Fan or Man-kato: Making the Minnesota VikingsThe Minnesota Vikings decision to move their offseason training to Mankato, Minnesota was met with some Twin Cities faithful questioning the decision to leave the state of the art TCO Performance Center just minutes from Minneapolis' US Bank Stadium, for the dorm rooms and lecture halls of Minnesota State. "Rugged" and "primal", were what some pretentious cake eaters referred to the idea.
Minnesota, and the Twin Cities, are no stranger to the sport of football. Ever since FOX9 picked up a broadcast of the short-lived, central Wisconsin-located Wausau Degenerates semiprofessional team a few years back, Minnesotans were hooked, and they sprung into action, clamoring for a franchise in the now-paused and likely-defunct DFL, with the Minnesota Snowbos hoisting claim to the DFL Bowl IV Championship.
When the University of Minnesota-TC campus announced Gopher football for the 2021 season, elation echoed across the state. This may be the State of Hockey - but fans yearn for autumn afternoons spent watching some composite pigskins be be chucked around. And when the NFL announced its launch, there was again pure glee to know that one of the suitors for the Minnesota franchise bid, originated locally. Coach @Bundy had previously managed the Snowbos, earning great wealth via controversial pizza promotion and wetland bird eradication; and @TuscanSota known as a solid foundation builder through great recruiting at Washington State also expressed interest. Interestingly, both bidders were also interested in the Seattle franchise, which may have led to such a great scheduling for both teams' debuts:
It was early afternoon on the west coast, as the Minnesota Vikings traveled to the Seattle Seahawks to kickoff the teams' inaugural snaps of football - ever. Seattle had just announced that Luke Trahan would take first team reps, and Minnesota quietly trotted out uber-hyped Alex Williams III as WR1, a game-time decision. Pregame jitters ran high.
This would not be the Run the Damn Ball! Minnesota footballers fans had previously been enthralled by, though. In fact, quite the opposite, with FA signee QB Christian Sinnock chucking the ball 60 times. For 199 yards. And 3 Interceptions. As the Vikings noted just 6 rush attempts.
Seattle struggled similarly on offense, but gave up 0 sacks and only had 1 air-related turnover, to the Vikings 7 sacks and 5 total fumbles (3 from the INTs, and 2 Cooper McGough fumbles).
The Vikings ended up getting shutout, which was largely expected given their rookie-oriented Week 1 roster.
Today, we unveil the segment you've all been waiting for - the Fans and the Mans of Mankato. Which rookies will leave an impression - negative or positive - and fight for a spot, not only on the Vikings, but maybe in the League, and for relevancy. A good showing might make you #54 on the active roster. A bad showing might be the last snaps of football you ever play.
OT Eldridge Staggers, UDFA, North Dakota State
Staggers has been on the Vikings little more than a week at the time of kickoff, and it showed. The Vikings allowed 5 sacks to the left side of their offense, dampening thoughts that Staggers might battle for a swing tackle role. With the right, "Kansas" side of the OL in RT Gary Albers "only" allowing 2 sure sacks to Seattle's left end, there's major potential for fellow rookie Brandon Gwynn to erase the locally-hyped, Nebraska-born and NDSU grown Staggers from the roster before the end of the preseason.
RB Cooper McGough, Virginia
McGough had 5 rush attempts for a putrid 0 yards, though he did manage to gain positive yardage, hauling in 4 passes for 15 yards... and fumbling twice. 9 touches, 15 yards, and two turnovers is not what you'd expect of one of last year's premier collegiate rushers. Some thought McGough could perhaps vie for RB1 reps going into the regular season, and perhaps with a more stable front line protecting him, he'll settle down a little. McGough's roster spot in Year One is all but cemented given his draft status - but with the Vikings perhaps looking to balance their gameplan out a little bit more in the coming preseason weeks, it comes with great concern on if McGough should be the one getting those reps.
DT Che-Hsuan Byard, UDFA, Oklahoma State
The Vikings aren't anything special at defensive tackle going into 2022, so there's massive room for opportunity at the position. The Vikings limited Seattles passing offense this week - but the top 3 Seattle rushers totaled over 200 yards on 30 carries, and added 3 TDs. With the League just starting out, this could be the Wild West of scheming, and run-heavy teams may have a field day against the Vikings. Byard has the most to lose of the DT room, with Dan Dekker being a front office darling. With a poor statistical showing for the entire front 7 unit, Byard's 2 tackles aren't going to cut it.
WR Oswaldo Urrutia, UDFA, Alabama
Already a potential post-draft gem after notching 31 receptions for an astounding 728 yards (23+ avg) and 11 TDs at Bama, Oswaldo Urrutia made his presence known with 7 receptions for 85 yards. He wasn't the most efficient pass catcher with only 7 of 13 targets being completions, but he moved the sticks consistently and may be earning a spot in an already loaded WR corps.
RB Le'Veon Caminero, UDFA, Wisconsin
Grabbing 76 receptions in college got Cutthroat Cam noticed by Vikings staff; hauling in 4 for 34 on 6 Targets and overall outperforming highly-drafted Cooper McGough may get him noticed by the League. The Vikings are reportedly discussing running the ball more for weeks 2 + 3 of the preseason, and with the backup RB spot considered wide open, expect Cam to earn more chances going forward. Caminero also had 10 punt return yards and 73 kick return yards, keeping him in contention to earn special teams reps.
ILB Jayson Grimm, UDFA, Southern Miss
While Grimm certainly needs to step it up in terms of getting ball carriers down earlier, at least he can get them down. 81 tackles in college punched his ticket to the big leagues, and leading the Vikings with 8 tackles in week 1 may see him continuing to dress on Sundays come September. More importantly, he snagged a big interception, one of the few positives of the purple-clad defense.
Whose stock will rise, whose will fall, who will be swapped from the roster? Find out next week on FAN or MAN-KATO