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Vikings Team Report: Minnesota Tries to Repeat

After ending division rival Green Bay’s reign as the long-time winner of the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings will look to run it back in 2023 with back-to-back division titles for the first time since 2009. Minnesota finished a successful 2022-23 campaign with a 13-4 record, highlighted by many close games and an early playoff exit. Despite a relatively quiet offseason, the Vikings will try to get more of that same success in head coach Kevin O’Connell’s second season.

Training Camp Info

  • Coach: Kevin O’Connell (2nd Season)
  • Training Camp Reporting Dates: July 23 (Rookies); July 25 (Veterans)
  • First Preseason Game: Aug. 10, vs Seattle
  • Week 1: Sept. 10, vs Tampa Bay
  • Bye: Week 13

Top Training Camp Storyline

Though contract questions remain for many of the Vikings’ top players, one of the biggest things to watch heading into training camp will be how the running back group shakes out after the departure of Dalvin Cook.

Alexander Mattison #2 of the Minnesota Vikings | Stephen Maturen/Getty Images/AFP

Alexander Mattison was the second-in-line behind Cook last season, finishing with 74 carries for 283 yards and five touchdowns, and he’s the clear choice to take over as the three-down back heading into 2023. However, whoever steps up behind him remains up in the air.

Running back Ty Chandler saw action in three games in his rookie season last year, while Kene Nwangwu has become a special teams star with his speed, returning three kickoffs for touchdowns in his two years. Minnesota also drafted DeWayne McBride in the seventh round, who should also compete for the RB2 spot in training camp.

Impact Rookies

The Vikings had a solid 2023 draft with their six picks. However, no rookie should make more of an impact than first-round wide receiver Jordan Addison. With Minnesota choosing to move on from wide receiver Adam Thielen, Addison has the opportunity to be a strong complement opposite Justin Jefferson.

In his sophomore year at Pittsburgh, Addison earned the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best receiver. He recorded 1,593 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns on 100 receptions before transferring to USC, where his numbers dropped to 875 yards and eight touchdowns.

Despite the drop in production, Addison’s route running and ability to line up in multiple positions should make him a threat in Minnesota’s offense. NFL odds give him the seventh-best chance to win Offensive Rookie of the Year with +1600 odds.

Offseason Moves That Turned Heads

Minnesota had a quieter offseason than some of its NFC North counterparts. However, it did release a pair of Vikings stalwarts, Thielen and Cook, who have been with the organization since their rookie seasons.

Thielen, who began as an undrafted free agent, signed with the team in 2013 and has been a starter since. With nearly a decade with the Vikings under his belt, Thielen now ranks third in team history in receptions and receiving touchdowns and fourth in receiving yards. Despite finishing second last season in receiving yards and touchdowns, Minnesota decided to release Thielen, who then signed with Carolina.

Cook is another player the Vikings decided to move on from, despite him leading the team in rushing yards in five of his six seasons. Cook has recorded over 1,000 rushing yards in his last four seasons, reaching the Pro Bowl in each of those years, but the Vikings chose to move in a younger direction instead.

Minnesota’s secondary was a major issue last season and a contributor to some of its closer games, and it may have some troubles early in the 2023 season as well.

The Vikings’ passing defense was the second-worst in the league last year, allowing 265.6 passing yards, while their 23 passing touchdowns allowed was 16th. Though the front office turned over much of the secondary, releasing corners Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, and Duke Shelley, it didn’t do much to replace that veteran presence.

Peterson led Minnesota with five interceptions and 15 passes defended, and safety Harrison Smith will now be counted on to lead a young secondary after finishing last season with five interceptions and 10 passes defended. The Vikings also signed cornerback Byron Murphy, but he missed the second half of the season due to a back injury, though new defensive coordinator Brian Flores should also help develop a young and inexperienced core in the secondary.

Final Analysis

The Vikings will hope to win their second NFC North title in a row, but after opposing divisional teams did more in the offseason, NFL predictions don’t foresee that happening, with NFL picks having them finishing second in the division.

With two veteran leaders now gone in a couple of key offensive positions, Minnesota will be looking for others to step up and lead the offense to get a good start ahead of the season at training camp. The defense hopes to see some of its second-year pros make a jump under new coordinator Flores to help improve the secondary.

Minnesota got a few of its close games to go its way last season, resulting in a strong finish, but it may not be so lucky this season, as the sportsbook predicts the Vikings to win under 8.5 games in 2023-24.

Minnesota Vikings Odds

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