Rookie Jordan Addison thrives in Minnesota Vikings camp – ESPN – Minnesota Vikings Blog

EAGAN, Minn. — Receiver Jordan Addison sat out most of the Minnesota Vikings’ offseason practices after suffering a minor injury during his rookie minicamp. When we next heard from him, it was in a police citation for driving 140 miles per hour on July 20, a speed he attributed to an emergency with his dog.

So when training camp opened five days later, it was more than fair to ask: Just what do the Vikings have in the player they made the No. 23 pick of the 2023 draft?

Addison has answered that question with authority during the two weeks that followed. He has produced a highlight reel of catches, especially with an array of toe-tapping footwork near the sideline and in the back of the end zone, and has demonstrated route-running instincts that are “even better in person now that they’re right in front of us,” according to receivers coach Keenan McCardell. Addison appears to have locked down the No. 3 receiver position, and the only question now is whether veteran K.J. Osborn can hold him off from the No. 2 spot opposite Justin Jefferson.

“I’m definitely starting to feel a little more comfortable now,” Addison said. “Just to see myself making plays at this level, it just gives me more confidence and it lets me know that I can be at this level and I should be here. I’m supposed to be here.”

Preliminary plans call for Addison to get some playing time in Thursday night’s preseason opener at Seattle, but his work in training camp has reassured anyone who might have been concerned about his initial transition to the pro level. Most notable, McCardell said, has been how sophisticated Addison’s route running has proved to be.

“You see the suddenness, the slight movement to set guys up as the true great route runners always do,” McCardell said. “They very seldom exert a lot of energy to set a guy up. It’s just a subtle move naturally to get into a position. Whether it’s his outside shoulder to break out, or inside shoulder to break in, or getting in the defender’s blind spots. He knows that already as a route runner, which will vault him so far ahead of a lot of guys in this league in his class.”

Addison has been open so often in training camp, in fact, that it has been difficult to judge his aptitude for making contested catches, a skill quarterback Kirk Cousins has said is his most important benchmark in developing trust with a receiver.

The same was true during Addison’s final college season. Of his 81 total targets at USC, only 17 were contested, defined by ESPN Stats & Information as receptions with a defender within an arm’s reach. He caught four of them, a 23.5% rate that was a bit lower than the Power 5 average of 34.4%. In a small sample this summer, however, Cousins has been happy with what he has seen.

“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 [Thielen] does well, that’s what K.J. does well [and] T.J. [Hockenson].

“It’s not for the faint of heart. And you have to have strong hands, and I think you can have all the athleticism in the world, but with how good the guys are covering you, if you’re not really strong at the catch point. it’s going to be hard to consistently be successful. That’s what I see from Jordan, is he’s pretty natural at the catch point, which is exciting.”

During film sessions, according to McCardell, Cousins has noted how frequently Addison has been open on the back side of plays. One such example came during a July 31 practice. Cousins first looked toward Jefferson on the right side of the field before scanning all the way back to the left, where he found Addison alone in the far corner of the end zone. As safety Lewis Cine sprinted in his direction, Addison executed a controlled jump to secure the ball but kept his body in control so he could land with both feet in bounds.

On Aug. 5, Addison juked veteran cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., cut to the sideline and made a diving catch as Murphy pushed him out of bounds.

But the catch that had fans buzzing was one in the back of the end zone during an Aug. 3 night practice. As Cine chased him, Addison stopped on a dime to haul in a high throw while keeping his feet on the ground. He then held on to it throughout the process of going to the ground as Cine pushed him out of bounds.

“When that ball goes in the air, it ain’t no 50-50,” Addison said. “It’s 80-20 for the receiver. That’s how I look at it. When that ball goes up, I got to get it.”

Coach Kevin O’Connell has subtly tried to manage the early excitement around Addison, making a point to publicly focus on his willingness to mix it up as a run-blocker — a less aesthetic attribute but one that can be an obstacle to early playing time for some rookies at the position.

Along the way, Addison has exhibited a serious and unusually quiet personality. Jefferson, for one, said he wants to get Addison “out of his comfort zone, that shyness, and for him to talk more and dance more.”

Addison, however, said that “I’m normally quiet” and added: “I want people to see that I can make plays before I start jumping around.”

He’s not averse to the attention, however. When he opened his Twitter account as a 15-year-old in 2017, Addison hoped — as many high school football players — to get noticed. Addison took it one step further, creating the handle “@Espn_Jordan.”

“When you make that play,” he said, “you want to be on ESPN. So I just took ‘ESPN Jordan.’ Not really a funny story. It was just about getting on ESPN and showing what I could do.”

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