The Vikings put a bow on the 2017 offseason this week with a three-day mandatory minicamp running from Tuesday through Thursday.
There are still no pads worn and no contact, including live blocking and bump-and-run coverage, during the three practices. And while they’re still seven weeks away from suiting up at training camp, there are impressions to be left by rookies, veterans and coaches alike.
A quarterback carousel began last week when Sam Bradford was held back during one practice open to reporters while dealing with “muscle tightness,” according to head coach Mike Zimmer, who added he didn’t expect to have to shut down Bradford for this final week. That opened up competition for the No. 2 spot, where Taylor Heinicke and veteran Case Keenum have swapped series. Even though Bradford has played 29 of the last 32 games, the Vikings need a more reliable situation behind their starter.
The center of attention heading into this offseason will remain the same once the pads pop on late next month. How the offensive line comes together through what configuration is eventually chosen will be paramount to this offense’s success or failure in 2017. So far, third-year center Nick Easton has taken the lion’s share of reps with the starters as rookie third-round pick Pat Elflein learns with the second unit. Elflein can show offensive line coach Tony Sparano this week how quickly he can retain plays and signals while trying to keep up with an NFL tempo.
Last impressions will be made in the other intriguing position battles before players and coaches break for five weeks prior to them being settled during training camp. Kicker, outside linebacker and nickel cornerback have seen a handful of faces cycle through the lineup. Emmanuel Lamur is still returning from an undisclosed injury and could push Edmond Robinson, learning a new position at weak-side linebacker. Untested Marshall Koehn has looked solid so far, with a big leg on kickoffs, trying to unseat Kai Forbath at kicker. And veteran Terence Newman may be destined for a reserve role, but isn’t a bad safety net should Mackensie Alexander need time to get a grip on being the Vikings slot cornerback.
Michael Floyd is only a few weeks into his Vikings tenure, which has allowed Laquon Treadwell to work almost exclusively as the starting split end this offseason. Competition could heat up, however, should Floyd earn his way into the starting lineup this week. Treadwell is finally feeling healthy, he told the Star Tribune last month, 30 months removed from his gruesome leg injury at Ole Miss and should be ready for one of the more critical camp battles under first-year receivers coach Darrell Hazell.
One of the Vikings’ most important injuries to nurse belongs to Mike Zimmer, who underwent an eighth operation on his right eye last month and is now a week into his return to Winter Park. With some more time away on the horizon before camp, the 61-year-old Zimmer has been spending a little less time in the office to ensure his retina issue is behind him.