3 Big (and Early) Surprises from Vikings Training Camp

Minnesota Vikings CB Joejuan Williams addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Thursday, July 27, 2023. Williams joined the Vikings via free agency in April 23 and was a 2nd-Round draft pick by Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots four years ago.

One whole week of Minnesota Vikings training camp is almost in the books, as fans join the players and coaches in Eagan Saturday for the festivities.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell enters Year Two on the job, and Minnesota will continue to actionize its ‘competitive rebuild’ first defined by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah about 17 months ago.

3 Big (and Early) Surprises from Vikings Training Camp

And with camp in full swing, these are three big and early surprises regarding the Vikings, ranked in ascending order of importance (No. 1 = most important).

3. Joejuan Williams Emerging as CB2

3 Big
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports.

With a cliché it’s still early disclaimer, newcomer cornerback Joejuan Williams appears to be the frontrunner for the CB2 job next to Byron Murphy.

The Vikings found Williams on the free-agent market in April, and folks didn’t know if he was ‘just a guy’ or starting material. With forty-plus days before the start of the regular season, Williams sure looks like CB2 material rather than a ‘roster bubble’ candidate.

He’s big and physical, just what the doctor ordered in a Brian Flores scheme. Williams has a few weeks of training camp and some preseason exhibitions to prove he’s the real deal as a starting CB.

The former Patriot missed all of the 2022 season due to injury, so many NFL heads simply forgot about him.

2. Danielle Hunter’s ‘Hold In’

Vikings Superstar to
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Hunter put his foot down in June, refusing to show up in Eagan for mandatory minicamp. The man wants a new contract after playing four years on a Rick Spielman-constructed team-friendly deal from five years ago.

Well, mystery surrounded Hunter’s would-be arrival — or holdout — at training camp. Then, Tuesday hit the calendar, and Hunter showed up — but won’t practice. He’s staging a ‘hold-in.’ What does that mean? He’ll ‘be there,’ but he won’t physically do anything. It’s a meeting in the middle to avoid daily fines, show the Vikings he wants a new deal, and possibly break bread among all parties.

This could’ve been uglier. Hunter had the option to play true hardball, accept fines, and never play for the Vikings again.

1. Brian O’Neill Not on the PUP List

to Spell Absolute Doom
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

This man partially tore his Achilles’ seven months ago and is tentatively on track to play Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He reasonably could’ve hit the Physically Unable to Perform List, but the Vikings coaching staff deemed that unnecessary, at least for now.

O’Neill is a sizable piece of the puzzle upfront to protect Kirk Cousins, and his avoidance of the PUP list is a big damn deal. Minnesota will proceed cautiously with O’Neill, but he should be ready to play early in 2023.

Achilles’ injuries are particularly nasty, so O’Neill’s speedy recovery is a wonderful development.

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).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.