Vikes break camp, Twins struggle forth!

Marc Elliott

LARSMONT – The Minnesota VIKINGS have just had the ARI Cardinals in for a couple of combined practices at the team TCO Performance facility and will meet them in the pre-season finale tomorrow at high noon at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. A

s is par for training camps, it has had its share of monotony. The players that the team and fans will be counting on for some autumn gridiron glory haven’t seen much playing time, leaving most of the on-field action to players locked in a battle for a roster spot. That doesn't mean that there isn't much to discuss about the club as they prepare for the season opener on Sunday, September 10th at the Bank.  

On the contrary, there are some "things" going on with the team that demand some discussion so let's get to it. Tight End TJ Hockenson, obtained via trade from DET last season has missed quite a bit of camp. The announced reason for that is the absence is due to an ear infection. (It has also been stated that he is battling a sore back). My daughter and three of my granddaughters have had EI issues and I can tell you from experience that they can be agonizing.

But now, word is coming out that with Hockenson being in the last year of his current contract, that talks between the team and Hockenson's representation haven't exactly gone real great. Apparently the two parties are quite far apart, with the word being that TJ desires to "set the market" for TE contracts with his next deal. I could understand that pursuit if I felt he was the best TE in the league. But he isn't. He's good, but not the best.  

So, the immediate thought is whether or not the EI is for real and if Hockenson is in an unofficial "holdout" status. It's a valid question. Is the team not announcing this as a means to give the impression that all is well in Viking land? Is he trying to protect his physical status while negotiations unfold? Is he doing so because if the talks fail, he will force the team to deal him, and he understands that if the word on him is that he is not good to go, his trade and contract value get diminished? Who really knows? It isn't far-fetched and it is a theory I have given thought to.  

I say this as a person who was at the old practice facility years back and the GM at the time got a phone call from a player agent wanting to know why his player didn't get more snaps in the previous day's regular season game. Yup. And that's only part of the nuttiness that goes on that no one usually hears about.        

There are also rumors circulating that the team has an interest in the SF 49ers QB Trey Lance. He is a Minnesota native and attended North Dakota State, which obviously has a good program in place.        

My thoughts on Lance this eve are for naught as far as the Vikings rumors go, I’ve just learned that he has been obtained by the DAL Cowboys. What is my actual five cents worth on this player? He has top level athleticism and is a young man of high character. His level of game experience raises eyebrows, he started a total of only 17 games at NDS, which concerns me. But he lost a season of competition when the Covid-19 virus changed life as we knew it, and with the college season washed out he decided to declare for the NFL draft.

His overall credentials are extremely impressive and he won the Walter Payton Award as the FCS Offensive Player of the Year and also the Jerry Rice Award as the best Freshman player in 2019.   There has been acknowledgement from the team that there are no current negotiations for a QB Kirk Cousins extension, meaning this could be his last season here. I've verbalized concerns about the strength and depth of the team at the position and now I’m left to ponder what the long-term plan is for the position.    

In the "for what it's worth" category, I'm not sure what to make of the team's running back position at starter or for depth. Safety Lewis Cine is still working to overcome last season's gruesome injury incurred in the game at London. Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. hasn't been confidence-inspiring.

Wide receiver Jalen Reagor has much to prove as a guy who came into the league with tons of upside and has been a disappointment for the most part. He also has a guaranteed contract.    

What should we expect from the team in the regular season then? The current Vegas odds list the Vikes at the 16th spot for a possible Super Bowl win. That's about right. Let's be honest here, last year's 13-4 record was part luck, part mirage, and a lot of occurrences that likely won't happen again for a long time. With a DET Lion club on the uptick, I feel that it would be even more Purple luck if they won the North division this season, let alone got in the playoffs and did anything. Where is this team headed? If I could see through the clouds surrounding the team at this very moment, I'd tell you, but they are foggier than Canal Park in the middle of May...  

THE MINNESOTA TWINS are still in first place in the AL Central. That isn't all based upon the quality of their own play though, rather it's a combo of them winning games here and there when they can, and the two clubs chasing them, CLE and DET losing games at times that are advantageous to the TWINS playoff aspirations.

But at the risk of sounding like a broken record again, the TWINS just cannot seem to get their entire game together at the same time and do so in a consistent manner. It’s maddening.          

After the team took a series last weekend from the visiting PIT Pirates, (2-1) they had a day off, traveled to Milwaukee and promptly dropped a two-game series to the Brew Crew. They held leads in both of these tilts but couldn’t hold them. This weekend the AL West-leading TEX Rangers are in for a four-gamer. The Rangers lead is down to one game courtesy of going 2-8 in their L10. SEA and HOU are both on their heels at one game back for both.  

The TWINS took the first game of this series last night in a 7-5 comeback. The first pitch for this evening's tilt will be in a few minutes. Can the TWINS prevail tonight and in the series? Great question. It is worth considering because I feel that TEX is too good for their current woes to continue, and the TWINS can't continue to expect that either CLE or DET will continue to lose games at times that help the TWINS out regarding their first-place positioning.  

At some point something is going to give here. Can the TWINS bend but not break theme carry forth? Or will the Guardians and Tigers keep dropping games at just the right moment for the TWINS? We'll see. PEACE    V2