Can the Vikings Be the 2023 Houston Texans?

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A season ago, the Houston Texans entered the year with uncertain expectations. They drafted Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud with the 2nd overall pick. Losing out on Alabama’s Bryce Young, they found themselves in an interesting spot. The Minnesota Vikings have some similarities heading into the 2024 season, and Kevin O’Connell would love to see his squad follow the same path.

Can the Vikings Be the 2023 Houston Texans?

When the Minnesota Vikings drafted J.J. McCarthy with the 10th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, they didn’t think they would start him in Week 1. They signed Sam Darnold as a veteran option because he could carry the load in an ideal situation, and it would give the rookie time to build. No matter how it shakes out, though, the Vikings could be a team being overlooked.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback J.J. McCarthy at the first day of rookie minicamp on May 10th, 2024, in Eagan, Minnesota. TCO Performance Center. McCarthy was drafted by the Vikings with the 10th overall pick on April 25th, 2024, in Detroit.

One of the biggest hurdles for Minnesota is that they will be without a key offensive weapon in T.J. Hockenson for a significant portion of the season. His knee being blown up late in the year made it impossible to expect him back early, and alongside an elite pair of pass catchers, he is certainly their best option. Having a constant tight end presence is beneficial with Darnold or McCarthy under center. Hockenson won’t be able to provide that, which means they’ll need to look elsewhere.

The third wide receiver largely remains up in the air. Brandon Powell could be an answer, but he brings plenty of question marks when it comes to a consistent level of availability. Signing former Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan helps, and it also shows that Minnesota understands they may be without the ideal option for some time.

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It could be the backfield that represents the best path forward. With Aaron Jones joining Ty Chandler, O’Connell has a significantly better one-two punch than he did a season ago, and giving that luxury to uncertain quarterbacks is a nice come-up. No matter what, the offense will need to band together if they will supplement what should be an improved defensive unit.

Expectations remain high for the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. Neither of them are juggernauts, though, and that leaves open the possibility that Minnesota can compete should they find their way into a winning record. The 2023 Texans went just 10-7, and perfection isn’t something that will be required to win the NFC North. No one should be seen as capable of running away with the division, and that gives the Vikings confidence that a strong showing will have them in the thick of things.

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It’s a better bet that Minnesota has a tough season in 2024, but there is far more than a sliver of hope they put teams on notice and shock the league. If Darnold emerges as a legit option, or McCarthy is the cream of the rookie crop, the sky becomes the limit.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.