5 Vikings Players on a Career Hinge This Season

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The Minnesota Vikings’ regular season is 75 days away, and the club is expected to win about seven games, per oddsmakers.

5 Vikings Players on a Career Hinge This Season

A transformational year on deck, the club will hope rookie passer J.J. McCarthy is the real deal, as that basically determines the next 3-4 years of Vikings football.

Aside from McCarthy — he is not on a career hinge, at least not yet — these are the players on career hinges. They’re listed in ascending order (No. 1 = most to lose or gain).

5. Jalen Nailor (WR)

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Nailor had a tasty opportunity in 2023 to make a name for himself during Justin Jefferson’s absence. But he was often injured and ended up with just three receptions.

He now enters a pivotal Year No. 3 — a theme later on this list — and has another golden opportunity at training camp to grab the WR3 job by the neck and make it his own. His competition is not stiff, and he only needs to box out Brandon Powell and Trent Sherfield.

If Nailor delivers another quiet season, he likely won’t last in the NFL too long.

4. Ed Ingram (RG)

2nd Year Viking
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Head coach Kevin O’Connell revealed at minicamp that his team would feature a threeway training camp battle at guard between Blake Brandel, Ed Ingram, and Dalton Risner. There are no frontrunners, meaning the OG battle will be among the Vikings’ most fascinating next month.

O’Connell said on the Rich Eisen Show earlier this month, “We bring back Dalton Risner, who’s gonna compete like crazy at the guard spot with both Ed Ingram and Blake Brandel.”

That means the 2024 campaign will solidify Ingram’s role and reputation as a starter — or he’ll slide into a reservist role. It’s all on the line for the LSU alumnus this summer.

3. Andrew Booth (CB)

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Foremost, Booth has to secure a starter’s job in 2024 — that feels like a longshot — and then prove he’s a stud in the league. In the last two seasons, Booth has accomplished neither goal after injuries wasted his rookie year, and then other players took his job in 2023.

It’s Year No. 3 for Booth, and because he was a 2nd-Round draft choice two years ago, the 2024 season is for the marbles regarding his long-term development.

2. Sam Darnold (QB)

Vikings QB
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For QB1 accolades, 2024 is for the marbles in Darnold-speak. With a sweet season under O’Connell’s tutelage, he can convince the Vikings to let him stick around longer than most expect, or Darnold can audition for his next QB1 gig.

On the other hand, if Darnold plays, well, like Sam Darnold, this will be it for QB1 handouts. For example, if Darnold delivers 18 touchdowns to 16 interceptions or something of the sort while starting most of this season, no team will take the QB1 plunge again. Darnold would encounter career-long QB2 status.

Those are the stakes, and they’re unbelievably high for Darnold personally.

1. Lewis Cine (S)

Criticism Most Often
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Cine’s narrative is similar to Booth’s, but Cine battled a horrid injury as a rookie. He was reportedly healed by the time 2023 began but then didn’t play on defense until late in the season, and even that was garbage time.

His stakes are heightened — even more so than Booth — because Cine was a 1st-Rounder. Minnesota has plenty of safeties already a lock to make the 53-man roster, so Cine faces an uphill battle. Many already call him a “bust,” and he has one season (this one) to shatter that talker. Perhaps just one last summer.

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.