Janik Eckardt’s 10 Storylines for Vikings Training Camp
Training camp practices kick off on July 26th. Minnesota is coming off a 13-4 season, and the group was unexpectedly resilient in close games. That is one thing that the team should try to continue to be in the upcoming season. The group will get ready in the next weeks for the regular season opener on September 10th.
Janik Eckardt’s 10 Storylines for Vikings Training Camp
Some things are essential to monitor in the upcoming weeks during practices.
1. Jordan Addison In Action
The costly first-round pick missed most of the offseason workouts and that valuable practice time. However, Justin Jefferson came out of college with many of those things canceled due to the pandemic and was still hitting the ground running.
Addison was productive in college in different systems, so he should be a safer prospect than others. The Vikings are a fantastic landing spot for him, as he joins an already good offense with Justin Jefferson and Kirk Cousins.
Vikings fans will know early if he is the real deal and as good as advertised, depending on if there is hype coming out of training camp, especially going up against a shaky cornerback group.
2. Second Year, Second Chance
Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth came out of college with high expectations to provide a spark to a bad secondary. Cine missed most of his rookie campaign after fracturing his leg but also lost the camp competition to Camryn Bynum.
Booth suffered a hamstring injury in training camp and a knee injury halfway through the season, playing roughly 100 snaps on defense. Both defenders had a missed rookie season but have another opportunity to shine.
Cine will once again compete with Bynum and Josh Metellus for the spot next to Harrison Smith, while Booth’s competition is fellow sophomore Akayleb Evans and rookie Mekhi Blackmon. The cornerback battle is the most fascinating story in camp and the most significant for the upcoming season.
3. A Kicker Competition
Last year, Greg Joseph won the competition against Gabe Brkic early in the process. This time his matchup is against back-to-back national champion Jack Podlesny. Joseph was fantastic in the clutch and at kicking field goals, hitting five game-winners and the longest kick in franchise history but struggled at hitting extra points.
Podlesny had many moments in the bright lights playing at Georgia. He is the underdog but a great showing at camp could still win him the job. Not many gave Ryan Wright a chance to unseat Jordan Berry a year ago. Podlesny is trying to do the same.
4. Bust, Backup, or Real Deal?
The Vikings were in a position to draft a quarterback in April’s draft early when Will Levis fell, but they waited until the fifth round to choose Jaren Hall out of BYU. Hall will try to win the backup job over Nick Mullens and position himself as an option to start next season if Kirk Cousins departs.
Sam Howell is starting in Washington, and he was a fifth-rounder the year before. Fourth-rounder Dak Prescott won the starting job over Tony Romo in 2016, although an injury helped him. Of course, that is unlikely, but it is still a situation to monitor whenever a new young QB is coming in.
5. Cook’s Replacement
Star running back Dalvin Cook was released, and Alexander Mattison re-signed to take his spot. However, his backups are waiting for Mattison to stumble.
Ty Chandler looked fantastic in last year’s preseason and is a dynamic player who can catch out of the backfield. Kene Nwangwu is an elite kick returner and wants to show his worth on offense. Rookie DeWayne McBride had a great college career at UAB, and some pundits envision him as a potential threat to Mattison.
It is on the veteran to defend his job as the top runner on the depth chart in an era in which teams annually find decent running backs late in the draft.
6. Seizing the Opportunity
With Danielle Hunter not expected to practice before getting a new contract, it will be D.J. Wonnum or Patrick Jones running with the first-team defense as an edge rusher. Neither has shown enough to be more than a backup, but they get more exposure without Hunter in the mix.
They must show Brian Flores that he needs to find a way to get them on the field, whether Hunter is on the team or not. Marcus Davenport is the other pass-rusher, and there will be packages with all three of him, Hunter, and a third rusher on the field at the same time if they can show enough potential.
7. New Contracts
Justin Jefferson is the star of the organization, and he is eligible to sign a contract extension. The Vikings obviously want to give him one, and it appears to be just a matter of time until he is the best-paid WR in the league.
T.J. Hockenson is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, so his extension is also on Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s to-do list after his excellent 2022 campaign.
Linebacker Danielle Hunter is demanding a new contract as he is only getting paid $5.5 million in 2023, a laughable number for a Pro Bowler. All three extensions combine for an annual salary of roughly $65 million, so it might take some time to finalize those big deals.
8. Undrafted and Overlooked
Will an undrafted player steal the show from the draft picks and veterans? The Vikings signed Andre Carter and Ivan Pace, two of the premier UDFAs of this year’s class. While Carter is rehabbing from a minor injury, Pace is the guy Vikings fans want to see. He brings exciting pass-rush ability from the inside linebacker position.
Besides those two, the Vikings have some more intriguing players like Calvin Avery, the largest player on the roster, or ex-college QB Cephus Johnson who is now a 6’5″ receiver.
9. More Positive Vibe
The Vikings moved on from Mike Zimmer to the young and fresh Kevin O’Connell, and the players loved it. The culture in the building immediately changed, and everyone was happy. The question now is if that is continuing to be the case or if it will change in the second year of his tenure.
Winning 13 games without facing much adversity certainly helps keep a positive mindset. Injuries are part of the game, and it is impossible to prevent all of them. The response of the critical people in the organization to them happening will be revealing. Another thing that could help is the impact of Brian Flores on the defense. A solid-looking defensive unit can provide a spark for the team.
10. Breakout Candidates
K.J. Osborn broke out of nowhere in training camp in 2021, but who will it be this year? The two most popular picks are running back Mattison because of the increased opportunities without Dalvin Cook on the roster and safety Josh Metellus, who is drawing praise from everyone.
Rookie Jaquelin Roy is another player who could surprise folks in the mysterious defensive tackle room, and tight end Josh Oliver could show why the Vikings gave him an expensive contract.
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