The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up training camp 2020 just a few days ago and there was plenty of exciting news and nuggets to come out of those practices. While the positives were nice to hear, not everything coming out of practice was rosy.
Here are the most concerning things to come out of Vikings’ camp this year that could have a negative impact on the 2020 season:
Danielle Hunter’s lack of participation
One of the most concerning things to come out of Vikings’ camp this year was the fact that their star defensive end Danielle Hunter missed 12 straight practices, and hasn’t been on the field since Aug. 14. There hasn’t been much said about this injury, other than it is a tweak that the Vikings are being cautious with. They also stated that they aren’t concerned that Hunter will miss any significant time.
If this is true that’s all fine and dandy. Hunter definitely doesn’t need practice time and can roll out of bed in the morning and be ready to play a 16-game season. The concern is that there is more to this. Hunter signed an extension a few years back and is now grossly underpaid. There is some fear that this is a holdout tactic and that he’s unhappy with his contract. What could make matters worse is if the team eventually gives an extension to newly acquired Yannick Ngakoue, which could fan the flames of this issue further.
Hopefully, that isn’t the case, and Hunter truly does have a minor injury that the team is just being overcautious with. The Vikings would have one of the best pass-rushing duos in the league if Ngakoue and Hunter take the field together, and that is something the Vikings and their fans are dying to see this season.
No new contract for Dalvin Cook
It was seen as good news when Dalvin Cook reported to camp. Talks about a contract extension were ongoing at that time, and his showing up to camp seemed like a good-faith move on his part. It was assumed a deal was forthcoming, but here we are almost a month removed from that with still no deal in sight.
The good news is that Cook took part in camp, albeit on a limited basis. He was often seen working alone on the sidelines and Alexander Mattison got most of the run with the 1s. Perhaps that was just the Vikings trying to ensure Cook’s health for the seasons, but it could’ve also had something to do with the ongoing contract dispute.
While there is no indication that Cook will hold out once the season begins, it is disappointing the star back has yet to agree to a long-term extension. Cook was a key part of the Vikings’ offense a season ago, and it was his explosive ability that kept them in games or flat out won them. Perhaps the recent restructuring of Riley Reiff‘s deal will create enough room for the team to present him with a new offer. The team will then be able to keep this explosive player in Purple, and not have this situation hover over the season like an ominous dark cloud.
Offensive line woes
The Vikings didn’t do a ton to upgrade their offensive line in the offseason, and it has shown in camp. They added Ezra Cleveland through the draft and that was basically it, other than drafting some late depth pieces. They are hoping Garrett Bradbury is better in Year 2 and his dedication to the weight room helps him to better anchor against big interior pass rushers. They also seem to believe that they can improve by moving some players around. The team is going with Pat Elflein at right guard and promoting Dakota Dozier into a starting job at left guard. They hoped the changes would lead to an improved overall unit. The early returns have not been impressive.
The Minnesota offense struggled mightily in the scrimmage the team held a week ago. Cousins took three sacks and had pressure in his face on a consistent basis. The pressure was a big reason why the first-team offense had to settle for two field goals on five drives. The only silver lining for the offensive line regarding the scrimmage is that it’s hard to truly get a running game going when backs are called down on the first contact. Cook and Mattison excel at breaking through tackles and surely would’ve been able to pick up extra yardage.
The offensive line has to be one of the biggest concerns for the Vikings heading into the season. It basically returns intact from a year ago and the only new face on it has to be considered a downgrade from what was seen last year. Hopefully, this group is able to jell and perform at least on an average level so Cousins has time to scan the field and find the open man.
Another mildly disturbing trend that has come out of Vikings’ camp is all the new faces the team has brought in during the preseason. They’ve signed players like Quentin Poling, Steven Parker, David Reese and traded for Ngakoue. It’s rare for so many new faces to be brought in and makes one wonder about the cohesiveness of the team as a whole when there’s a new number on the field about every other day.
The good news about these new faces is that a few of these players have to be considered upgrades. Parker is clearly better than Brian Cole and Myles Dorn, and has a real chance to make this team as a backup safety. Ngakoue is a premier pass rusher and is an upgrade over Odenigbo, even with the potential he showed a season ago. So while the cohesion takes a hit, the talent on the squad has improved.
Another issue that has arisen during camp is the number of players changing positions or learning secondary positions. The team has moved Dan Chisena to safety, kicked Elflein to the right side, tried Cleveland at guard and moved Jalyn Holmes to defensive end. While these moves are all worth testing out, it also exhibits that the team isn’t happy with the talent and depth at many positions and is trying to be creative in finding a solution to fix it.
The Vikings are a team that’ll be in the thick of things in January, but while they have plenty of talent and excitement on this team, there are some legitimate concerns that have arisen in camp that they will need to figure out in order to be successful this season.