The Vikings are halfway through their 2020 schedule at 3-5. Every day leading up to Monday night’s game in Chicago, we’ll break down how each position has fared so far.
Receivers: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Bisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, Tajae Sharpe, K.J. Osborn, Dan Chisena and Alexander Hollins (practice squad)
Tight ends: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin and Brandon Dillon (practice squad)
Trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo created a void in the Vikings offense that, for the most part, was thought to have needed a group effort to replace while rookie Justin Jefferson got up to speed. Expectations were high for Irv Smith Jr. entering his second season. A strong training camp and starting role for second-year receiver Bisi Johnson also led to a little buzz before the games were played. That led to questions about who would immediately fill the No. 2 role opposite Adam Thielen.
Where they are
The Vikings’ 25th-ranked passing game doesn’t lack for pop, with quarterback Kirk Cousins leading the NFL with 8.9 yards per throw to very talented “skill” players at receiver, tight end and running back. Jefferson, the 21-year-old rookie, exceeded even the highest of expectations while leading all rookies with 627 receiving yards through eight games. That’s despite not starting the first two games, during which Johnson underwhelmed and lost his spot. It was only a matter of time, anyway, with Jefferson now trailing only three receivers, including Diggs, with 12 catches over 20 yards. Thielen has half the big plays, but he’s a go-to threat in the red zone with seven touchdowns (four within the 10-yard line). Despite trading a star in Diggs, the Vikings maintain one of the NFL’s best receiving duos with Thielen and Jefferson. Behind them, Chad Beebe has taken the No. 3 role as a slot option with Johnson bumped down to No. 4.
Kyle Rudolph made another impeccable one-handed touchdown grab in Indianapolis, but that’s been his only score as Irv Smith takes the bigger role in playing time and targets. Smith overcame a rough start, including three penalties in two games, to earn a full-time role.
Player to watch
Irv Smith Jr. — As Dalvin Cook draws more and more attention to the line of scrimmage, with Jefferson and Thielen keeping defenses wary downfield, will the middle be open for Smith? He’s not going to put up consistently big numbers in a low-volume passing attack, but the Vikings coaching staff has steadily given Smith more playing time and routes than Rudolph. He’s grown as a run blocker, which will keep him on the field in most situations and open up opportunities in the play-action game.
8 — The Vikings offense has the second-fewest drops of any NFL team outside of Washington (7), with just three drops coming in the last six games, according to Pro Football Focus. Sure hands are vital to a passing attack averaging an NFL-low 26 throws per game.