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Bleacher Report – Vikings

The 10 most compelling storylines of Vikings training camp

By Matthew Coller

As the Minnesota Vikings rookies take the field at TCO Performance Center, here are the 10 things we will be watching closely throughout training camp…

Will Stefon Diggs and Anthony Barr be signed to contract extensions?

At the opening of training camp 2017, the Vikings announced extensions for Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph and Xavier Rhodes. This offseason they have inked Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter to long-term deals, but Stefon Diggs and Anthony Barr are still without contracts past 2019 as we enter camp.

With a number of mega deals handed out to wide receivers this offseason like Jarvis Landry’s five-year, $75 million and Brandin Cooks’ five-year, $80 million deal, it might be difficult for the Vikings to meet the price Diggs would garner on the open market. There could also be a gap between Barr’s expectations and what the Vikings are willing to offer.

If neither signs early in camp, the rumblings will get louder as we get closer to the season.

How will Kirk Cousins adapt to his new team?

The Vikings made a bold decision to sign Cousins to an $84 million contract and move on from Case Keenum after he led them to a 13-3 season in 2017. Now the main focus of everyone in Eagan will be on Cousins, who will be facing the pressure of Super Bowl expectations for the first time in his career.

In OTAs and minicamp, the Vikings got a taste of what it’s like to work with their new quarterback. It won’t be until they put pads on and start running live reps that they fully see how he operates.

Not only is Cousins learning his teammates, he’s also adapting to John DeFilippo’s offense. Camp will be the time in which DeFilippo tailors his scheme and concepts to Cousins’ strengths and weaknesses.

How will DeFilippo differ from Pat Shurmur?

The Vikings’ former offensive coordinator — now the head coach of the New York Giants — masterminded the 10th best scoring offense in the NFL despite losing his starting quarterback and young star running back. Shurmur found ways to create yards on screens and underneath passes which ultimately set up shots down the field. And the Vikings were downright brilliant in the red zone. DeFilippo would be wise to carry over many of the things Shurmur did, such as using Adam Thielen in the slot regularly or having Kyle Rudolph sneak out on screen passes on third-and-short or lining up Cook as a wide receiver.

DeFilippo and Shurmur have different personalities. Shurmur was understated and old school while DeFilippo appears to be high energy. Will his room be as democratic as Shurmur’s was last season?

Will first-round pick Mike Hughes win the starting nickel corner job?

One of the most intriguing position battles will be between third-year corner Mackensie Alexander and the 30th overall pick in the draft Mike Hughes for the nickel corner job, which has become a starting position in recent years with the increase in passing. Last year Alexander lost the gig to Terence Newman in camp, but he was receiving the vast majority of reps in minicamp. Hughes was working both inside and outside.

If the first-rounder makes a strong impression, he could steal the job, though that might be a tough ask considering how long it generally takes corners to reach their full potential.

Will Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill hold down the right side?

Vikings fans will go back to draft night over and over throughout the season as they asses whether the team’s offensive line is properly protecting its $84 million quarterback. Hill played in eight games last year, allowing just one sack during the regular season, but he was exposed at times in the playoffs against New Orleans and Philadelphia — both of whom are on the schedule this year. Can Hill take the next step and prove himself worthy of the starting gig? How will Remmers adapt to playing right guard — a position where he’s played all of one career game?

Will Brian O’Neill make a push for the starting right tackle job?

The assumption heading into camp is that the Vikings’ second-round pick has very low odds at starting, but he can change that with a strong performance. O’Neill is instantly one of the most athletic players at his position and has the potential to be a difference maker in the run and screen game if he can put on muscle and master some key techniques of the position. It’s a lot to ask in a short period of time. But since Hill is far from a sure thing, O’Neill will have a shot.

How will Dalvin Cook and Pat Elflein bounce back from injuries?

The best news the Vikings received in minicamp was that running back Dalvin Cook could fully participate. Cook gained 354 yards on just 74 carries and caught 11 passes in three-and-a-half games before tearing his ACL, so DeFilippo is likely to build his offense around the former Florida State star’s vision and burst while implementing lots of creative screen passes.

Pat Elflein will be just as vital to the offense’s execution. He made a tremendous first impression as a rookie — enough for some to suggest he deserved Rookie of the Year consideration. Elflein specializes in getting to the second level and blocking in space. Following an ankle injury that required surgery, he is yet to practice this offseason.

Which wide receiver will emerge behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs?

Past the Vikings’ two star receivers, there will be all sorts of jockeying for playing time. Laquon Treadwell is entering a make-or-break camp, while offseason signee Kendall Wright is looking to find his niche. Beyond those four, only veteran Tavarres King has an NFL catch. Last year’s seventh-rounder Stacy Coley and undrafted free agent Cayleb Jones stood out in preseason. They will battle with undrafted free agents Brandon Zylstra, Korey Robertson, Chad Beebe, Jeff Badet and Jake Wieneke for roster spots.

Will they form a defensive line rotation?

Mike Zimmer said he was interested in getting more rest for his key D-linemen, but the team did not make any depth signings up front aside from former Indianapolis NT David Parry. That opens the door for players like Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower and Jalyn Holmes to earn playing time. Will the Vikings use Anthony Barr more off the edge? Will an undrafted player step up the way Bower did last year? And how will Sheldon Richardson fit in?

Who will win the kicking competition?

The Vikings surprisingly selected a kicker in the fifth round of the draft, meaning Kai Forbath will be battling for his life in Minnesota. Daniel Carlson has a monster leg, but struggled in his final season at Auburn, hitting just 74 percent of his field goals after a 87 percent junior year. Every day will be dramatic when the action stops for the kickers.

The post The 10 most compelling storylines of Vikings training camp appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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