The Minnesota Vikings open Organized Team Activities on Tuesday. The workouts, which will be allow media attendance on Wednesday, will give us the first glimpse of the roster together on the practice field. Here are five things we will be keeping an eye on this week…
Signs of a Kubiak offense
Since the moment the Vikings hired Gary Kubiak as assistant head coach/offensive adviser, it was clear what type of offense they would be running this season. Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski said in February that the Kubiak offense was about marrying the run and pass game. While the Vikings won’t be giving away future gameplans during OTAs, it will be worth watching for the signs of an offense that fits Kirk Cousins better than what John DeFilippo dialed up last year. That means zone runs with Dalvin Cook, using the fullback and tight ends more effectively and working to Cousins’ strength as a play-action passer.
The type of role Kubiak plays in practice will be interesting as well.
“Coach Kub has done it at a really high level,” Stefanski said in February. “Has called it, coached quarterbacks. There are times in the run game or pass game, it could be a play action, it could be a movement, where I think Coach has a unique perspective. I can tell you just from being in our meeting room, these past few weeks and as we go forward, it’s been really, really helpful.”
Interior offensive line
The Vikings would not say for sure whether they plan to start 18th overall pick Garrett Bradbury at center and move Pat Elflein to left guard but it would be a surprise if that didn’t happen. Elflein was an effective guard at Ohio State and Bradbury appears to be a strong fit at center for the running scheme.
“As far as the zone scheme running style that we’re going to use, I know that you probably saw a lot of the highlights of him being able to reach three techniques and cut off nose tackles and all those things, trying to create separation and seams down the field,” head coach Mike Zimmer said on draft night. “He’s a very good athlete, great balance.”
Veteran guard Josh Kline is expected to start at right guard. He signed a two-year deal this offseason after being let go by the Tennessee Titans.
Depth on the inside should be improved with the selection of Dru Samia, a fourth-round guard out of Oklahoma. The Vikings also re-signed Brett Jones, who can play center or guard. In Year 3, Danny Isidora will have to prove he belongs and free agent Dakota Dozier will be aiming for a backup job.
The battle for the third wide receiver position begins now and the competition is wide open. Laquon Treadwell was ineffective at the spot last season, even being benched in favor of Chad Beebe in Wekk 16 against the Detroit Lions. Beebe has a leg up on the spot but Brandon Zylstra, Jordan Taylor, Dillion Mitchell, Olabisi Johnson and Jeff Badet will all get a shot to earn playing time.
Mitchell might be the most intriguing of the bunch. He has excellent athleticism, scoring a 7.96 out of 10 by Relative Athletic scores and put up huge numbers at Oregon. Badet spent last season on the practice squad and has blazing speed. Johnson is known as a strong route runner and competitor.
We won’t truly get a sense for where they stand until the pads come on in camp but the contenders for WR3 will get slotted for camp by the way they perform in OTAs.
Strong first impressions
Each year the Vikings seem to find an undrafted free agent or late-round draft pick who ultimately ends up playing a role in Year 1. Last year that was Holton Hill. In 2015 it was Stefon Diggs. There are plenty of contenders this year. For example, seventh-round corner Kris Boyd has a shot to earn a depth position with Hill suspended for the first four games. Marcus Epps, a sixth-round pick, could become Anthony Harris’s backup, quarterback Jake Browning has an outside chance at winning the No. 3 QB gig.
Two years ago Tashawn Bower made the club as an undrafted free agent and last year Mike Boone, Hill and Roc Thomas earned jobs out of camp. Beebe was bumped up from practice squad midway through the year. There may be an opening for UDFA defensive tackle Tito Odenigbo because the Vikings lost Sheldon Richardson to free agency and do not have cap space currently to bring back Tom Johnson. Receivers Davion Davis and Alexander Hollins will get their chance as well.
Rumors surrounding Vikings trades haven’t gone away with Eric Kendricks’ restructure, which allowed the team to sign Bradbury. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe listed Kyle Rudolph, Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes as players who could possibly still be traded this offseason. ProFootball Talk reported last week that the Vikings offered Rudolph a five-year contract extension. The tension between the Vikings and Rudolph doesn’t seem to have completely subsided after an offseason filled with back-and-forth comments about his status and future.
Every year there’s one person who gets cut in camp that comes as a surprise. Last training camp it was Brian Robison. The year before that guard Alex Boone was let go. We likely won’t see a move in the first week of OTAs but it can begin laying the foundation for a player to be on the outs.