Kevin O’Connell Wants Young Vikings to Take on Leadership Roles in 2023

Vikings Opponents
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

This offseason, the Minnesota Vikings moved on from a number of the veteran players on their roster. Adam Thielen is now a Carolina Panther while Eric Kendricks is a Los Angeles Charger. Za’Darius Smith and Dalvin Tomlinson are both Cleveland Browns. The absences of these four players means that there are 63 starts that need to be taken on by young Vikings players, and that doesn’t even account for Cam Dantzler, Patrick Peterson, Chandon Sullivan, and Duke Shelley in the secondary.

Recently, Kevin O’Connell spoke on the roster turnover that Minnesota went through this offseason in an interview with Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated. In that time, he discussed how Minnesota plans to move on without these veterans on the field, helping lead the team to victory.

Vikings Who Left
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates his touchdown against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

“It’s like, ‘Hey, I think you’ve earned the right. Your performance and production is one thing, but now you’re filling a void of some players that aren’t here anymore, that were here since you’ve been here. And you’ve become the player you’ve become, maybe because of the exposure to those guys,’” O’Connell says. “Now it’s, ‘Can you take your own personal leadership to the next level and help guide this team?’ And, time and time again, in those conversations, it’s something that those players are excited about.”

This is expected to be a big year for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s draft picks as players such as Brian Asamoah, Andrew Booth Jr., Lewis Cine, Akayleb Evans amongst the 2022 class while rookies Jordan Addison and Mekhi Blackmon should be expected to compete for starting roles immediately heading into their rookie seasons.

Kevin O'Connell Wants young Vikings to Take on Leadership Roles in 2023
Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

Much of the focus this summer will be on the secondary and which of the young cornerbacks will step up and take on the starting cornerback role opposite Byron Murphy. Then, another will have to fill the slot corner duties as well or step outside to the boundary when Murphy mans the slot.

However, even for someone a bit older than these players, such as a K.J. Osborn or Justin Jefferson in the offense, they will not only need to produce on the field, but they will need to be mentors for the younger players looking to come in and contribute.

2023 looks like the first year where we truly get to see how Adofo-Mensah’s and O’Connell’s team-building vision can actually work at the NFL level. It should be an interesting process to follow throughout the summer and fall.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.