EAGAN — The Minnesota Vikings are in the midst of Week 2 of Organized Team Activities at TCO Performance Center. Wednesday’s session was open to the media. Here’s what we took away from the action…
Backup QB competition
Sean Mannion received the second-team reps behind Kirk Cousins but head coach Mike Zimmer said he won’t be the only one to get a shot. Zimmer told the media that Kyle Sloter will get one of the three days each week to work with the twos. Mannion is the favorite for the job because of his previous experience as Jared Goff’s backup in Los Angeles but Sloter has impressed during preseason action (albeit largely late in games). Jake Browning, an undrafted free agent from Washington, will compete for a shot at the No. 3 job or potentially a position on the practice squad.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski noted that he’s been impressed by Mannion’s approach and intelligence.
“I see a pro,” Stefanski said. “He came from a successful program last few years there. He is really a guy that I think fits in extremely well with Kirk, extremely well with the backups. A guy that I have enjoyed being around. He is a really smart guy and that room is an impressive room and he fits in really well in just his breadth of knowledge that he has brought to that room.”
No more Treadwell hyperbole
Over the last two years during OTAs, we have heard plenty of podium quotes about the progress of 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell. He has subsequently gone on to struggle in both 2017 and 2018, combining for 55 receptions. With the Vikings electing not to pick up his fifth-year option, it’s clear that this year is his final chance to carve out a role and there also isn’t any secret about where the team stands. So it doesn’t appear we will be hearing any hype from coaches this offseason.
“He’s doing well, he needs to continue to do the things he’s been doing. He’s been getting better all the time,” Zimmer said.
“We as coaches are giving them a few things each day to work on, Laquon is no different than any one of our players,” Stefanski said. “There is certain things we point out on tape and we say, X, Y or Z needs to get better. Laquon is no different than any one of these guys.”
A kicking coach arrives
Earlier this offseason Zimmer mentioned the possibility of hiring a coach dedicated to working with kicker Dan Bailey. On Wednesday the team announced that former San Diego Charger Nate Kaeding, who ranks ninth all time in field goal percentage, will be that kicking coach.
“He is another set of eyes,” special teams coach Marwan Maalouf said. “He has done a real good job so far of communicating with players and making sure everybody is on the same page. I think that is really important that we are all talking the same language. He is somebody I could send with the specialists and I can concentrate of other aspects as well as the specialists.”
The Vikings had the lowest field goal percentage of any team in the NFL last season.
It appears there will be a battle for the punt returner position with Marcus Sherels now playing for the Saints. Maalouf said:
“A lot of guys who have done it. We will probably start pairing it down closer to training camp. I think guys’ roles start to define themselves at that point. There is a lot of guys that can do it, which is a good thing.”
Running back Ameer Abdullah is the favorite to be the Vikings kick returner.
Jordan Taylor making an impression
While former Bronco Jordan Taylor wasn’t immediately considered the favorite for WR3 when he was signed by the Vikings this offseason, he’s received practice time with the first team and appears to have impressed the coaching staff.
“Consummate pro, I think it’s really nice to have a guy like Jordan in that room that has a head start a little bit on the system for those young guys around him so we are trying to nudge some of those young guys toward him,” Stefanski said. “It’s not like Jordan has to tell them what to do, he can show them what to do. He’s been out in the field and I’ve been very impressed. You see the skillset again with Jordan with his size and length and speed. We are pretty happy to have him.”
Over the last two years Taylor caught 29 passes in Denver for 351 yards and two touchdowns.
Diggs’ grown-up problem
Stefon Diggs missed the first two days of OTAs last week. He’s been on the field in Eagan this week. He offered a simple explanation for last week’s absence.
“I had some house problems,” he said. “You know how adults are.”
Wednesday’s chat at the podium marked the first time Diggs has spoken since Adam Thielen signed a long-term contract extension.
“I’ve seen it first hand as far as the work he put in, his commitment, his efforts and the kind of guy that he is. As far as him getting paid, it’s well deserved,” Diggs said. “As a colleague of mine and as a friend, I was happy for him. I smiled when it popped up on the ticker.”
The Vikings’ star receiver also noted that he was impressed with the three games Stefanski called last year as interim OC.
“I am excited to see Coach [Kevin] Stefanski again,” Diggs said. “I have 100 percent faith and trust in him based off of those last three games. Going into the offseason, I was under the same confidence. Seeing him and being back into the motion and swing of things, it’s exciting once again. It is part of getting the ball rolling, picking up on the playbook, the new things, define nuances how he wants things done.”
Hercules Mata’afa, three-technique
The Vikings picked up an intriguing UDFA D-lineman last year in Hercules Mata’afa, only to see him suffer a season-ending injury in OTAs. He played several different spots before getting hurt. Now with a shortage on the interior defensive line, the former Washington State pass rusher has found his spot at three-technique.
“We’ve moved him to the three technique and he’s really embraced it,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “He is playing the run well, he has a good pad level. His quickness and his size rushing the pass rusher is really showing up in these first couple practices.”
“He’s gained a bunch of weight…He shows quickness and acceleration and side to side a little bit of power,” head coach Mike Zimmer said.
Shamar Stephen will play a role alongside Linval Joseph but aside from his position being solidified there will be a battle with Jaleel Johnson, Jalyn Holmes and Mata’afa for playing time.
The Vikings TE was away for the Memorial Golf Tournament. He told NFL Network he believes there’s a way he could still stay with the Vikings. Rudolph is in the final year of his contract and confirmed reports last week that the Vikings offered him a contract extension.
— Scott Hanson (@ScottHanson) May 30, 2019