The Vikings Kick Off 2 Months from Today. Here’s What to Know.

5 Vikings Players Who
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts after being short of yardage against Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings hope to maintain or improve their marvelous 13-4 record a season ago in 2023, and that quest formally kicks off in two months.

Kevin O’Connell’s team hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on September 10th at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Vikings Kick Off 2 Months from Today. Here’s What to Know.

And while the club will still conduct a training camp and preseason, these are three big items to know if you’re just returning to football after a few months off.

A New Defense

The Vikings Kick Off
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.

An adage is in play here that some are skittish to say out loud — it can’t get much worse.

In 2022, under former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, Minnesota ranked second-worst in yards allowed to opponents and third-to-last in points allowed. In that vein, it’s miraculous that the Vikings won 13 games.

O’Connell’s 2022 defense thoroughly faceplanted at home in the playoffs six months ago, enabling Daniel Jones and his New York Giants to march up and down the field in the Wildcard Round. Minnesota’s offense hit on all cylinders during that game, but the defense performed terribly.

Accordingly, the Vikings hired Brian Flores to lead and change the 2023 defense, emphasizing youth, speed, and affordability. Various new starters are tentatively on tap, from Marcus Davenport, Khyiris Tonga, Dean Lowry, Brian Asamoah, Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth, to perhaps Lewis Cine.

Minnesota won’t have oodles of experience on the 2023 defensive depth chart, instead uplifting an influx of new blood.

A Lot of Your Favorite Players = Gone

Thielen Forecasted
Adam Thielen answered questions on his mentality moving to a new state and playing with a new team. Thielen left the Vikings after the 2022 season, latching onto the Carolina Panthers for 3 years and $25 million.

These men left your favorite football team:

  • Eric Kendricks, ILB — Joined Chargers
  • Adam Thielen, WR — Joined Panthers.
  • Cameron Dantzler, CB — Joined Bills. (Was waived by MIN)
  • Patrick Peterson, CB — Joined Steelers.
  • Dalvin Tomlinson, DT — Joined Browns.
  • Duke Shelley, CB — Joined Raiders.
  • Irv Smith, TE — Joined Bengals.
  • Kris Boyd, CB — Joined Cardinals.
  • Chandon Sullivan, CB — Joined Steelers
  • Za’Darius Smith, OLB — Joined Browns (Trade)
  • Dalvin Cook, RB — Free Agent

Via some Vikings media outlets, you’ll read something to the effect of, “The Vikings are running it back.” But that assertion is outlandishly false. In fact, in the last three-or-so years, few teams have overturned their rosters quite like the Vikings.

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is fully effectuating his ‘competitive rebuild’ promise, and look no further than the list above. It’s robust.

Kirk’s Final Year — On Paper

Watch for Kirk Cousins
Nov 10, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) reacts to a first down run in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports.

If you’re searching for the most important development of the Vikings offseason, stop right here.

For the first time in Cousins’ Vikings career, he’ll play in a ‘contract year.’ Adofo-Mensah could’ve extended the soon-to-be 35-year-old, but he declined, at least until next offseason, signaling an off-ramp for Cousins in Minneapolis for the first time.

Moreover, Minnesota did not use the 2023 NFL Draft to select a quarterback with high draft capital. Will Levis and Hendon Hooker were available. Adofo-Mensah took a flyer on Jaren Hall in Round 5, but men drafted ‘that late’ are lottery tickets for later QB1 usage.

Put it this way on Cousins — if the Vikings were looking for a way to end the Cousins era sooner than later, their dealings amid the last six months are exactly the blueprint. For now, Cousins is scheduled for 2024 free agency, like Derek Carr in February and March.

For about three straight offseasons, a faction of Vikings fans has envisioned life without Cousins, theorizing trade ideas out the wazoo. The here and now is the first real semblance of a Cousins-less Vikings offense around the bend.

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