4 Takeaways from Vikings Annual ‘Night Practice’

Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell talks to players during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings have over one week of training camp in the books, with the preseason kicking off next Thursday night in Seattle.

The Vikings take on the Seahawks at Lumen Field to get the party started for 2023.

4 Takeaways from Vikings Annual ‘Night Practice’

But before that, Minnesota hosted its annual ‘night practice’ in Eagan for fans, one of the most exciting and memorable events on the team’s calendar. The Vikings actually have two night practices this year, and Thursday night was the first.

Here are the four main takeaways from that event, ranked in ascending order of importance (No. 1 = most important)

4. The Place Was Packed

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Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; The Minnesota Vikings host training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

From the moment the gates opened — 5:00 pm CST — fans filed in and enjoyed the return of primetime football, albeit the practice version. Folks even chose the Vikings night practice over the Hall of Fame game on television between the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns.

Both sides of TCO Performance Center were heavily populated, even as a 90+ degree day began to cool down. This night practice is always special, showcasing an intimate vibe and fireworks at the conclusion.

The 2023 edition did not disappoint.

3. Ivan Pace Jr. Could Be the Real Deal

Mar 1, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr. (LB23) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

This undrafted free-agent rookie experienced more run with first-teamers on Thursday night. It would be noteworthy if he plopped on the second team, let alone with starters.

Of course, Pace Jr. still has a long way to go at training camp and preseason to secure a roster spot and meaningful role in the regular season, but he’s getting the nod early and often. Because the Vikings don’t have elite off-ball linebackers penciled in as starters — they have Jordan Hicks and Brian Asamoah — Pace Jr. has a reasonable path to make an impact during his rookie season.

And his training camp trajectory suggests he’s on the way to doing just that.

2. Jordan Addison Looks Tremendous

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Rookie minicamp highlights from Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jordan Addison’s first practice as a Viking after being selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Addison played at the University of Pittsburgh and USC in college.

With his foolish reckless driving charge two weeks old, Addison has put the skullduggery behind him and arrived on the football field in a big way.

The 1st-Round rookie made a handful of dazzling plays Thursday night, a trend becoming more prevalent.

K.J. Osborn will probably still win the WR2 job — he’s worthy of the task — but Addison should take over before too long, and his training camp has not let anyone down. The man is a playmaker.

1. Brian Flores Blitzes — Like All the Time

Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah II (33) during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Harrison Smith off the EDGE. Brian Asamoah getting the green light repeatedly. Corners showing blitz.

Flores showed a frenzy of blitz packages Thursday night, fully bringing to life his promise of aggression when the Vikings introduced him in February. Sometimes when coaches say things, it’s fluff. But Flores undersold how much his men would blitz, at least per the showing on Thursday night.

Every time one looked up and saw the defense — another blitz was bearing down on Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, or Jaren Hall. Some plays just continued because the bltizers can’t smash the quarterback, but very obvious sacks were ignored.

The Vikings are taking the anti-blitz pendulum concocted by Ed Donatell in 2022 and swinging that thing in the totally opposite direction.

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.