EAGAN, Minn. -- The Vikings began their third week of 2023 training camp Monday, and just days before their preseason opener against the Seahawks, they may have confirmed first-time starters on both sides of the ball.
Here's a roundup of observations from Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, the Vikings' sprawling camp facilities, including a look at those youngsters emerging for the reigning NFC North champions:
Emerging standouts at WR, CB
Justin Jefferson figures to be the focal point of anything Vikings-related for as long as he rocks purple, but his fellow receiver, first-round rookie Jordan Addison, repeatedly looked the part in key situational reps during 11-on-11 sessions. The USC product had three different touchdown catches in red-zone drills, showing precise footwork at the back of the end zone. And he was reliable over the middle in other setups, all but guaranteeing a top-three role from Day 1.
On the other side, a pair of young cornerbacks were both eye-openers to start the week: 2022 fourth-rounder Akayleb Evans routinely saw first-team reps opposite former Cardinals standout Byron Murphy Jr., remaining ahead of 2022 second-rounder Andrew Booth Jr. in the battle for a starting gig. But former Patriots prospect Joejuan Williams really stole the show. Signed to a modest one-year deal in free agency, the 25-year-old intercepted Kirk Cousins twice -- including once in the red zone -- and would've leveled tight end Josh Oliver on a late dump-off if the practice had been full-contact.
Red-zone precision from Cousins
It wasn't just Addison who stood out close to the end zone. Cousins saved some of his best work for that area, rebounding from up-and-down reps against new coordinator Brian Flores' defense with pinpoint TD throws late in 11-on-11s. One scoring strike came off his back foot and through traffic to Josh Oliver, who saw an uptick in starting reps with top TE T.J. Hockenson mostly off to the side. (Hockenson is battling an illness, per coach Kevin O'Connell, though the ex-Lions star is also entering a contract year and could be angling for a long-term extension behind the scenes.) Cousins also found K.J. Osborn for a diving TD connection.
Flores does the front-seven shuffle
The diversity of looks from the Vikings' new defensive coordinator can't really be overstated. Flores is content to spend most of practice lurking in silence, observing his unit from behind his assistants -- he broke the mold once Monday to holler at a linebacker who blew a coverage on an easy dump-off TD pass in red-zone drills. But the former Dolphins head coach stays active deploying countless combos of edge rushers and linebackers. Just like in the spring, veteran addition Marcus Davenport saw time on both sides of the line, both as a 4-3 end and stand-up rusher. Second-year LB Brian Asamoah II, meanwhile, saw plenty of action as a missile up the middle, telling CBS Sports after practice he expects to "blitz a lot" under Flores, who's "an aggressive dude."
- Not that anyone needed reminding, but Justin Jefferson remains the star of the show. He was one of the last players to join the full squad for the day's opening drills, only because he made sure to stop and visit with fans of all ages on the sidelines.
- Former Patriots WR N'Keal Harry, just signed over the weekend, was in full uniform and got a few reps down the depth chart. He's always been big (6-4, 225), but he looked and moved like a TE compared to the slenderness of Jefferson, Addison, etc.
- Byron Murphy is the safest bet to be an Opening Day starter at CB, where Patrick Peterson departed in free agency. His best rep of the day came on a crossing route by Jefferson, in which he deflected a tight-window bullet from Cousins.
- New starting running back Alexander Mattison, who's taking over as a full-timer post-Dalvin Cook, profiles as a much more physical ball-carrier, taking lots of reps up the middle and in traffic. He also got plenty of work as a pass blocker.