4 Downs to my top Vikings training camp storylines

1st Down: It has been nearly a decade since Vikings fans beheld a defense not imprinted with the Mike Zimmer stamp. At his peak, Zim constructed some incredible defensive units—but his conservative, cover-your-assignments-above-all-else style isn’t the only way to skin opposing offensive cats. I’m excited—and a little terrified—to see how Ed Donatell goes about that business (a Purple 3-4 front—zounds!). My guess is that we’ll see more focus on aggressiveness and turnover-creation and less complexity or strict adherence to assignments. Either way, it will simply be a different way of experiencing this team’s defense.

2nd Down: Imagine you are hired by the owner of a company as ostensibly the final piece towards a champion-level goal/culture. But then you start your first day of work and discover your immediate supervisor wants nothing to do with in (in fact, probably didn’t want you hired in the first place). Not only that, but the skill set you were brought in to perpetuate throughout the organization is what your supervisor can’t stand. So, because the boss is the boss, you adapt a completely different style and have varying degrees of success (though of course not the ceiling of your success because of the imposed "restrictor plates"). After a few years, the company isn’t doing so hot and now your supervisor says—not to your face, but to the people who judge your performance—"hey, so, we actually need you to be the guy we hired way back when, okay?".

That has essentially been the Kirk Cousins story with the Vikings—I’m sure you can fill in all the names. Kirk certainly won’t transform into Rodgers or Mahomes with a new coach/mentor, but I’m both excited and intrigued to see if he flourishes with someone expressing confidence (rather than constant doubt/frustration) over his play.

3rd Down: I think Vikings fans will see a big difference in Dalvin Cook’s 2022 usage—and that’s a good thing. Coach Zimmer could never divest himself from bell-cow Cook, and to a certain extent I can see why: Cook is a next-level NFL talent. But aside from Ezekiel Elliott and Derrick Henry, no other RBs come to mind that carried the entire load on the ground without much passing game usage and remained even relatively healthy. Other than those freak-of-nature types, the more typical pattern has played out with Dalvin the last few seasons: starting off strong but then wearing down (or getting hurt) as the year progresses.

In a Kevin O’Connell offense that will almost certainly be more diverse/open/creative than Zimmer’s philosophies on that side of the ball, I foresee less of Cook ramming into the line over-and-over & more creative ways to get him in space (tosses, pitches, screens, swings, etc.) and away from the interior pounding. More of an Alvin Kamara prototype, in other words.

4th Down: A big point of debate/contention this offseason has been Minnesota’s owners (the Wilf group) not wanting to go "full rebuild". The worry, of course, is that it will keep the Vikings in the muddled middle forever—good enough to be "in the hunt" but not true Lombardi Trophy contenders. While I somewhat sympathize with that approach (I want to build for a championship instead of just contention as much as anybody), I’m also not sure this was the correct time for a complete tear-down. Not in a weak division (even the Packers have some question marks) and with a roster full of offensive talent (Cousins, Cook, Justin Jefferson, & Adam Thielen). The hope is that O’Connell & Co. can move that unit into Top-8 or higher status and just get the defense back from "dreadful" territory. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t—but I agree with the teardown forestalling in this case. It certainly makes for more immediate optimism as the ’22 Training Camp opens!

This FanPost was created by a registered user of The Daily Norseman, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the staff of the site. However, since this is a community, that view is no less important.