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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
Kirk Cousins sits comfortably atop the depth chart and has adjusted well to new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak. Cousins’ refusal to get vaccinated could test the team’s ability to manage week to week and argues for possibly keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Rookie Kellen Mond outperformed Jake Browning and should be the backup, although nothing is official yet. Regardless of who wins the No. 2 job, their lack of experience could prove problematic if Cousins is unavailable.
Dalvin Cook had an uneventful summer, which is great news considering he has nothing to prove and could be the league’s most productive running back, if healthy. Alexander Mattison has also been relatively quiet and is locked in as Cook’s handcuff. Fullback C.J. Ham rounds out the roster locks. A.J. Rose was a preseason darling but likely heads for the practice squad in favor of Kene Nwangwu. Veteran Ameer Abdullah seemed like a lock as the team’s No. 3 because of his versatility and special teams prowess, but he was released on Tuesday.
Justin Jefferson is back at practice after straining his shoulder three weeks ago; he should be a full go for Week 1. His running mate, Adam Thielen, got banged up last week and returned to full-contact drills in recent days. Jefferson’s absence from the second half of camp could mean a slow start, but his elite rookie numbers portend another dominant year, if healthy. Thielen is on the declining arc of his career, but it’s clear he’s not ready to cede the No. 1 spot to Jefferson quite yet. Depth is an issue beyond the starting tandem, as it was in 2020. Dede Westbrook could be the answer at No. 3, but he’s still getting up to speed after last year’s ACL injury.
Irv Smith will miss the start of the regular season to repair a torn meniscus. We won’t know the severity of the injury until after the surgery. Footballguys injury expert Dr. Jene Bramel says a 3-to-4 week absence is a best-case scenario, but we cannot rule out a season-ending diagnosis. Before the injury, Smith was having a fantastic summer and seemed poised for a breakout. Tyler Conklin is currently dealing with an injury of his own, but is expected back at practice before this weekend. Brandon Dillon and rookie Zach Davidson haven’t done much with their camp opportunities; both look like bottom-of-the-roster types. On Tuesday, the Vikings added Chris Herndon via trade with the New York Jets.
Safety Harrison Smith has agreed on a new four-year, $64 million contract extension, making him the second-highest-paid safety in the league. “He’s the most frustrating guy I play against with his disguises,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He does so many different things from the line of scrimmage – blitz, play the curl flat in a two-invent, run back and play quarter safety, run back and play the half, run back and play the middle field third. It’s a little maddening sometimes with what they do.”
Rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette was the best returner through August. Teams often get nervous about trusting unproven rookies early in the season, but Smith-Marquette did enough to earn the job and the coach’s trust as the team released veteran Ameer Abdullah.
Summary from Week 3 of Camp
The quarterbacks collectively struggled in the 12-10 loss to the Colts. Kirk Cousins finally saw some action completing five of seven passes, and both Jake Browning and Kellen Mond struggled to move the ball. The Vikings are still trying to fine-tune the offense, and Cousins appreciated the opportunity to “get the rust off” and get back into the feel of game day. “That’s what you’re here to do, so it’s fun to get out and play,” Cousins said. Neither Browning nor Mond have grabbed hold of the No. 2 role. Look for them to continue battling it out over the next two weeks.
Dalvin Cook looks ready to continue his tremendous 2020 success, and players around the league are taking notice. “Once he breaks the tackle box and gets out in space, he’s probably the most explosive back in the league with his acceleration,” said Steelers linebacker Joe Schobert. “Being able to lower his shoulder in the hole, and being able to when a linebacker or anyone comes up to make a tackle make them miss he uses his acceleration to separate from everyone else and get into the end zone,” added Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. Cook is a complete package and plays for a team willing to give him a massive workload. Cook will get every touch he can handle, but his lengthy injury history makes his backups worth paying attention to, as well. Alexander Mattison is one of the league’s best backups because he can play all three downs and is an above-average runner and receiver. Rookie speedster Kene Nwangwu missed this Colt’s game.