Thu, 04 Jun 2020

Lunchbreak: NFL.com Breaks Down Vikings Projected Starting Lineup

Minnesota Vikings
23 May 2020, 04:37 GMT+10

Over the past two weeks, NFL.com has looked at every division and broken down what potential starting lineups could look like for each squad.

Gregg Rosenthal recently dove into the NFC North and looked at who could start this season for the Vikings, Bears, Lions and Packers.

Rosenthal projectedd only three new starters on Minnesota's offense. He predicted the Vikings to go with rookie Justin Jefferson at receiver, Dakota Dozier to step in at right guard and Irv Smith, Jr., to join Kyle Rudolph in a formation with two tight ends.

Rosenthal wrote:

I listed both Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith, Jr., as starters over likely No. 3 wideout Bisi Johnson because each tight end played more than 600 snaps last year. Smith was impressive as a rookie, especially considering he was the youngest player taken in the 2019 draft. He's a breakout candidate.

The Vikings essentially have two good running backs (including Alexander Mattison), two good wideouts and two good tight ends. Yes, this is going to be a run-heavy offense.

Defensively, Rosenthal penciled in five new starters, including three cornerbacks in Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and 2020 first-round pick Jeff Gladney. Ifeadi Odenigbo is also a projected starter, as is free-agent signee Michael Pierce.

Rosenthal wrote:

Ifeadi Odenigbo played great as a super-sub in the role of No. 4 defensive end last season. Now he'll try to replace 10-year mainstay Everson Griffen as the starter at a position that hasn't been this thin in over a decade. It's a big test of Minnesota's self-scouting.

Perhaps Danielle Hunter is the Vikings best defensive player. But Eric Kendricks is the group's leader, and his continued rise as one of the league's best coverage linebackers has made him a prototype for this era of football.

The cornerback group had incredible turnover, with three former starters departing (Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Rhodes). But the Vikings have two first-round picks slated to start this year and 2020 third-rounder Cameron Dantzler could get a shot to play here. The excellent veteran safety group can cover up the inexperience in front of them.

Rosenthal also noted that this is the most turnover Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has endured on defense as he enters his seventh season at the helm in Minnesota.

Rosenthal's full list of projected Vikings starters can be found here.

Cook ranked in CBS Sports' top 25 players under age 25

Dalvin Cook is one of the top young players in the league, as evident by his standout Pro Bowl season in 2019.

Cook turned in his first 1,000-yard season as he rushed for 1,135 yards in 14 games. He also added 13 rushing touchdowns, which ranked fourth in the league.

Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports recently ranked Cook among his top 25 NFL players under the age of 25.

Wagner-McGough wrote:

Finally, after a couple of injury plagued seasons, it all came together for Cook in 2019, when he totaled 1,654 yards and 13 touchdowns in a 14-game season. 2019 was the first season where we saw just how great Cook can be if he can stay entirely healthy. In his entire career, he's averaging 5.4 yards per touch. For Cook, it's all about staying healthy. He's missed 19 games in three seasons.

Cook, who turns 25 in August, was one of six running backs on the list.

Smith continues support for Leary Firefighters Foundation

Harrison Smith has been involved in numerous charitable endeavors in his career, including lending his support to first responders a year ago in New York.

The Vikings safety recently announced that he is continuing to lend a hand to The Leary Firefighters Foundation, which was started by actor and producer Denis Leary, and helps provide firefighters nationwide with equipment, education, training and technology.

Smith is participating in the foundation's "202020" campaign, in which donors pledge $20 on the 20th of every month in honor of the foundation's 20th anniversary.

Smith teamed up with Leary a little over a year ago for the 3rd Annual Firefighters Challenge, in which the five-time Pro Bowler suited up in firefighters' equipment and immersed himself in training exercises.

Smith was joined a year ago by his cousin, actress Elaine Hendrix, who is a close friend of Leary.

Those wishing to help support The Leary Firefighters Foundation can do so here.

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