Galvanized by Online Doubt, Plenty of Young Vikings Are Staking their Claim on 2023

Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates during the fourth quarter against Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota won’t repeat as NFC North champs unless the young Vikings step up.

The Vikings were active-yet-subdued in free agency. Sure, GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could have carved out more space in 2023 – an option that still exists – but the hope is clearly to position themselves for a full roster reset in 2024. All those who survive the talent exodus will be fully Adofo-Mensah’s, even if the former GM brought them aboard.

Now, does that mean Minnesota is giving up on 2023? By no means. Quite the opposite is true, in fact. Minnesota wants to reclaim their status as NFC North champs and go on a deep playoff run.

Contending in the NFC

The NFC appears vulnerable. Subtracting Tom Brady and (eventually) Aaron Rodgers will do that.

The Eagles, fresh off their Super Bowl appearance and eye-popping extension for Jalen Hurts, are the clear-cut favorites in the conference. Right behind them is Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers. SF may not know who will be taking snaps in Week 1, but they do know that they have one of the most innovative offensive architects calling the shots.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Jan 14, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan on the sidelines in the fourth quarter of a wild card game against the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

After the top pair, the NFC is looking wide open. Put me alongside those who doubt the Cowboys even though they commonly snag respectable regular season records.

Yes, the Vikings are looking to surprise folks by following their 13-4 season with a similarly sterling record, one that again puts them in a nice spot for the postseason. Being able to accomplish the goal is going to come down to the young fellas.

Reaction to Greatest Comeback in NFL History
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Rather than directly replace Adam Thielen, the team has decided to lean into K.J. Osborn. The switch involved moving from a 32-year-old receiver to one who is 25. Eric Kendricks, 31, has left an opening for Brian Asamoah, who is 23. A bit of a different scenario is Patrick Peterson, the 32-year-old CB who is being replaced by the 25-year-old Byron Murphy. In that case, it’s not a matter of leaning on a recent pick for a replacement but the youthful alternative remains consistent.

The Young Vikings Are Ready

Recently, some of these young Vikings have been asserting their confidence. There was a bit of a Twitter hubbub – the marquee spot for online hubbubs – when Rick Sosa suggested that Minnesota has “no quality WRs beyond Jefferson, no quality CBs beyond Murphy, are thin at LB and iOL.”

K.J. Osborn took notice of the sleight: “Hey Rick, sorry to bother ya! Just taking some notes here. Can you please describe your definition of “quality” for me please. Just curious.”

Backup safety Josh Metellus joined the party, noting that he supports his teammate: “Smh… No faith in our guys from the outside. But all the faith in the world from the locker room that our guys get the job done at a “Quality” level.” Shortly thereafter, Metellus notes that he believes “This is the year” in response to a tweet prophesying about how Minnesota’s safeties will get featured more in 2023.

Jun 15, 2021; in Eagen, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings safety Josh Metellus (44) breaks up a pass intended for wide receiver Zach Davidson (40) during drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Thielen sent his support, as did corner Akayleb Evans.

Tay Gowan mirrors Evans’ confidence, proclaiming that he has overcome long odds in the past and expects to thrive in 2023: “In my football career God has always made me wait my turn … I’ve been doing that. Every time I got my turn I showed out! Bring out the film.”

Questions Answered: 2 Vikings Ruled Out vs. DAL, Home Underdog Madness, Darrisaw
Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports.

Taken together, we capture a glimpse of a group of young Vikings who are wonderfully defiant. Doubt them? They’ll use it as fuel to motivate them during the offseason. It’s the kind of perspective that can help a player to thrive.

Minnesota will add more young talent when the draft begins in less than a week. The combination of incoming rookies and still-youthful roster talent will play an instrumental role in propelling the team toward a second-straight division crown.