Full Press Vikings writers Clayton Brooks and Sam Smith compared notes this week on some of their expectations for Vikings training camp.
Which rookie are you most interested in watching in camp?
Brooks: For me, there’s one rookie that I’m itching to see in action and that’s center Garrett Bradbury. He was drafted to be the (literal) centerpiece to a revamped interior offensive line group. His skill set was viewed by most as a perfect fit for Vikings’ new zone blocking scheme. Although I wanted an upgrade at left tackle (e.g. Andre Dillard), Bradbury may have been the better choice given the weaknesses of the line. The line has been the focal point of much of Minnesota’s failures for much of Mike Zimmer era. Over the past three drafts, the Vikings have added three starters, potentially four if fellow rookie Dru Samia can beat out Josh Kline. This unit could be ready to make a considerable leap forward in 2019, with Bradbury leading the way.
Smith: Bradbury is the obvious choice, given that the Vikings are pinning much of their hopes on the offensive line. But I am going with the other top rookie in tight end Irv Smith, for several reasons. For one, he is the type of field-stretching tight end the Vikings have not had in a long time, so it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays opposite Kyle Rudolph. But more intriguing will be learning how Kevin Stefanski plans to use Smith this year. By all accounts, Smith will be a de facto third receiver, lining up off-line as much as in-line, so I expect a lot of 12 personnel. But if Smith can prove to be a better blocker, that will open up a lot more variety for his use.
Who on roster has the most pressure to have a good camp?
Brooks: Given his draft position, it’s got to be Laquon Treadwell. In 2016, the Vikings drafted him to be, at minimum, the wingman to compliment an emerging Stefon Diggs, who was coming off a strong rookie year. Three years later, he may be on the verge of not even making the final roster. Chad Beebe and Jordan Taylor have gotten most of the reps as the third receiver with the first team while he’s been relegated to running with the second team. There’s been little word out of camp on him, which can be hard to read one way or the other.
Smith: I racked my brain trying to reach for anyone else besides Treadwell, but there just is not another answer. The Vikings have already declined Treadwell’s fifth-year option, so from here on out, he may be only proving his worth to his next team. He probably will not get cut, given the dead money the Vikings would incur. But at this point, he does not seem to factor into their plans, barring a breakout 2019.
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Who is your pick to breakout this summer?
Brooks: If I thought he’d get a lot of use, I’d go with Dalvin Cook. Since I don’t think that’ll happen as a precaution, I’m going to lean on the guy who has the most positive buzz this week in Chad Beebe. He’s got the short-area quickness and speed to be the kind of threat in the slot that can take advantage of opposing defenses that focus too much attention on Diggs and Adam Thielen. If he can overcome the injury issues that plagued him last season, he could provide yet another weapon in an offense that could potentially be one of the NFL’s best in 2019.
Smith: I am most intrigued by Tyler Conklin. He saw limited snaps in his rookie year, but he showed an ability to get open downfield that David Morgan simply does not possess. Conklin is big and athletic and a better blocker than either Rudolph or Smith, and has looked really good in camp this week with Morgan on PUP. I do not know if Conklin will make Morgan expendable, given the latter’s value as a blocker. But I do think Conklin will force the Vikings to keep four tight ends and will provide a variety of looks to Stefanski’s tight end-heavy schemes.
What other camp storyline has your eye?
Brooks: Kirk Cousins. Fair or not, he’s been dogged all offseason about the Vikings’ failed 2018 season. With the spring devoted to fortifying the line in front of him and adding more weapons around him, it could very well come down to him determining the Vikings’ 2019 season. What he shows in camp could give us a glimpse of what’s to come. After just a week of training camp, reviews have been mostly positive. However, this story bears continued watching.
Smith: The injuries and recoveries from said injuries. The obvious one is Mike Hughes, who figures to have a greatly enhanced role in year two after recovering from ACL surgery. He has done some work in camp, so signs are good for his availability to start the season. Besides him, a host of guys have missed practice with injuries of varying severity. Linval Joseph, David Morgan and Shamar Stephen, to name a few, have had bumps and bruises that have kept them out. And then there was Tashawn Bower and Aviante Collins, who both have much more lengthy-looking injuries to deal with. Bower has a ruptured Achilles, while Collins went down with what looks like a bad knee injury. Injury troubles have plagued the Vikings the last few years, especially in camp. As such, I expect a pretty cautious hand from the training staff this summer.
– Clayton R. Brooks II writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @ClaytonRBrooks2.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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