7 Under the Radar Summer Storylines for Vikings

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The Minnesota Vikings concluded minicamp this week and have six weeks off until training camp.

7 Under the Radar Summer Storylines for Vikings

The club is expected to win around seven games in 2024 — ironically the same forecast from oddsmakers at this time last year.

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And while Minnesota has oodles of storylines — they can be read here — these are seven under-the-radar items to monitor ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most intriguing).

7. A Last Ride for Jalen Nailor?

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Nailor lives in a precarious and pivotal spot this summer. He could barnstorm training camp and the preseason to earn the WR3 job — or get cut because the purple team has so many wide receivers at the moment.

The speedster had a golden opportunity to shine in 2023 when Justin Jefferson was injured, but Nailor, too, was hurt. Nailor’s status is a low-key fascinating storyline because he could be a WR3 or free agent by early September.

6. Murphy and McGlothern, the UDFAs

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The Vikings won undrafted free agency a year ago with the immediate emergence of Ivan Pace Jr. to stardom, many fans expect another to follow suit in 2024. The prime candidates are outside linebacker Gabriel Murphy and cornerback Dwight McGlothern.

However, hope is often a driving factor when analyzing how productive a UDFA could be. Therefre, the summer will shine light on the would-be roster spots, if any, for Murphy and McGlothern.

5. What about a RB3?

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At the top of the ticket, Minnesota employs Aaron Jones and Ty Chandler at running back. Those two should receive most hand-offs in 2024. However, RBs get hurt frequently, and after Jones + Chandler, Kene Nwangwu, DeWayne McBride, and Myles Gaskin live on the depth chart.

Minnesota must nominate an RB3 for 2024 because he’ll likely see playing time — or sign a free agent like Cam Akers or Kareem Hunt. For now, few are talking about RB3.

4. A Punter Battle

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Minnesota inked veteran punter Seth Vernon right after the 2024 NFL Draft, a challenger to incumbent specialist Ryan Wright. And according to dribblings out of minicamp, which wrapped up on Thursday, Vernon may actually push Wright to the limit or steal his job.

Star Tribune’s Andrew Krammer said this week on Access Vikings, “Matt Daniels is talking about how there was a big sophomore slump for Ryan Wright. That’s why they bring in this new punter. And that new punter, he’s got a boot.”

The Vikings found Wright via undrafted free agency in 2022, and he’s served as the punter ever since. During his first season, Wright dazzled fans with his booming leg and seemed on track to hold down punting duties in Minnesota for the long haul.

Krammer added about Vernon, “He has been nailing it. And Ryan Wright hasn’t looked good in some of the open practices. So punter news.”

So, this is a punter battle. An honest-to-goodness one, with no clear frontrunner.

3. Ed Ingram, in General

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Foremost, Blake Brandel rejoined the Vikings this offseason on a three-year, $9.5 million contract. Coaches hyped the man as a starter. Shortly thereafter, the purple team re-signed Dalton Risner for less money than Brandel. A camp battle was theorized as on the horizon.

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

This means that Ingram may not be a shoo-in at right guard. Meanwhile, he’ll hit the spot in his career this season when folks will likely determine if he’s a long-term starter. He has a lot at stake this summer and in the regular season, on the whole.

2. Fix the Turnovers

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Minnesota ranked second-to-last in the NFL last year per turnover differential. The formula was — and is — simple. When Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings protect the football, they win. When they do not, they lose.

The turnover woes became a bit forgotten this offseason because of all the roster change, but no matter what, when September rolls around, Minnesota must have a plan to fix the turnover doldrums. Otherwise, it will brace for a losing season — just like last year.

1. The Rise of a DT

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A scenario all too familiar to the last 10 batches of Vikings defenses, Minnesota is happy to embark on a season with a mid-tier three-technique defensive tackle. The franchise reportedly made a play for Christian Wilkins during free agency, but he was too expensive, ending up in Las Vegas on a deal worth $110 million over four years.

So, Minnesota gets Jerry Tillery, Jonathan Bullard, Jonah Williams, and James Lynch. Somewhat quietly, Tillery produced a decent season in 2023, notching a commendable 67.7 Pro Football Focus grade. Perhaps his former 1st-Round potential can be unlocked by Brian Flores.

Second-year DT Jaquelin Roy and rookie Levi Drake Rodriquez could be wildcards at this spot.

If the Vikings want to avoid continued DT mediocrity, one man from the batch of six must flourish this summer and impress the coaching staff.

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 MIN 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.