The Most Fascinating Player at Vikings Training Camp | 2023

The Most Fascinating Aspect of Vikings 2022 Training Camp
TCO Performance Center

Minnesota Vikings 2023 training camp starts on July 23rd as rookies report to Eagan, Minnesota.

Veterans and everyone else arrive two days later.

The Most Fascinating Player at Vikings Training Camp | 2023

And while oodles of subplots surround the Vikings 2023 regular season and training camp, one player is arguably the most fascinating — rookie linebacker Ivan Pace Jr.

Here’s why.

The Draft Snub

Fascinating Player at
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Pace should have been a mid-round draft pick in April. Or if the middle rounds didn’t tickle general managers’ fancy, a late round would have sufficed.

No cigar.

The Cincinnati Bearcat fell out of the draft altogether, sending the Vikings speedily to the UDFA wire for Pace’s services right after the event. Along with EDGE defender Andre Carter II, the Vikings stole the show via undrafted free agency.

Meanwhile, Pace wasn’t impressed by the draft snub — and why would he? He posted this to Instagram after Minnesota signed on his dotted line, implying the rest of the NFL made a grave mistake:

The fascinating part? Well, we shall see if this smoke from Pace was all just personal hype — or if he was correct and 31 GMs messed up by not drafting him. The dude has a chip on his shoulder.

The Vikings Suspect LB Depth

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings fans aren’t too paranoid about the 2023 linebacking corps, featuring starters Brian Asamoah and Jordan Hicks. The two reservist LBs, Troy Reeder and Troy Dye, are decent assets but not players who frighten offensive coordinators.

Yet, this section of the depth chart is begging someone — or multiple players — to step up. And all signs point to Pace for the assignment. Consider this: What if Asamoah or Hicks get hurt at training camp, in the preseason, or anytime in the regular season? Minnesota would pivot to one of the Troys and hope for the best.

Should Pace bust out at training camp, the bet is hedged. The ‘catch’ here is that Pace actually has to be productive — and playable as a rookie.

Defense Needs Improvement via Unsung Players

Vikings to Showcase
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

Minnesota ranked 30th in points allowed and 31st in yards allowed last year. It desperately needs a handful of unsung players to emerge and aid in fixing last year’s stinky defense.

The Vikings won 13 games in 2022 with a leaky defense, and newcomer defensive coordinator Brian Flores was hired for repairs. He’ll need players like Pace, the aforementioned Carter II and Asamoah, and players we’re not even thinking about right now to stand out.

Based on his draft profile and career at Cincinnati, Pace can be ‘the guy’ who kickstarts improvement from the unsung or rookie side of operations. He has the personality and skillset to take the leap.

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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