Vikings

The Vikings Should Try To Be More Like the Packers in 2024

Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

The next few months will be heavy on hope and optimism for the Minnesota Vikings. Last weekend was rookie minicamp. Soon, offseason OTAs will come. Then mandatory minicamp, and that awkward month where everyone hopes the players just make it to training camp in one piece.

When the Vikings report to TCO Performance Center in late July, the pain of a 7-10 season will be a distant memory. However, the challenge of an improved division and a transitional phase could dampen any fans’ hopes of reaching the Super Bowl in 2024.

If we’re being realistic, 2024 could still be an interesting year. Perhaps Minnesota’s best strategy is to be more like the Green Bay Packers.

These words will infuriate a good portion of the fanbase. Why would the Vikings want to be like a franchise that has high school bleachers at its stadium and drinks beers off of dumpster lids? Well, it’s not about the franchise in general. Instead, it’s about what the Packers did as a team last season.

At this time last year, the Packers were facing many questions. Aaron Rodgers took his ayahuasca stash to New York, and Jordan Love was ready to assume the mantle of Face of the Franchise. A few months earlier, Dan Campbell embarrassed the Packers on national television, stymieing their playoff hopes and sending them on an early January vacation.

Several familiar faces were gone, and a 2-5 start had Green Bay fantasizing about the No. 1 pick in the draft. But things started to turn around at the same time the football gods threw a lightning bolt at Kirk Cousins’s Achilles’ tendon, and the Packers surged through the second half of the season.

Love became the frontman after a light bulb turned on with the same energy as the sun. After a 24-10 loss to the Vikings in Week 8, Love finished the season throwing for 266 yards per game with 21 touchdowns, three interceptions, and completing 68.7% of his passes over the final 10 games.

He capped it off with a tremendous playoff performance. Love threw for 272 yards and three touchdowns in a Wild Card upset over the Dallas Cowboys. However, he regressed in the next round against the San Francisco 49ers, throwing two touchdowns and two picks in a 24-21 loss.

Love’s emergence was a critical turning point for the Packers, but so was the rest of the squad’s performance. Green Bay entered last season with the youngest roster in the NFL, and several other players had the neon lights come on midway through the season.

Jayden Reed became the top target in Green Bay’s offense with 64 catches for 793 yards and eight touchdowns. Tucker Kraft and Luke Musgrave gave the Packers a strong two-tight-end look with a combined 65 catches for 707 yards and three touchdowns.

Quay Walker and Isaiah McDuffie stepped up at linebacker. Rashan Gary became a feared pass rusher with nine sacks. Even first-round pick Lukas Van Ness made a cameo, netting four sacks while following Green Bay’s “draft-and-develop” mindset.

By the end of the year, the Packers finished 9-8, but that was good enough to get them into the postseason, and they won a playoff game. Nobody thought Green Bay could do this without Rodgers, certainly not so soon. It was a solid year that bred optimism heading into 2024.

If we cross the border with a trunk full of fireworks and Spotted Cow, we can say the Vikings are ahead of the Packers compared to one year ago.

The Vikings have several established players on offense, including the top receiver in the league, including Justin Jefferson. Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill are elite offensive tackles. Aaron Jones came over after running for 411 yards over his final four regular-season games and 118 yards and three touchdowns in the playoff win over Dallas.

But aside from the usual suspects, the Vikings need some younger players to step up. Jordan Addison has ascended after recording 911 yards and 10 touchdowns in his rookie year. However, Minnesota will need another receiver to step up, especially with T.J. Hockenson returning from a multi-ligament knee injury.

The interior offensive line is also uncertain. Ed Ingram cut his pressures allowed by a third last season, but the Vikings will need more progress to make him a long-term solution. Blake Brandel could also step up. However, he could also be a candidate to be this year’s Alexander Mattison: A player everyone saw as a backup but Minnesota made a starter anyway.

While the young players on offense need to step into complementary roles, the Vikings also need players to ascend to primary roles on defense. Mekhi Blackmon had a solid rookie season but would greatly benefit from a strong Year 2. Minnesota could also use a surprise on the defensive line after running Harrison Phillips into the ground last year. The revamped edge-rushing group could use another breakout player even after signing Jonathan Greenard and drafting Dallas Turner.

All of this is great, but it pales in comparison to the quarterback position. The Vikings are hoping that J.J. McCarthy can be the long-term answer. However, he may have to undergo a training program that would make Cobra Kai blush.

Sam Darnold could also be this year’s version of Baker Mayfield. Until then, Vikings fans will remember him as the guy who saw ghosts on a Monday night at Metlife Stadium.

Mix in an improved division and the loss of a home game (the Vikings are slated to “host” a game in London next year), and it could be a difficult year. But if Minnesota came together and went 8-9 or even 9-8, it would feel different from last year.

In 2022, the Packers were deflated with an 8-9 record because they had won 13 games in each of the three prior seasons. Add in a quarterback coming toward the end of his tenure, and 8-9 felt like dark times were ahead.

However, the ascension of young players put a positive spin on a year where they barely finished .500. Having an ascending young quarterback made finishing in the middle not seem so bad.

Even if the Packers are too much of a trigger, Vikings fans can look at the Philadelphia Eagles, who went 4-11-1 while splitting time with Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts in 2020 and made the playoffs after trading Wentz to Indianapolis the following year. With a rookie quarterback window, the Eagles spent to fill their holes in free agency, finished 14-3, and went to the Super Bowl in 2022.

It’s a blueprint the Packers hope to follow in 2025, and the Vikings could begin their own path with a strong showing in 2024.

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Photo Credit: Mark Hoffman via USA TODAY Sports

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