For some teams in the NFL, two to be exact, Training Camp is already underway. The Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens have already reported in preparation for the Hall of Fame game which is taking place on August 2nd in Canton.
For the Minnesota Vikings, rookies begin reporting to camp next Tuesday with the veterans reporting Thursday for their first practice on Friday. While most of the team returning from last year's NFC Championship run is returning, there are still a handful of story lines that everybody will be honing in on as camp begins.
Below, we've highlighted five of the top stories we should all be watching...
How different will a Kirk Cousins offense be?
It was the biggest offseason move for the Minnesota Vikings and one of the biggest moves in the history of NFL free agency, but how much will it really effect the Vikings offense on the field. Common thought is that it should be an improvement, but last year the Vikings offense didn't really need to do all that much. Take care of the football, move it up and down the field a bit and then strike when the iron is hot. That's the recipe that brought success for the Vikings with Keenum under center last year, is that what Cousins will be granted as well?
Looking at what we've seen from him in his past with the Washington Redskins, Cousins should be able to offer the Vikings a boost that they might not have had last year. He gets the ball out of his hand a little quicker than Keenum did, he's got a better deep ball the Case and he's proven that he can be more consistent with multiple big seasons in a row.
But there's the other side of the coin. He doesn't protect the football quite as well as Keenum, he's had redzone struggles in the past and nobody really knows what the offensive line will look like. Training Camp will really be the first time that Kirk will have to gel with his offensive line and more specifically the currently injured Pat Elflein leading up to the regular season kickoff.
What will Diggs & Barr be like in a 'contract year'?
We've seen a barrage of young Vikings getting locked up with long-term contracts over the past two seasons. Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter have all gotten some sort of long term commitment from the team recently. As far as immediate needs go, that leaves wide receiver Stefon Diggs and linebacker Anthony Barr as players who look to be preparing to play out the final year of their contracts.
We all know what is supposed to happen to players who are playing in the final year of their deal. Theoretically, they play better as they are looking to land a big free agency payday next offseason. But it's also possible that the chip on their shoulder and the lack of security through a new deal can have a negative effect on them as well. We'll have to wait and see which version of these two young players shows up and then we'll inevitably start the debate on which one of them, if any, fits into the team's long term plans.
Will John Defilippo bring a new look offense?
Coming into Minnesota after spending time in Philadelphia under the tutelage of head coach and offensive play caller Doug Pederson, new Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has yet to really unveil what his offense is going to look like. With Diggs, Thielen, Rudolph, Cook and Cousins, he'll have all the position player weapons he could desire, but will the offense visually look a whole lot different or will it remain the same.
The fans have been clamoring for a little more creativity on offense the past few years and Flip's track record definitely fits that mold. The Eagles were known for their creative play-calling last year including bringing out back to back trick plays in their Super Bowl victory. Is that what we can look for when the regular season starts?
How healthy are Pat Elflein, Everson Griffen, Dalving Cook and Andrew Sendejo?
Injuries have lingered for a handful of important pieces on both sides of the football for the Minnesota Vikings this offseason.
For the defense, neither Everson Griffen or Andrew Sendejo took part in the team's offseason programs with different injuries. It's is believed to be a left knee injury for Griffen and we're not entirely sure what Sendejo is dealing with. Still, two of the eleven starters from one of the best defenses in the league are banged up. Can they get on the field for the start of Training Camp?
On the other side of the ball running back Dalvin Cook continues his return to the field after missing the majority of last season with a torn ACL. Cook was cleared to return to team activities just before the Vikings broke mini camp last month and is expected to be healthy to start camp. What we don't know is exactly what the new version of healthy Dalvin Cook will look like. Then there's center Pat Elflein. Pat underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason and it would appear as if the rehab has been going a little slower than expected. He missed all of OTAs, all of Mini Camp but it expected to be available for the start of camp. I guess we'll see.
Who will start the season at RG? RT?
Shift over just one or two positions from Elflein in the center of that offensive line and there's two more question marks at right guard and right tackle. The Vikings drafted Brian O'Neill near the end of the second round this year, but he's expected to be a project at right tackle.
Just the other day, head coach Mike Zimmer joined KFAN's Paul Allen and mentioned that veteran Mike Remmers would "probably" start Training Camp as the team's right guard. With O'Neill needing some work before being entrusted with starting reps, that leaves Rashod Hill as your probable starter at right tackle.
Getting these positions figured out soon is of the utmost importance as those offensive linemen need the opportunity to gel and be comfortable with the guys that are around them.