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Notes & Updates on Vikings’ OTAs

Some of the more notable tidbits since OTAs started

The Vikings are coming up on the half-way point of voluntary organized team activities, or OTAs, which began May 22nd and go intermittently through June 8th, with mandatory minicamp the following week on June 13-14. The remaining OTAs are on May 31st, June 2nd, June 5th-6th, and June 8th. Following mini-camp, the Vikings will not return again to TCO Performance Center until training camp begins at the end of July. Dates for training camp have not yet been announced.

Player Status

First, let’s begin with which players have been at OTAs and which have not and their status. So far, Danielle Hunter, Dalvin Cook, and Justin Jefferson have not attended any OTAs and it doesn’t sound like they will. Hunter and Cook have contract issues that are keeping them away- Hunter is seeking a new contract while Cook may be on the trading block. There is also some rumors that he could accept a pay cut to remain with the team, but no official news on that front. My guess is that the Vikings are trying to trade him but haven’t worked out a deal yet. A trade could also result in a restructured contract for Cook. Jefferson is practicing on his own and Kevin O’Connell said he’s talked with Jefferson and is hoping to have him at practice as soon as possible. He said he’d keep their conversations private. It’s unclear if Jefferson’s absence is contract-related, but that would seem premature at this point. My guess is he’s choosing to practice on his own during the OTA period and will be there for mini-camp in mid-June.

Harrison Smith and Jordan Hicks attended OTAs today after choosing not to attend last week, leaving only Hunter, Cook, and Jefferson as the only players on the roster that haven’t attended OTAs for the Vikings.

Jordan Addison suffered a non-serious injury at the end of rookie camp and is considered day-to-day according to Kevin O’Connell, who also said they were being, “over-cautious” with Addison at this point. He hasn’t been active in OTAs although he’s been on the sidelines. Malik Knowles was also on the sidelines not participating.

Others attending OTAs but on the rehab field include DeWayne McBride, Blake Proehl, Brian O’Neill, Ross Blacklock, James Lynch, and Harrison Phillips.

Position Battle Updates

While it’s still early in the off-season schedule, there are a few tidbits on position battles so far in OTAs:

  • Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu are competing for the RB2 spot behind Alexander Mattison, assuming no Dalvin Cook, with DeWayne McBride still rehabbing. It looks like Chandler is also participating in kickoff returns with Nwangwu, based on a video clip from special teams practice. That’s interesting as some have speculated that Nwangwu’s roster spot could be in doubt as he doesn’t really contribute much outside of kick returns. Chandler has a lot more experience at running back. But if the Vikings part ways with Dalvin Cook, I don’t see them keeping fewer than four RBs on the roster along with fullback CJ Ham.
  • With Danielle Hunter not attending OTAs, and Brian Flores giving Marcus Davenport some reps at the 5-technique (DE in a 3-4 front), DJ Wonnum and Patrick Jones II have been playing the OLB/Edge Rusher spots with the 1s. Notable, however, is that Luigi Vilain and TJ Smith got some reps with the 1s as well. It wouldn’t be too surprising if the Vikings went with Harrison Phillips, Khyiris Tonga, and a rotation for the last interior lineman on early downs, then switching to Dean Lowry and Davenport inside on passing downs.
  • In base defense, Akayleb Evans and JoeJuan Williams were rotating opposite of Byron Murphy Jr. at the outside cornerback spots.
  • Andrew Booth Jr. is also getting reps with the 1s (perhaps in nickel with Murphy moving inside to slot) and accidentally took KJ Osborn to the ground today- no hard feelings. Osborn got the wind knocked out of him on the play, as he landed on the ball. Osborn said it was the NFL and people are competing. Jordan Hicks said the same. Osborn said Booth had been working out all year and is now bigger, faster, stronger than last year.
  • Jalen Nailor seems to be emerging as WR4 at this point. With Jefferson and Addison not on the field, KJ Osborn and Nailor are seeing reps as WR1 and WR2 respectively. This was the case today and last week. Kevin O’Connell mentioned Jalen Reagor as well, but he seems no higher than WR5 at this point.
  • In three safety looks, it was Josh Mettelus playing the slot with Cam Bynum and Harrison Smith the other two. Lewis Cine still the fourth safety at this point. Bynum had been seen moving up to play the slot in some situations last week, while Cine had replaced Smith.

Intense Defense

Clearly the talk at OTAs is centered around the defense, as Brian Flores installs some of the more exotic looks and plays in his arsenal. Some of the chatter:

  • Alexander Mattison, KJ Osborn, and Christian Darrisaw said the defense was, “intense,” “exotic,” and “it’s crazy” last week after Flores began the installs of some of his zero-blitz looks, sometimes with three safeties at the line of scrimmage among other variations.
  • Ezra Cleveland said today that they were installing some three-man twists, which is forcing the offensive line to focus on their communication to effectively counter them. He said this is something you expect more in week 12 than in week 2 but is good practice for them.
  • Harrison Smith said his favorite part of Flores’ defense was its aggressive nature, and that it’s going to be fun playing in it.
  • A few reporters have commented that the practices seem a bit more intense overall because of the defense. It seems Brian Flores is beginning to put his stamp on the defensive identity he talked about establishing last week.

Vikings Doubling Down on Practices with Other Teams

Kevin O’Connell also announced that the Vikings will host team practices for two days prior to the preseason games with both the Titans and the Cardinals. The Vikings clearly felt they benefitted a lot from the practices with the 49ers last year and are taking advantage of back-to-back home preseason games to expand training camp practices with both teams this year. Undoubtedly the Vikings facilities make it attractive for other teams to come in, stay at the hotel right next to TCO Performance Center, take advantage of state-of-the-art facilities, and practice with the Vikings for two days prior to the preseason game at US Bank stadium. Usually by that time players are tired of facing each other every day and are looking forward to practicing against other teams, so taking advantage of those opportunities makes sense. It’s becoming the new norm during training camp, especially for the Vikings.

Stay tuned for more updates in the future.