Many of the players left over from the Mike Zimmer era helped new coach Kevin O’Connell. Plus, some notes from the Minnesota camp.
There are eight of us standing inside, and my rental car—a sweet Ford Escape, in case you’re wondering—is about to be dropped off at the Minneapolis airport, after bringing me here from Upstate New York. After stopping by the Packers, Bears, Colts, Bengals, Steelers and Browns, here’s what I saw/heard at Vikings practice today.
1) The main thing I took away from talking to people here is that the new guys really, really like a lot of what the older guys left on the roster, and especially the top players like Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Danielle Hunter, Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith. And it’s not just that these guys are good players, but they’ve proven to be the right guys for the program starting with new coach Kevin O’Connell and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Bottom line, this is not a rip off, and the team builders here believe they will have a good locker room from the jump.
2) The Vikings are very high on catching Christian Darrisaw. How high is it? Well, while Darrisaw has a ways to go to reach his level, the crew here sees shades of Trent Williams in his build and movement skills. The feeling is that he has the potential to make a significant leap this year, perhaps moving into the upper echelon at his position.
3) Defensive coordinator Ed Donatell is bringing Vic Fangio’s defense with him to the Vikings—O’Connell brought him here in large part because of how tough the program was on him as an offensive coach years ago, and because of his experience. coaching with another Fangio student, Brandon Staley with the Rams in 2020. And the one thing that the guys here think will help in getting a quick answer? That being said, veteran linebackers Eric Kendricks and Jordan Hicks are the nerve center of the unit. Both have been important to Donatell early on.
4) There is a good second wave of players developing here as well, and slot receiver KJ Osborn and safety Cam Bynum are two to watch in that regard. Osborn has already been productive, and should do a good job alongside Jefferson and Thielen. Meanwhile, Bynum has had an outstanding spring, and will bring more depth to his position with experience at cornerback.
5) Angle is probably the biggest question here. Patrick Peterson has been surprised by how quickly he’s played off the ball so much – remember, at his peak, he was just a press corner – but who will play opposite him remains to be seen, with Cam Dantzler and Andrew Booth. fight for that place. Tight ends are another area to watch, as Irv Smith, while a very valuable outside, doesn’t quite fit the usual linebacker role in the Vikings offense.
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