Share & Comment:

3 biggest X-factors for Minnesota Vikings’ season

The Minnesota Vikings won 13 games last season, but it’s a new year, meaning what happened in 2022 has no bearing on what will happen in 2023. There are always changes from one season to the next, not only for the Vikings but also for the other 31 teams in the NFL too. Not only do players change teams, but they also use the offseason to perfect their craft, aiming to make a bigger impact.

For the Vikings, they are expecting several players to take a leap in their development while hoping new roster additions make an immediate impact. As we know, this isn’t always the case.

Here I’ve highlighted three players who’s contributions will help make or break the Vikings’ 2023 season. If these players “are who we thought they were,” then the Vikings can have a great season, but if they don’t live up to expectations or show improvement, we could be looking at a long year. Here are three of the biggest X-factors for the Vikings’ 2023 season.

RG Ed Ingram

The Vikings have one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the NFL, but if there’s one area that could use improvement, it’s the interior. Ezra Cleveland, 25, heads into his fourth season and may still have room for growth. Yet he was already ranked as the eighth-best guard in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Garrett Bradbury, 28, may be a bit older, but he’s proof that a player can show sudden improvement from one year to the next. After three seasons, Bradbury went from being the 29th-ranked center in 2021 to the 11th-best in 2022.

Seeing either of those players become more consistent would be welcome. But the best way for the Vikings’ offensive line to become a strength is by Ed Ingram coming closer to realizing his potential as a former second-round pick.

As the 57th-ranked guard last season, there’s plenty of room for growth. Especially considering no guard in the NFL allowed more pressures than Ingram did last season. This means there’s nowhere to go but up.

Ingram becoming even an above-average pass blocker would be an extremely positive sign for this offense. Any improvement over last season’s performance, when he allowed just under 3.5 pressures per game, buys Kirk Cousins more time to make his reads and find the open receiver. But if Ingram struggles again, the Vikings run a greater risk of making mistakes that could lead to turnovers. The need for Ingram to improve cannot be understated, and the potential upside for what his growth could mean for the offense is far too great to overlook.

WR Jordan Addison

The Vikings had several needs heading into the 2023 NFL Draft, but by the time the 23rd selection came around, one name stuck out; Jordan Addison. We all remember Justin Jefferson’s instant impact as a rookie, racking up 1,400 yards while leading the team in targets. The Vikings won’t be asking Addison to fill the same role. Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson will be the top two targets for Kirk Cousins, but a QB needs more than just two weapons to rely on.

K.J. Osborn showed the impact he could make last season, going off for 157 yards in the comeback victory against the Colts. But what could turn an already good Vikings passing offense into one of the very best in the NFL is if Addison shows he can become an X-factor who has to be accounted for on every down.

Imagine if the Vikings had another pass-catcher capable of producing 100+ yard games on a weekly basis. Based on Addison’s arrival, the Vikings clearly thought this sounded appealing too. A dynamic duo of Jefferson and Hockenson plus Addison becoming a weapon seems almost unfair.

Yet, early reports from camp and preseason suggest he already looks the part. Now Addison just needs to play the part too. If he can, there’s no reason why an offense that ranked eighth in scoring can’t be even more potent.

CB Byron Murphy Jr.

The Vikings opted against retaining Patrick Peterson this offseason and chose to sign former Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy instead. Murphy is the new veteran leader of the cornerback group and will be asked to cover the opponent’s top pass-catcher each week.

Whether he’s up to the task will significantly impact Brian Flores’ defense. Murphy ranked 46th among cornerbacks last season but only had a coverage grade good enough to place 60th per PFF.

He has all the traits scouts desire from a No. 1 corner, with plenty of speed, short area quickness, and athleticism to make plays on the ball. But there’s a reason Murphy hasn’t earned recognition as being one of the best at his position. He’s welcoming the chance to prove he’s capable of being a top corner. Now it’s on Murphy to go out and show it every week.

With the Vikings expected to start second-year pro Akayleb Evans, plus rookie Mekhi Blackmon as the third cornerback, they can’t afford for Murphy to be anything but a reliable player capable of shutting down even the best receivers on the field. If he can meet those expectations, the job for the Vikings’ pass-rushers gets a lot easier too. Knowing how quickly a mishap in coverage can ruin a game, Murphy’s performance will undoubtedly be crucial to the Vikings’ success in 2023.

SUBSCRIBE TO FFSN!

Sign up below for the latest news, stories and podcasts from our affiliates

Sorry. This form is no longer accepting new submissions.