How will O’Connell’s offense use tight ends?

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The Vikings held their first practice of the summer on Monday. We take a look at each position group as training camp begins. Today: Tense Ends.

Offensive lineQuarterbacksRunning backsDefensive lineDefensive backsSpecial teamsWide receiversRegister

Irv Smith Jr. Johnny Mundt, Ben Ellefson, Zach DavidsonNick Muse, Sean Beyer

The offseason is moving

Lineup: Mundt (free agent signing), Moose (seventh round pick), Beyer (free agent)

Output: Tyler Conklin (signed with Jets), Brandon Dillon (signed with Saints), Chris Herndon (free agent), Luke Stocker (free agent)

Prospects

After Smith missed all of 2021 with a torn meniscus, Conklin stepped into the starting role and caught 61 passes for 593 yards last season. However, the Vikings couldn’t afford to keep him in free agency, so they went back to counting on Smith to be the top target they thought he could be when they took him in the second round in 2019. He’s the undisputed starter at the position, though Mundt could find a role as a blocker as he recovers from his ACL tear, and Muse could develop as an option in the passing game.

Top competition

No. 2 tight end. Assuming Smith stays healthy — he left practice Monday, later returning to the field to watch the rest of the session — he’ll be the starter, but training camp will provide opportunities for players like Mundt and Muse to carve out roles in the offense. Muse runs well for his size (6-foot-5, 259 pounds) and can move around the formation; he’ll likely get a chance in the preseason to show what he can do as a receiver and demonstrate where he fits as a blocker.

Player for viewing

Smith. He has fully recovered from surgery after spending the offseason in Minnesota to rehab with the Vikings’ new athletic training staff. Before he was injured last season, Smith appeared to be on his way to breaking out in the Vikings’ offense, with an impressive training camp that showed he was ready to be a threat in the middle of the field. Now in his final season before free agency, he has every reason to have a big season as he lives out his rookie contract. If he can benefit from the defense by focusing on Justin Jefferson and assert himself in the Vikings offense, he will add a significant element to their passing game.

One big question

How will the Vikings use their tight ends under Kevin O’Connell? In the last three seasons under Mike Zimmer, the Vikings’ three offensive coordinators — Kevin Stefanski, Gary Kubiak and Clint Kubiak — have put three receivers on the field less often than most teams in the NFL, giving tight ends ample opportunity to step up to the plate. offense The one-linebacker, two-tight end set was the Vikings’ base package under Stefanski, but its usage declined under Gary Kubiak and especially Clint Kubiak, who used it just 13% of the time last season, according to Sharp Football Stats. Three-receiver sets make up more of O’Connell’s offense than they have on Zimmer’s teams, and given how much the Vikings can continue to use quarterback C.J. Hamm in tighter sets, it’s worth watching how often they use multiple tight ends. endow this year and how they use flexible players like Smith and Muse.

How will O’Connell’s offense use tight ends?

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