EAGAN, Minn. – On a recent springday. He walked deliberately to the line for scrimmage. He was next to him Left tackle The snap was taken and he waited. He then jogged forward and turned around to get a toss at quarterback. .
Smith, a rising star, was unable to participate in OTA workouts due to a right knee injury. This was a small but important step. The drill was done at half speed to help with understanding the new offensive playbook. Smith's presence gave a glimpse of what fantasy and Vikings players are expecting from him during the regular season.
“This whole spring, for Irv,” said Kevin O'Connell. “And also understanding that every day can be really gotten out of knowing that he's preparing himself to go when he's 100% ready to go,” O'Connell added.
Smith, who suffered meniscus injury in the Vikings' last preseason game in 2021, is still nine months away. The organizational goal is for Smith to be fully available for training camp in July. O'Connell and Kwesi Afo-Mensah, general manager, expressed their confidence that Smith will be available, both in public statements and their actions.To leave via free agency and add only lightly during the offseason.
If you look at their end depth chart objectively, Smith would be clearly at the top.Next in line. After waiting for the seventh round (South Carolina's) to conclude, the draft was finally over. ), the Vikings have made clear they are counting on Smith to be their primary tight end this season.
“Absolutely,” O'Connell said. O'Connell said, “I've already said this before, watching some of his tape before the injury, i know there were a lot people excited about him last autumn before that injury happened.” He's ready to take all the success that he has had, both in how we use him and in his career, and to be able to play fast and confidently. As he progresses back, it's about making sure that we do it in a responsible manner.
Smith was a second-round selection in 2019. He caught just 66 passes his first two seasons. His 2021 highlight-reel camp, which he had put together before his injury, is what has fueled the excitement surrounding Smith's return. An offense that includes wide receiversAnd running back O'Connell's new scheme promises to balance the pass and run. We can only wonder how active Smith is in the Vikings' passing offense.
History provides no dramatic insights. O'Connell served as an assistant coach in the NFL for seven seasons before he was hired by the Vikings in January. The 2015 Browns, Washington in 2017-2018 and 2018 were all among the NFL’s top 10 targets for tight ends. The bottom five included two of them, the 2019 Washington Rams and the 2021 Rams. O'Connell promised to build his Minnesota scheme around those skill players, and he knew a key fact before he accepted the job: Cousins had a history of throwing a lot.
Cousins was Washington's quarterback coach, while O'Connell was their quarterback. Cousins was their quarterback. Cousins, who was ninth in the NFL for tight ends, targeted them 127 times during that season.
Cousins is now the No. 1 NFL starter since 2015. 4th among NFL quarterbacks for tight end targets (810) & touchdowns thrown to tight endings (49).
O'Connell made it clear that O'Connell will be relying on his blocking skills to maximize his chances of getting targets and playing time. Smith was a strong runner in his first two seasons, despite not being much talked about amid excitement over his potential impact on pass game. He was actually ranked No. He was ranked No.1 among tight ends in ESPN’s run block win rate metric (84.1%) in 2019.
Although he didn't manage enough snaps to be eligible for 2020's leaderboard, he was ranked No. 7 (79.6%), among those who had at least 500 snaps.
“No matter what amount [the tight end position has] O'Connell stated that although the position has “evolved”, he believes it is where O'Connell sees it.
Smith smiled a lot when he spoke to a group last week. He clearly felt the joy that he experienced during his first return. Cook walked over, grabbed him around the shoulder and said: “Welcome back. Cook walked over, grabbed him around the shoulder and said: “We've got to get him.”
Smith laughed and dropped his head.
“I had an amazing camp [last year]He added that he was excited for the season and thanked him later. However, momentum has not slowed down and all of that hasn't changed. I am very confident now that I have it. [fully] get back on the field, I'm going to be 100%, and we’re going to keep building on that.”