Our Minnesota Vikings, as in years past and like many other teams around the NFL, will be hosting joint training camp practices with other teams from around the league this summer.
The Tennessee Titans and Arizona Cardinals will be coming to Eagan in the week preceding their respective preseason games at US Bank Stadium. The Vikings will not be having a joint practice with their preseason week 1 opponent, the Seattle Seahawks.
The Titans finished last season 7-10 in the somewhat pitiful AFC South, finishing 2nd after a late-season successful playoff push from the Trevor Lawrence-led Jags and a horror-show of an 0-7 run to end the year.
The Titans had dominated the division in the years preceding with the heavy hand of the “King”, Derrick Henry. However, the Jags ascension signaled a changing of the guard in the AFC south, and the Titans are on the fall.
The team is buoyed by Henry (first and foremost), aging QB Ryan Tannehill (35 years young and entering the last year of his contract), and WR Robert Woods (who had only 2 TD receptions last year).
Woods’ time as WR1 for the Titans came to a close though earlier this month as DeAndre Hopkins signed with Tennessee, who is one of the league’s top receivers not named Justin Jefferson (if you’ve been living under a rock).
Hopkins will give the Vikings new-look secondary a tough go to be sure, but I expect there will be some kinks to be worked out with any QB-WR chemistry yet to be developed (or in it’s infancy at most by the time the practices come about).
Tannehill will undoubtedly secede his spot in time to Will Levis, the loud and controversial QB prospect out of Kentucky... It will be interesting to see how the Vikings do in practices against one of the draft’s wildcard QB’s, even if he doesn't have many significant weapons at his disposal. Expect Tennessee to give Levis all the reps he can handle to get used to the league.
The Vikings defense will be getting reps in against one of the NFL’s worst offenses last year, as the Titans finished 28th in points for.
I think the Vikings chose their joint practice opponents well considering both were, to put it simply, not good on offense (but more on the Cards later). This will give the newly-installed Brian Flores great chances to ease his defensive unit into the speed of the game and allow them to take a few learning mistakes on the chin prior to showtime.
Tennessee’s defense was markedly better than their offense, coming in ranked 14th in points against. But that will matter little to the heavy hitters of the Vikings offense. Who it will matter to will be the Vikings new recruits, namely Jordan Addison.
Safety Kevin Byard will be a good potential match for the rookie receiver as Byard led the Titans with 4 picks last year and led the team by far in total tackles (combined + solo).
Tennessee’s defensive line is also one of the better in the league, a unit that was asked to run 1100 plays last year (7th-most). They had pro-bowl left tackle Jeffery Simmons, who had a solid 7.5 sacks and 14 QB hits. It will be good to see how the Vikings O-Line can handle this team’s strongest unit.
The Cardinals were as bad of a team in the league as there was last year, finishing last in the NFC West at 4-13. Only the god-awful Chicago Bears had more losses and surrendered more points.
It makes sense then that they are at the dawn of a new regime. Head Coach Kliff Kingsbury was ousted and replaced with ex-Eagles Defensive Coordinator Johnathan Gannon. GM Steve Kiem was replaced with ex-Titans director of player personnel Monte Ossenfort.
Kyler Murray, their game-changing QB, suffered a much talked about ACL tear last December, and will begin Training Camp on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list. He is 7 months through what is an expected to be a 9-12 month recovery.
DeAndre Hopkins left the team for nothing, being unceremoniously released last April. Their top safety (and 5-time pro-bowler) Budda Baker is also in a contract dispute, but will be involved in training camp. Jefferson will do good to get some solid reps in against Baker, and may give rookie Addison a (needed) humility check to welcome him to the league.
It will also be interesting to see how the Cardinals plan to make up for the departure of long-time league idol JJ Watt. Watt had a respectable 12.5 sacks in his final season, and that hole is even larger in the locker room than it is on the field.
With the Cardinals trading back for some high picks in next year’s draft, the general consensus among the Really Smart Football People is that the birds will be letting nature take its course this year, especially if Murray is not back on time.