 1st-place schedule. Things won’t come easy this year.