Ho hum. Just another Tuesday afternoon at Twin Cities Orthopedic Performance Center in Eagan. After a while, all the days just start of blend together during the dog days of Vikings Training Camp.
OK, well just maybe this particular Tuesday was a little unique.
Of course, the big news of the day was Stefon Diggs signing a big five-year extension. Diggs is set to receive $40 million guaranteed, which locks up another key piece of the Vikings’ core for the long haul. Of the four major preseason extension targets, only Anthony Barr remains without a new deal after the upcoming season.
The annual price of just over $14 million per year feels just about right for both the player and the team. Diggs is making similar money to the other big wide receiver signings, and his new deal will make him around the 9th highest paid receiver in the league. Has Diggs put up top-ten production thus far in his career? Not yet. But as with the new contract Danielle Hunter recently signed, the Vikings are banking on the potential of their young players before they possibly break the bank in free agency. Diggs’ annual salary will likely be leapfrogged by at least a few players next season. If he can stay healthy and keep increasing his production, the new contract could easily look like a bargain a couple years down the road.
Detractors of giving Diggs a new deal will point to his injury history as reason to be wary of giving him such a large contract. He has definitely had his share of maladies, but I wouldn’t call missing a total of five games due to injury through the first three years of your career extremely high-risk. (Diggs only played 13 games his rookie year, but that was because he was inactive for the first three.) Diggs talked about investing more into maintaining his body this offseason; he realizes the responsibility that comes with his new paycheck. Obviously all it takes is one play for everything to go awry in the NFL, but his dedication should feel reassuring.
Above all, Diggs has worked for this new contract. He has produced on the field in ways that standard numbers don’t fully illuminate. Some of the ridiculous catches he made were the main power supply behind Case Keenum’s improbably electric 2017 season.
Diggs couldn’t be more beloved off the field as well. Fans, coaches, and teammates alike can’t stop raving about how great it is to have Diggs around. Just over three years ago, Diggs was drafted in the fifth round and considered little more than a kick return specialist. To see how hard he has worked to develop into one of the better receivers in the league—especially when it comes to his razor-sharp route running—has been special.
It was even more special to see Diggs talk about his late father this afternoon during his press conference. Diggs was clearly emotional when he explained that he hoped that this would make him proud. Even if you’re on the fence about his contract, it’s nearly impossible not to root for Diggs as a fan.
Plus, you know, when a guy gives you the most memorable touchdown in franchise history, it’s only right to pay him, no?
Of course, not all the news out of Eagan today was as warm and fuzzy. Right guard Mike Remmers had to leave practice after getting hurt during goal line drills and returned from the trainer’s room without pads and his left leg in a boot. As of this posting, no further information has been made available about the injury.
Should we start getting nervous about this offensive line? It’s kind of hard not to be at least a little concerned at this point. The unit was a fairly large question mark heading into Training Camp, and Remmers’ injury combined with Pat Elflein starting on the PUP list means the Vikings are currently two starters down. But let’s try to refrain from pounding the panic button just yet. We are still over a month away from football that counts. As long as Remmers’ injury isn’t too severe there should be a decent amount of time for him to recover. While you want to create as much cohesion as possible with your blockers at this time of year, being a bit shorthanded can provide opportunity for some of the backups to get valuable reps. Hopefully someone like Tom Compton, Danny Isidora, or Colby Gossett can step up and prove their worth in the meantime.
And hey, at least Rashod Hill made it through the entire day without incident! It looks like the stomach bug that had bothered him for the first few days of camp is finally behind him.
So tell those “here we go again” voices in the back of your head to pipe down. For now, at least.
Let’s finish up with some other quick-hit notes and observations from the sidelines on Tuesday:
- It looks like Laquon Treadwell might be finally putting things together. The 2016 first round pick has acquitted himself quite well through the first four days of practice. I doubt that Treadwell will ever be the type of receiver that creates a ton of separation, but it appears that he is doing the little things right that can still make him a very effective NFL receiver. His route running has been more precise. He’s using his body more effectively to shield defenders and make some impressive catches against his talented defensive teammates. Multiple coaches have commented on how he has matured this year. Treadwell has been with the first team in almost every three-wide set, and justifiably so. Kendall Wright has had a pretty quiet camp thus far, which means Treadwell appears to be the easy choice for the third wide receiver spot at this point in camp. I’m not predicting a 1,000 yard season or anything like that just yet, but his play should be giving some pause to some of the bust talk that has been floating around.
- I don’t think we’ll have to wait for Mike Hughes’ third season before he makes an impact on the team. The rookie corner has got off to a fast start. He is incredibly fluid in coverage and is tough to shake, even for Diggs and Adam Thielen . Hughes is smothering against short and intermediate routes. He may not have been a “need” pick at #30 overall, but he is certainly showing value.
- As good as Hughes has looked, he still isn’t getting a ton of run with the first team yet. Because this team already has Xavier Rhodes. And Trae Waynes. Mackensie Alexander is looking much improved in the slot now that he has embraced the new role. Terence Newman is still crafty enough to be making an impact at age 73. People can’t stop talking about how impressive Holton Hill has been. Horace Richardson has had a few really nice plays. And oh yeah, Marcus Sherels is still around for his annual great escape from the cut list. It is downright ridiculous how deep this Vikings team is at cornerback right now. The coaching staff is going to have some excruciatingly tough calls to make when they whittle the roster down in a few weeks.
- The competition for third running back was one of the hot topics heading into camp. As of right now, your guess is as good as mine as to who’s winning the competition. In my observation, Mike Boone has the edge over the other two when it comes to catching passes out of the backfield. But he may be the weakest of the three when it comes to running between the tackles. Right now I would give a slight edge to Mack Brown being a better overall runner than Roc Thomas, but it’s definitely too close to call at this point. Hopefully something will shake out during the preseason games.
- The kicker competition hasn’t exactly been an All-Pro slug fest. I watched a lot of Daniel Carlson and Kai Forbath kicking over the past two days, and it hasn’t been pretty at times. Carlson has a significantly bigger leg but he has had some struggles with accuracy. He narrowly missed a 35-yarder at the end of Tuesday’s practice that glanced off the flag at the top of the goalpost. Forbath really struggled at anything over 40 yards kicking into a decent breeze on Monday. But it hasn’t been a total disaster either. Both kickers are still making the vast majority of their attempts, and they combined to go 9-for-9 in live game situations to finish Monday’s session. Right now I still think it’s Carlson’s job to lose. But I’m going to move on before I conjure up any more memories of the last big-legged Vikings kicker from the SEC that had some accuracy issues.
- This is the most I have seen the Vikings practice situational football since Zimmer took over. One thing that has endeared Zim to the fans over the years is that he isn’t afraid to address previous shortcomings. While the 2017 red zone efficiency was much improved, there was still room to get better. Kirk Cousins hasn’t exactly been lights out at that part of the field throughout his career either. It’s encouraging to see the team practice some of the situations that could make the difference between wins and losses down the road.
- A final fun tidbit about two football luminaries that I didn’t anticipate chatting with when the day started. Before the afternoon practice, I got a chance to talk with Darren Woodson for a couple minutes. He was really impressed with the new digs in Eagan—he thought it was second only to Jerry’s World as far as the NFL facilities he has visited. And then toward the end of practice, I noticed a familiar face that had wandered next to me on the sideline—none other than Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. Without prompting, he asked a few of us writers what we thought about a couple of the players. It was pretty surreal to interact with the owner of the whole freaking operation like he was a normal everyday fan. It has been fun to see Wilf walking around the facility over the past few days, just sort of admiring his new shrine to football in the southeast suburbs.
- For those of you that want to see a quick recap of the day in video form, I jumped on the Two-Minute Drill with Luke Inman and Sam Ekstrom of Zone Coverage to quickly talk about the Diggs extension and the offensive line.
And that’s a wrap from a very eventful and memorable day in Eagan. Wednesday is an off day for the team, so we’ll have a brief respite from the daily reports. But be on the lookout for an article about my tour of the Vikings Museum at TCO, and we’ll be back at it on Thursday afternoon for more.
If you aren’t following along on Twitter yet, click here to do so—the updates will be coming fast and furious from my account throughout camp.