The Minnesota Vikings opened training camp Mankato, MN, for the 52nd and final time last week, beginning a journey that we hope ends in with the Super Bowl in US Bank Stadium next February. The Vikings had a busy off-season, re-tooling the offensive line, drafting some pretty good players on offense, and they just re-negotiated a contract with Xavier Rhodes, with rumors of more coming.
It’s been an interesting week, one of hope and promise. Of course, every team has that this time of year, except the Jets and Browns, and probably the Bears. I mean, it’s gonna be a hopeless wasteland for those fans this season, but most everyone else can at least do an ‘if/then’ exercise, at a minimum, and think playoffs. Will that hope and promise translate into wins for the Vikings? I guess it depends on whether or not this team gels during camp, doesn’t it, Mr. Soul?
Color me any color
Speak to me in tongues and share
Tell me how you'd love to hate me
Tell me how you'd love to care
Well I just want to shake us up
And make it well
Come together now
Yeah let's gel
Clothe me in any fashion
Glitter to so mundane
Tell me how you'd love to change me
Tell me I can stay the same
I just want to shake us up
And make it well
Come together now
Yeah let's gel
Well let's bungle
And live to tell
How we came together
Yeah how we gelled
Your last Mankato Stock Market Report follows.
Blue Chip Stocks:
Dalvin Cook, RB: Last night Di and I did our podcast (that’s Roughing The Podcast, if you’re not familiar, please check us out if you haven’t. And shameless plug over) and she pretty much described my feelings towards Cook when he got drafted: oh, okay. I was neither excited nor discouraged; I just kind of thought he’d be one of three running backs in a platoon setup. And until I saw him, I was okay with that.
But you guys...YOU GUYS. The word I kept hearing up in Mankato is ‘special’, and he really seems like a special back. Very fluid runner, great vision and cutback ability, soft hands catching passes out of the backfield...very, very impressive so far. With every day that goes by, he’s locking down the starting RB job. Yes, Murray and McKinnon are going to see the field, but I don’t know that a RB by committee is going to be a thing in Minnesota or not.
Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen, DE: The Vikings have what I believe to be their best 1-2 set rushers since Keith Millard and Chris Doleman. Hunter and Griffen were creating absolute havoc during full padded 11 on 11 practice, and at times seemed unblockable. Now, could it be attributed to the caliber of player they were going up against across the line? I think you could make that argument to an extent, but Rashod Hill and Mike Remmers are a lot better than the competition the defense has had to face in the last couple years, and the duo still look phenomenal. The Vikings defensive line as a whole stood out, but Griffen and Hunter appear poised to bring a wrecking ball to opponents in 2017.
Sam Bradford, QB: Sam Bradford has been sharp in almost every facet so far. He’s made no major mistakes, and if there’s been one knock, it was that he was inaccurate on his deep ball during the Saturday afternoon padded practice. He looked good throwing deep on Friday, and his short/intermediate stuff has been money. Ball placement has been great, his bad throws are such that they’re either going to make the receiver have to make a difficult catch or let the ball drop incomplete to avoid a pick, so it’s hard to argue they’re really a bad throw. Bradford also seems really comfortable in this offense. There were no mental errors, and a whole off season working with a familiar face in Pat Shurmur has been good for Bradford and the offense.
Pat Elflein, C: The rookie third round pick has been getting more reps with the first team, and he’s looked good, for the most part, going up against guys like Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph. I’m still not sold on Elflein winning the starting center job, because Nick Easton has played as well, if not better than Elflein, but Elflein is going to be a good addition to the offensive line.
Laquon Treadwell, WR: Of all the players having a good camp, this is the one I’m happiest about. Treadwell was maligned with injuries last year, and then with fans who loved screaming he was a bust in the off-season. He’s shown good route running ability, and a burst coming out of the break to get open on crossing patterns. He’s made some head turning catches in the red zone, and he TKO’d Antone Exum, Jr., yesterday afternoon in the much ballyhooed training camp kerfuffle. Keep working, young man. It’s about to pay off.
Michael Floyd, WR: As good as Treadwell has looked, Floyd has looked a smidge better, and if he can step up when he comes back from his suspension the Vikings are going to have a seriously good top four of Floyd, Treadwell, and of course Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Funny story: During an 11 on 11 period Saturday, Michael Floyd made a really nice catch, over, I think, Trae Waynes. Had to go up for the ball, Waynes contested, but Floyd came down with it. The crowd cheered, and some guy behind me yelled ‘get that man a kombucha!’
Danny Isidora, RG: One of the really bad facets of the Vikings offensive line the last couple seasons is a serious lack of depth. No line could have absorbed all the injuries last year’s team suffered, don’t get me wrong, but even one or two injuries would have put the 2016 line in a perilous spot. Isidora is one of the guys the Vikings have brought in to fix that, and the rookie sixth round pick is acquitting himself well. He’s really pushing RG Joe Berger, and if Berger continues to struggle he may overtake him. I thought he might need to sit for a year to get used to the NFL, but there were times when Isidora looked like a two or three year vet. Of course, there were also times where he looked like he’s been in training camp for less than a week, too. But there’s a lot there to like with him.
Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, CB: The biggest question mark for me on defense was how Mackensie Alexander would look playing the slot in place of Captain Munnerlyn, and if Waynes would take over the LCB job. They’ve both looked good in Mankato, although Alexander looked a little more inconsistent to me when I was up there. Waynes, though, seems to have found the sweet spot between being too grabby and playing too far off a receiver, and was playing solid coverage both days I was there. If this translates into the regular season when they start playing for real, Waynes and Rhodes are going to be a heck of a CB tandem.
Riley Reiff, T: This isn’t because of how Reiff has played, it’s because of how he hasn’t played. He’s been sidelined since the first afternoon practice, and for a team that has PTSD from last year’s o-line injuries, it’s not a good omen to start camp. On the flip side, it means Rashod Hill has gotten almost all the reps with the first team, and he’s done okay. Not great, but not terrible. Still, the sooner Reiff gets out there, the better off everyone will be. And we can all stop hyperventilating.
Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray, RB: While Reiff doesn’t seem to be in danger of losing his starting job to injury, Murray and McKinnon do. With both of them sidelined, Dalvin Cook has had most of the first team reps, and he’s putting distance between himself and these two guys, to the point I don’t know that the gap can be made up. I know when you have kind of a running back committee, who the starter is is a bit of a moot point, but with each day Cook is showing he can do everything Murray and McKinnon specialize in, (short yardage and pass catching), and if Cook proves he can do it all, there might not be a running back committee.
Case Keenum, QB: I was almost positive that when Keenum was signed, he was going to be the backup QB, and Taylor Heinicke was going to be put in a weird limbo, his fate and career with the Vikings tied to the health of Teddy Bridgewater’s knee rehab. But no, not even close. Heinicke has played very well, save for one bad interception on Saturday, and Keenum has done himself no favors by playing as poorly as he has. About the only positive thing you can say about Keenum’s camp is that it’s been better than Wes Lunt’s camp. Wes Lunt was cut on Saturday morning. If Teddy was healthy, Keenum would be getting his pink slip soon.
Buy: The offensive line will be better. Between Mike Remmers, Isidora, Hill, Reiff when he finally starts practicing, and Elflein, the upgrade in talent is obvious. Alex Boone is having a great camp (aside: Boone is a really funny dude), and once Reiff gets healthy, the Vikings have the makings of a respectable front five, with some decent depth on the two deep. This past off-season plan to upgrade the offensive line has been a heck of a lot better than last off-season’s plan, which fell apart faster than a Jenga puzzle once pieces started getting removed. They’ll still need to add more talent next off-season, but right now this seems like a group of guys that can get the job done and be a lot more reliable than in recent seasons.
Sell: The offensive line will be great. Still, no one will mistake this unit for the Dallas Cowboys line. As much of an upgrade Remmers and Reiff are over a hurt Matt Kalil, insert name of tackle here they signed on Wednesday and played on Sunday, and T.J. Clemmings, they’re not elite. Remmers showed that in Mankato, although he won his share of battles. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to be great, but after what’s been trotted out the last couple seasons, I’ll be happy with ‘just okay’ this year, with an eye towards great next year. Because a just okay line makes this team a serious playoff contender. League average, which I think they can be, makes them even better.
Buy: The secondary as a whole with Captain Munnerlyn gone. I like the vibe that Waynes and Alexander are giving off, and with Harrison Smith, Andrew Sendejo, and Terence Newman rounding out the top guys, this secondary looks to have little drop off from last year. Granted, they need to play the games and all that, but I am a lot less nervous about this group than I’ve been since I heard Munnerlyn re-signed with the Panthers.
Sell: The secondary can withstand an injury. It’s not a very deep unit, though. Once you get past those five guys, there’s a lot of question marks. Exum is the top CB to back up Alexander at the nickel spot right now, and none of the safeties behind Smith and Sendejo give me a lot of confidence. There are going to be injuries, and a game here or there that guys will miss; that’s just the nature of the beast. The Vikes could absorb that, I think, but a long term injury back here could really hurt the defense over the long haul.
Buy: The Vikings have a lot of depth at wide receiver. The most surprising thing for me after watching this team up close for a couple days in the amount of talent and depth the Vikes have here. Assuming the top four are Diggs/Thielen/Treadwell/Floyd, you have several guys competing for just one or two spots. Jarius Wright is one, of course, and I would normally call him a shoe-in. But yeah, for whatever reason the staff just kind of overlooks him. I don’t know why, but it just seems to be a bigger and bigger thing. Two guys that really stood out were Stacy Coley and Caleb Jones, who just seemd to make a play every time you looked their way. Rodney Adams is a guy that’s not that far behind Jones and Coley, and he seems like he’s got an inside track for a roster spot based on his early look as a kick returner. So even if the Vikings keep six receivers, there are four guys competing for two spots, and right now you can pick any two of the four and you’d be right.
Sell: MoBo is part of that WR depth equation. Sadly, though, it looks like the Moritz Bohringer feel good story of 2016 will have an unhappy ending. MoBo just seems buried on the depth chart, and dropped more passes than he caught in the two days I was up there. I don’t fault the Vikings for taking a flyer on him in the sixth round, he was worth a shot and a year on the practice squad. But I’d be surprised if he’ll even make the practice squad this year.
Don Glover Quote Of The Week:
Don Glover: Dad, son, brother, grandpa, great grandpa, Vikings fan.
Feb 16th, 1931 - July 24th, 2017
‘It Was A Hell Of A Dash’
Until Valhalla, Pop. I’m really gonna miss watching the Vikings with you. I’m really gonna miss you, period.