In the 13 days leading up to July 27th, when the Green Bay Packers begin training camp practices, APC is running a series we’re calling “13 in 13.” Over these two weeks, we will closely with a close examination of the major offseason events for each of the Packers’ 2017 opponents. Each team’s information has been provided by our SB Nation colleagues who know them best - the team bloggers for each franchise.
Today’s entry is the team on the Packers’ schedule in week six, the Minnesota Vikings. As NFC North foes, the two teams will meet each other twice; first up is the contest in U.S. Bank Stadium, and then the rivals will repeat their second meeting from 2016. Last season, they met for an early afternoon game at Lambeau Field on Christmas Eve Saturday; in 2017, the rematch is also on Saturday of week 16, but this year’s contest will be a night game on December 23rd instead.
Here is a look at the Vikings’ offseason from the folks at Daily Norseman.
Notable free agent additions: DT Datone Jones, RB Latavius Murray, OT Riley Reiff, OT Mike Remmers
Notable free agent departures: TE Rhett Ellison, OT Matt Kalil, CB Captain Munnerlyn, WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson, RB Adrian Peterson
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:
RB Dalvin Cook - In many circles, Cook was regarded as a first-round talent, but some off-field issues caused him to slip into Round 2, where the Vikings quickly traded up to secure his services. Cook might have been the best all-around back in this year’s draft class, thanks to his ability to create yards after contact and serve as a weapon in the passing game. People will immediately tab him as Adrian Peterson’s replacement, but he’s going to be a part of a rotation (at least at first) with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. Everyone expects that Cook will be the featured guy eventually, but it might not come right away.
C/G Pat Elflein - The result of another trade up on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft, Elflein provides both toughness and versatility to a Vikings’ offensive line that needs it. He started at center and both guard spots during his time with the Buckeyes, though the Vikings appear to want him at the center spot. There has been word coming out of the OTAs and mini-camps that Nick Easton was getting the first-team snaps at center (with last year’s starting center, Joe Berger, getting pushed out to right guard), but in my opinion it would be a significant upset if Elflein wasn’t the starter at center in Week 1.
Biggest offseason addition: It has to be the additions of Reiff and Remmers at the tackle positions. In the dumpster fire that was the Vikings’ offensive line last season, the tackle positions were the biggest issue of them all, and Reiff and Remmers should provide an upgrade at those spots over the collective of lukewarm bodies (and T.J. Clemmings) that the Vikings ran out there at those positions last year. Are they superstars? No, not by any stretch. But they’re significant upgrades over what the Vikings had there in 2016, and they should be able to get the offensive line to at least “not completely awful” status.
Biggest storyline heading into training camp: The biggest storyline going into camp is the same one that’s been the biggest storyline for Vikings fans for most of the last year: What’s going on with Teddy Bridgewater? It was nearly a year ago that Bridgewater’s leg completely fell apart after a non-contact injury, necessitating the trade for Sam Bradford for a team that expected to contend. Now, we’re seeing videos of Bridgewater throwing, working out with teammates, and making progress. Nobody seems to know exactly how much progress he’s made to this point, as the Vikings have kept that pretty tightly under wraps. Bridgewater is likely going to start camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List, but how the Vikings handle things from there is going to be the biggest story. Both Bridgewater and Bradford are in the final year of their contracts, so how Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, and company handle the quarterback situation is going to be an overarching storyline for this team all season long.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp: With the departure of Captain Munnerlyn, the big question for the Vikings’ defense is what the team does at the nickel cornerback position. The team appears set on the outside with Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, but the nickel/slot corner situation is a bit of a mystery. The team re-signed Terence Newman, but who knows if this is the year that Father Time eventually catches up to him. They also have last year’s second-round pick, Mackensie Alexander, but he saw limited time in his rookie season and got roughed up a bit when he was on the field. With teams playing so much nickel defense in the NFL today, the third cornerback position is the primary question mark for a Minnesota defense that doesn’t have a whole lot of questions that need answering.
Notable injuries heading into training camp: Outside of Bridgewater, there really aren’t any significant injuries for the Vikings at this point in time.