EAGAN, Minn. — Jordan Addison disturbed the Minnesota Vikings a few days before training camp with dangerous late-night behavior that tainted the start of his NFL career.
Once he finally got on the practice field, Addison has settled into the offense much more smoothly. The 21-year-old has been one of the early standouts of these preseason sessions that frequently make rookies feel and look as if they're swimming upstream in a torrent of complex information.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “We’ve thrown him in basically, with all the complex run game schemes, motions, and formations and the route tree we’re asking him to learn, and I think he’s handled it really well. He’s shown his athleticism. He’s a natural catcher of the football, tracks the ball well, so I’m excited about just continuing to do more with him and get him involved. Hopefully that can take pressure off of our other guys and just make teams have to defend even more grass.”
Addison’s performance has easily been one of the most promising developments of training camp for the Vikings, whose decision to release veteran Adam Thielen for salary cap relief will test their depth behind superstar Justin Jefferson.
Jalen Nailor, the 2022 sixth-round draft pick, was recently halted by a leg injury. Trishton Jackson, an early practice standout, joined him on the sideline with a minor knee injury. The Vikings on Sunday signed free agent N’Keal Harry, who was the 32nd pick in the 2019 draft by New England and played last season for Chicago. Harry became the fourth first-rounder in the position group, joining Addison, Jefferson and Jalen Reagor. Sixth-year player Brandon Powell also provides some value in the mix.
Assuming Addison, the 23rd overall pick in the draft this spring out of USC, makes an immediate impact, K.J. Osborn continues to improve his game and tight end T.J. Hockenson again shines as a trusted receiver, Jefferson ought to be able to produce another All-Pro season and Cousins should be in great shape with more comfort in his second year in head coach Kevin O'Connell's scheme.
Without a significant contribution from Addison, though, there will be that much more pressure on the system and Cousins and everybody else in it to make the offense click.
“I just start by knowing the plays, because if he sees that I’m on top of everything and I know where to be, then he’s going to trust me to be down the field at the exact moment," Addison said.
Addison might not be coming into the league out of USC with the same cachet that Jefferson carried in 2020 from his national champion LSU team, but the Vikings have big plans for him and haven't been afraid to push him on it.
“I want to see greatness at the catch point," Cousins said. “In this league you’re going to make contested catches. Coverage is going to be tight. I’m going to have to throw it in tight windows, and you’ve got to show me with somebody draped over you or someone about to come hit you that you will have strong hands and make that catch. That’s what Justin does well. That’s what Adam does well. That’s what K.J. does well, T.J. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
After Addison sat out of most of the spring practices with an injury, he was cited by a state trooper last month for driving 140 mph in a 55 mph zone that made the wrong kind of headlines for any player — let alone a rookie trying to make a strong first impression. He has pivoted as well as he could with multiple apologies and a strong showing on the field so far. O'Connell even praised this week Addison's ability and willingness to block on running plays.
“I feel like he’s learning the playbook very well," Jefferson said. "Every time that he doesn’t understand something, I’m trying to teach him how to understand it or asking him what he’s got on this play so he knows when he comes out on the field."