Popular Vikings WR Returns to Practice

Explained: The 7 Big Takeaways from Vikings Win over NE
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The Minnesota Vikings kicked off joint practices on Wednesday with the Arizona Cardinals arriving in Eagan.

The two clubs also square off Saturday afternoon in the final preseason game of 2023.

Popular Vikings WR Returns to Practice

And to sweeten the deal for fans in attendance, wide receiver Jalen Nailor returned to practice in full pads after dealing with an injury for multiple weeks.

WR Returns
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Most Vikings fans and pundits forecast Nailor to earn the WR4 job in 2023, situating in line behind Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, and rookie Jordan Addison. His recent injury was never a source of grave concern, but returning him to the field with the regular season about 2.5 weeks is a positive development.

Heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, Minnesota’s wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell reportedly ‘pounded the table’ for Nailor. At Michigan State in 2021, Nailor tallied 695 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Nicknamed Speedy, the young playmaker ran a 4.5 forty-yard dash at the 2022 NFL Combine and placed in the Top 10 among receivers in several drills at the event. On any given Sunday, he’s around the third fastest player on the Vikings roster behind Kalon Barnes (CB) and Kene Nwangwu (RB).

'Rookie Watch' in Week 18
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Then, Nailor tallied 9 receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown in his rookie campaign, along with some flashy clips to whet fans’ appetites for the offseason. Incidentally, Nailor did most of his damage in ‘garbage time’ and will hope to repeat the production and then some in the middle of games in Year Two.

In that limited sample, Nailor showed the gumption to thrive at the NFL level, and it will be up to him to determine if he’s got the grit for WR3 or WR4 on an every week basis. He laid the blueprint down the stretch of 2022.

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Last month, Pro Football Network predicted Nailor as a ‘secret sleeper’ in the Vikings 2023 offense. Arif Hasan wrote, “Osborn will almost certainly have the third receiver role this year. But after this season, he’ll be a free agent. Barring an outstanding season, Osborn won’t find much in the market to guarantee his job as a starter, but there’s a good chance he could find a better deal elsewhere with more opportunity than in Minnesota. If that’s the case, then Nailor might be setting himself up to take over that role in 2024 — and the best path to that is breaking out in 2023.”

Nailor can reasonably eye WR4 responsibilities in 2023 and perhaps experience more passing-game targets if Jefferson, Addison, or Osborn miss games due to injury. But with Osborn possibly not long for the Vikings roster after 2023, Nailor could indeed be auditioning this season for WR3 in 2024.

He turned 24 in March.

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.