MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s hard to believe, but Training Camp week is underway for the Minnesota Vikings.
Players took their final vacations and got final extended time with their families before the football season is officially underway. For 2018 draft picks and undrafted free agents, Day 1 was last Tuesday as those rookies reported to the TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
Veterans reported to Eagan last Friday, though practices were canceled for the day so the team could attend funeral services for offensive line coach Tony Sparano. Sparano died unexpectedly on July 22 from heart disease. He was 56 years old.
Training Camp was closed Friday, so the first real day of action for everybody will be Saturday. As we get into the grind of workouts before the preseason starts, here are four storylines to watch.
Kirk Cousins Takes Over At Quarterback
After having three quarterbacks in the fold last season, there is no question about the most important position in sports for the Minnesota Vikings this year. Kirk Cousins is the guy. The Vikings signed him to a three-year, $84 million fully-guaranteed contract in free agency. They’re committing to him in the hopes of taking the next step after getting to the NFC Championship game last year.
But what can we expect out of Cousins at training camp? He’ll get a majority of the snaps with the first-team offense, and he’ll do everything he can to form an early chemistry with Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph. He’ll also get tested daily by one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Cousins started every game last season for the Washington Redskins, completing 64.3 percent of his passes. He’s not afraid to take chances and throw it downfield. His throws last year averaged nearly 12 yards per catch.
Dalvin Cook Back From Knee Surgery
One of the most anticipated player returns for the Vikings in Training Camp will be running back Dalvin Cook. He was one of the top running backs in the NFL last year before tearing his ACL. He’s also a pass-catching threat out of the backfield, which gives Cousins one more weapon to operate within the passing game.
It will be interesting to see what kind of workload Cook gets early in camp. They’ll want to give him reps and let him get acclimated to playing again, but they also don’t want to over-use him and risk injury. Cook started four games last season, scored two touchdowns and averaged nearly five yards per carry before getting hurt against the Detroit Lions.
Questions Across The Offensive Line
The Vikings face some questions on their offensive line as they get ready for Training Camp. You can never have enough healthy offensive linemen during the season. The Vikings appear on paper to have a solid starting group, but they lack depth if somebody gets hurt.
Your starters are likely Pat Elflein, Mike Remmers, Nick Easton, Riley Reiff and Rashod Hill. Vikings coaches will be looking for depth players in camp to step up. That includes Danny Isidora, Tom Compton and Aviante Collins. They’ll also be looking for rookie draft choices Brian O’Neill and Colby Gossett to make an impact. The more options, the better when it comes to the offensive line.
Kicker Among Top Camp Competitions
When you draft a kicker with your fifth-round draft choice, you’re putting your current starting kicker on notice. The Vikings won’t carry two kickers among the 53 roster spots during the regular season. So the starting job will come down to incumbent Kai Forbath and Daniel Carlson, a rookie drafted out of Auburn.
The interesting thing here is Forbath didn’t do much to warrant the Vikings searching for a kicker. He finished the season 34-of-39 on extra points, and was 32-of-38 on field goals for the year. His long was 53 yards, and he was 6-of-9 from 50 yards or longer. He was 12-of-14 from 30-39 yards and 6-of-7 from 40-49 yards.
Carlson finished last year 23-of-31 in field goals last year for Auburn, including 4-of-8 from 50-plus yards. Three of the four missed attempts were blocked. He converted all 57 extra point attempts. The bottom line is the kicking job is Carlson’s to lose, because you don’t draft a kicker to be among the roster cuts.
It’s always interesting to watch position battles unfold as players battle for roster spots before the regular season starts. This year won’t be any different, other than that it’s in Eagan and not Mankato.