As OTAs wrap up this week, the Vikings are about to start three days of mandatory minicamp next week before departing for a summer break. Training camp then starts in late July. As stated by multiple players on Patrick Peterson and Bryant McFadden’s podcast “All Things Covered,” the vibe around the team feels different from the new coaching staff.

The question though becomes how that will translate on the field when the season gets underway. Honestly, the answer will only come when the Vikings host the Packers in Week 1. However, until then, there are still positive things and concerns that come to mind after OTAs.




Head coach O’Connell has stated that he likes the receiving core that the Vikings have. He knows the skill Justin Jefferson has and apparently Bisi Johnson has looked good coming off of his ACL injury from last season. According to the Vikings team, Adam Thielen had a huge catch with a one-handed grab for a touchdown from Kirk Cousins. Even with the great coverage by Harrison Smith, this shows how Thielen thrives in the red zone with the 24 touchdown receptions in the last 28 games. Over the past four seasons, he ranks fourth behind only Davante Adams, Mike Evans, and Tyreek Hill in touchdowns, and 31 (79%) of those came within the red zone (79 percent). Thielen also led all receivers in catch rate on red-zone targets since 2018.

“I think that’s something that doesn’t always go into the evaluation early on, and then it just starts to show up,” O’Connell said of Thielen’s playmaking inside the 20. “And, obviously, what he’s done in the red zone over the course of his career speaks for itself.

He’s got a tremendous feel, a knack for just understanding that as the field shrinks, where that open grass is, and how (he) can be a friendly target to the quarterback. That play that you’re talking about is just an example of Kirk kind of feeling his body language in the route. Do we coach it to throw in that area? Absolutely not. He’s just throwing Adam open with some trust. I think that’s the big word, the trust in the red zone.”

Via Chad Graf, The Athletic 

The team also brought in veteran Albert Wilson to add depth and to add a veteran receiver to the team. Wilson has 13 career touchdowns in seven seasons and should give some decent backup if the Vikings need it because of injuries or otherwise. 

The Defensive Side of the Ball

Going into the offseason, the defense was the biggest issue that the team had to address. They have been almost torn apart the past few seasons on that side of the ball. Minnesota made moves in both free agency and the draft to remedy this. They also brought in new coach Ed Donatell. Dontatell is looking to make the switch from a 4-3 defense to a 5-2-4 with 5 defensive linemen, 2 linebackers, and 4 defensive backs. This basically will allow Danielle Hunter to be more of an outside linebacker lined up opposite Za’Darius Smith. These two men both have the size and skill set however to move more to DE if the team wants to put more bodies on the edge.

Right now, the three other linemen are Armon Watts, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Harrison Phillips. This allows Smith and Hunter to move around the field which will hopefully confuse offenses and push the Vikings back into the conversation as one of the best defenses in the league. 

Another plus is the weight gain by corner, Cameron Dantzler entering his third season. According to the Pioneer Press, he is up to 191 pounds and still might add more. He showed signs of being an excellent player as a rookie starting 10 games and recording two interceptions, three tackles for loss, and a forced fumble. However, for some reason, he fell behind Bashaud Breeland in the depth chart during the majority of last season. Dantzler still started seven games, playing 685 snaps. He gave up fewer catches, yards, and touchdowns, doubled his total pass breakups, and cut his missed tackles in half. One of the concerns he had coming out of college was his size so seeing him increase it is a great thing. 

According to PFF’s long-term study on combine testing, 40 times are the weakest indication of a corner’s overall success, and the player’s weight, 10 yards, and vertical jump are the best indicators. Additionally, the 10-yard run is the most indicative of success.


40 Time (s)

Weight (lbs)

10 yard (s)

Vertical (inch)


Dantzler 4.38 191 1.57 34.5 6’2 +         14 

Average DB






You can only hope that his numbers improve this year with his increased weight. 

Rookies Not Starting

Some might say this is a negative, but nothing should be handed to even the first-round draft picks. They have to earn their reps which will come as we are still a far way out from actual football play. And frankly, if they can’t work hard enough to get the starting job, I wouldn’t want them starting anyway. Rookies like Lewis Cine and Andrew Booth Jr. are the two rookies that should have the biggest opportunity to shine.

Cine, specifically, has already been asked to step into a leadership role at the start of the rookie minicamp. Hopefully, over time, his role will grow, and will eventually be one of the most influential players on the Vikings roster. The same goes for Booth. However, his journey towards potentially earning a starting spot as a rookie hasn’t begun just yet. But he is thought to be ready to go when training camp begins, and he’ll compete with Cameron Dantzler for a starting spot at outside cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. Luckily, as already mentioned, Dantzler seems to be up for the challenge. 

Small Concerns

1. Right Guard Battle

It appears that Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, and Brian O’Neill look to be locked in as starters for left guard, left tackle, center, and right tackle, respectively. However, the position battle for the right guard position is still up in the air. When the Minnesota Vikings selected Wyatt Davis in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, it seemed that they were going to be able to fill that position however, he spent much of training camp and preseason injured. Then when Oli Udoh won the job, he struggled with penalties throughout the season. This is a place where hopefully the Vikings are able to fix themselves.

Based on reports, Jesse Davis and Chris Reed are the two headliners but also Ed Ingram, a second-round pick out of LSU, looks to be a possibility. Davis played in five seasons with the Dolphins and Pro Football Focus gave him a 52.5 grade in 2021. He was penalized just four times but was tied for the sixth-most sacks allowed with eight on the year. Reed was the 38th best-graded offensive guard last year and was a major asset in opening up rushing lanes for Colts running back Jonathan Taylor’s record-breaking season. He allowed 0 sacks so based on numbers alone, Reed seems the better option. However, Davis was a starter longer than Reed with 72 out of 80 vs Reed’s 29 for 61. 

2. The Backup QB Situation


Mike Zimmer wasn’t the biggest fan of the 2021 draftee, Kellen Mond. But with the new coaching staff, Mond has another chance to prove himself to be the backup to Cousins. O’Connell admitted he was impressed by what he’s seen so far from the 22-year-old quarterback. O’Connell also stated that Mond has been able to instinctively make appropriate audibles pre-snap early in minicamp. However, reports say that Sean Mannion is still largely getting the second-team reps at workouts. This is slightly concerning as Mannion has not been very productive during the season and Mond is still apparently proving himself. While Cousins will probably hit his numbers, it would be nice to have someone dependable working behind him in case he goes down or for the future. 

3. Injuries

One of the biggest things that hurt the Vikings last season was the team’s injuries. While it does seem that a lot of the injuries reported are minor, they still bring up slightly yellow flags. Ihmir Smith-Marsette had a walking boot on his right leg and was moving around on a scooter, but he’s expected to be back ready for training camp. KJ Osborn had what the team called a minor injury and Za’Darius Smith sat out as a precaution. However, the Vikings waived defensive end Kenny Willekes with an injury designation then signed veteran journeyman defensive end Jonathan Bullard. Bullard has started 15 of the 70 games he has played in six seasons. He spent last year with Atlanta, starting four of the nine games he played. Hopefully, these injuries won’t continue into to minicamp and training camp, but it is still something to monitor in the coming months.

We’ll see what happens the rest of the off-season but make sure to bookmark this site and check back for the latest Vikings news and analysis. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions there.


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