The Minnesota Vikings are officially a week through training camp and there’s been a roller coaster of headlines circulating Twin Cities Performance Center in Eagan, MN.
Whether the bad news was due to quarterbacks missing practices for COVID-19 protocols, Jeff Gladney’s indictment or the rookie offensive linemen missing time due to injuries, there’s been a lot to take in in just over a week.
Not all news is bad however, as some Vikings players have exceeded expectations in their return to the practice field this summer.
One of those players is Irv Smith Jr., who seems to make a highlight reel catch every opportunity he’s given.
Opportunities are huge in the NFL and Smith Jr. found himself behind Kyle Rudolph on the depth chart over his first two seasons. Ahead of his third season, Smith Jr. is the lead tight end on the Vikings roster and should be given plenty of opportunities to make a big leap in 2021.
Last season the former Alabama standout tight end hauled in 30 catches for 365 yards and five touchdowns. These stats don’t jump off the page, but he lost out on targets with Rudolph labeled as the starter.
Smith Jr. has the opportunity to do some big things in 2021. If his first week of training camp has any indication on how the season is going to go, it’s fair to expect his production to drastically increase.
The Vikings are loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball. With Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook also having a strong camp, Smith Jr. could be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Mike Zimmer revamped his defense throughout free agency and has all the tools needed to flip that unit from what it was in 2020. This year feels like the year where a good defense could match up with a good offense for the Vikings, and if that’s the case opposing teams could be in trouble.
It’s fair to expect Smith Jr. to be a big part of the reason this team could find success in 2021. If he carries over his strong training camp into the regular season there will be mismatches all over the field for the Vikings offense.
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