5 big indicators of a successful season for the Vikings in 2022

(Photo by Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports) Dalvin Cook
(Photo by Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports) Dalvin Cook /
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Minnesota Vikings
(Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Irv Smith Jr. /

Irv Smith Jr. plays at least 16 games

While he has shown flashes, Irv Smith Jr. has yet to string together a full season for the Vikings. Only 23-years-old, he has a chance to solidify himself as Minnesota’s top tight end for the foreseeable future with the breakout season everyone is waiting for.

The Vikings have had to wait a year to see what Smith can do in a full-time starter role after he missed the entire 2021 season with a knee injury suffered last summer. Prior to his injury, he put together some nice stretches as a pass-catcher for Minnesota.

When Kyle Rudolph got hurt in 2020, Smith was in the starting lineup from Week 13 to Week 16. During that time, he caught 13 passes on 17 targets for 153 yards and three touchdowns. This included a career game against the New Orleans Saints where Smith caught six of his nine targets for 53 yards and two touchdowns.

Considering the success that Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee has had in the Sean McVay offense, Smith should be poised for a big year ahead should he stay healthy. This is because he should see a lot of snaps, as the Rams used 11 personnel on 86 percent of their offensive snaps last year – easily the highest in the NFL.

Considering the Vikings’ talented group at wide receiver, it would make sense to see new head coach Kevin O’Connell continue this heavy usage of 11 personnel in Minnesota, which would allow the offense to utilize more three-receiver sets.

This opens the door for Smith to possibly have the highest snap count of his young career this upcoming season. What he does with said snaps is yet to be seen, but if he plays in at least 16 games this year, Vikings fans should be pleased with the outcome. If it happens, we could see Smith haul in at least 60 catches this season for Minnesota.