Maybe Vikings special-teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf was telling the truth over the weekend when he said rookie K.J. Osborn is still in an open competition to be the return man this season.
It certainly didn’t look like it on Friday, Aug. 28, at U.S. Bank Stadium when the 23-year-old rookie handled all the kickoffs and punts with nobody else rotating in.
It gave Osborn a sneak peak of what to expect if he indeed is the starting return man in a few weeks when Vikings host the rival Green Bay Packers in the season opener.
“The stadium was beautiful,” Osborn said. “I didn’t have any issues with the light or anything. It was awesome. I saw (the ball) clear. I was having fun out there. I can’t wait for the season.”
Osborn is also focused on developing into a viable option at wide receiver. He has watched intently as veteran receiver Adam Thielen has gone about his business in practice.
“He’s a technician,” Osborn said. “His moves are calculated with how he does things. He’s a true professional. I love to come to work with him every day.”
As for where Osborn stands on the actual depth chart, he clearly is competing with Chad Beebe, Tajae Sharpe and Alexander Hollins for some of the final roster pots behind Thielen, Bisi Johnson and rookie Justin Jefferson.
It certainly helps Osborn’s cause that he has ability as a return man.
“Just being myself,” Osborn said. “I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing. I feel like that’s what got my here. I’m not going to change it now.”
Danielle Hunter participated in stretching drills at practice Monday, but he did not participate in any individual drills.
Nonetheless, the fact Hunter was participating in any capacity is a good sign for the Vikings. He had missed the previous 12 practices with what coach Mike Zimmer nonchalantly referred to as “a little tweak” a few weeks ago.
No doubt the Vikings are hoping Hunter returns to practice soon. They must be salivating about seeing him in action opposite the recently acquired Yannick Ngakoue.
In the trenches
It’s becoming increasingly evident that the Vikings will enter this season with Shamar Stephen and Jaleel Johnson as their starting interior defensive linemen. While that duo has impressed defensive coordinator Andre Patterson, he also made sure to mention Armon Watts and Hercules Mata’afa as rotational pieces.
“I like my combination of guys that I have inside,” Patterson said. “We move those guys around and play them in different spots at nose and three. I really like that group, and I think they’re going to play really well for us.”