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Vikings’ Mini-Camp Notes

Updates on player progress and news from Vikings’ mini-camp

The Vikings’ mandatory mini-camp got under way today and continues tomorrow in the last activity before training camp begins at the end of July. Here are some notes on what took place.

Who Was There? Who Wasn’t There?

With this being a mandatory mini-camp for players, as opposed to voluntary OTAs, players not showing up are subject to fines and more importantly speculation on why they’re not attending mandatory practices.

Danielle Hunter

The only Vikings’ player not in attendance was Danielle Hunter, who is now officially holding out for a new contract. This wasn’t a surprise given his camp had already said he would not be attending mandatory mini-camp earlier this week.

Kevin O’Connell commented about Hunter’s situation during his press conference today, when asked if the situation could be resolved in a way that kept Hunter in Minnesota:

“I definitely see that as a real outcome, but there is a lot to be determined and I want to be very sensitive to [allow] that situation to play out both for our organization and for Danielle.”

Vikings beat reporter for ESPN Kevin Siefert reported yesterday that there have been no serious trade talks for Hunter between the Vikings and other interested teams, while Darren Wolfson has reported that the Vikings continue to want Hunter to remain a Viking. But that could change at some point if no progress is made in bridging the gap between the two sides in contract negotiations.

Justin Jefferson

Jefferson was back in Eagan for mini-camp, erasing any fears that he was going to be another contract hold-out after not attending voluntary OTAs. Jefferson explained that he was working out in Miami while also busy with several marketing and endorsement deals as one of the brightest stars in the league. He also confirmed that he will be there for training camp as well, even if he doesn’t have a new contract by then. He also said his contract situation didn’t have much impact on his decision to not attend OTAs.

Injured/Rehabbing/Returning Players

While every player except Hunter attended Day 1 of mandatory mini-camp, several players were not full participants, while several others returned to full status after missing practice time during OTAs.

Back in action: Christian Darrisaw, James Lynch, and JoeJuan Williams were full participants after being limited or sidelined during some or all of OTAs. Harrison Phillips was limited.

Still sidelined: Jordan Addison continues to not be a participant, but Kevin O’Connell expects him to be a full participant once training camp begins and complemented him on his presence and participation in the meeting room.

Blake Proehl, Ross Blacklock, Sam Schlueter, Malik Knowles, and Brian O’Neill also did not participate in practice today after missing OTAs as well.

Starter Reps and Depth Competitions

The were several Vikings that have not been starters that got some reps with the starting group today. In some cases those reps may be used experimentally by coaches to gauge ability against better competition, and other times to reward positive performance, or a combination of both.

  • Jacquelin Roy got reps with the 1s at defensive tackle.
  • Mehki Blackmon got reps with the starters at CB.
  • Josh Metellus continues to figure prominently as the third safety/slot corner.
  • Vederian Lowe got some reps with the starters at right tackle.
  • Trishton Jackson also got some reps with the 1s at WR.

Safety Depth

While it’s too early to attach any significance to much of this, it does appear to be significant that Josh Metellus continues to work as the third safety in mini-camp after doing so in OTAs as well. Metellus is an experienced strong safety that performed well in relief of Harrison Smith last season and was named a team captain after Brian O’Neill went down late in the season. Brian Flores has used three safety personnel in both OTAs and now mini-camp, with Metellus playing in the slot, and I expect that will carry over into training camp and the regular season.

Lewis Cine remains the fourth safety at this point and is probably more of a competitor with Cam Bynum at free safety although he’s played the same role Metellus is playing now at Georgia.

Running Back Depth

Kevin O’Connell said that behind Alexander Mattison, it’s a competition between Kene Nwangwu and Ty Chandler, and ‘the rookie’ (DeWayne McBride). He also said that different players could get reps depending on the situation, etc. All of that would seem to indicate a running back by committee approach, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Ty Chandler got the most reps behind Mattison once the season begins.

Cornerback Depth

The cornerback depth chart is, if anything, more uncertain since the start of OTAs. One would assume that Byron Murphy will be a starting cornerback in some capacity, but beyond that it looks entirely up for grabs. Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, and Mekhi Blackmon have all gotten reps with the 1s, while the slot corner/safety may be more of a situational, by committee position in Brian Flores’ scheme. And that committee is likely to include both cornerbacks and safeties.

It’s all pretty murky right now, but maybe that’s okay as Flores experiments with players and learns their abilities, while also installing a more sophisticated scheme than that employed a year ago.

Justin Jefferson was asked what he thought of Flores’ scheme in his first day back, and he answered as follows:

“It’s going to be very different. Me being here and watching them for the time I’ve been here, they’ve been doing a lot of disguises. A lot of different mixes and matches. It’s definitely different.”

All that is a good thing schematically, to help give the defense an advantage- so long as the players can execute it well. Figuring out which players can do so the best, and at what position(s) is the challenge in the lead up to the regular season.

That’s all for today’s mini-camp. Could be an update after tomorrow’s practice if anything significant develops. Stay tuned.