The long wait for organized football is over ... sort of.
The Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday begin the final phase of their voluntary offseason program with the first of 10 days dedicated to organized team activities. The offseason program wraps up in just less than a month with a three-day mandatory minicamp set for June 12-14.
As the entire team takes the field for the first time this offseason in 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, we'll soon get a look at a handful of reworked positions on one of the most complete teams in the NFC.
Though there's still a long way to go until live contact is permitted during training camp, OTAs serve as the unofficial kickoff to the 2018 season when position battles begin to take shape, new players acquired through free agency and the draft find their fit in the scheme and the Vikings learn just how much work they'll have to do to in answering several positional questions before the team returns in late July.
Here are several areas to keep an eye on over the next four weeks:
Kirk Cousins and John DeFilippo take center stage
In saying goodbye to Case Keenum, the quarterback who led Minnesota to a 13-3 record and appearance in the NFC Championship, the Vikings handed over the reins of the offense to Cousins. The former Washington quarterback wasted no time laying the foundation with his skill players after signing with the Vikings at the beginning of free agency. Cousins got together with Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen in Atlanta last month for an impromptu throwing session and to begin building a relationship with his top two receivers. He'll continue to build on that over the next four weeks while adding key players such as Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook into the mix. OTAs are the quarterback's first opportunity to put the rhythm he has begun to develop into action and when he can perfect his timing and continue to learn the tendencies of his pass catchers.
We'll also get a glimpse at the system new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is installing in Minnesota. With a new quarterback and coach calling the plays, it's likely the Vikings offense will remain in a relatively vanilla state through OTAs and training camp as everyone gets up to speed. That's not to say we won't see RPOs, play-action, two-tight end sets, etc., early on. But OTAs will allow Cousins, DeFilippo and the rest of the offense to get on the same page and work out kinks as they arise. The verbiage for base plays might be the same from Pat Shurmur's system to DeFilippo's, but things like audibles likely will come much later on. DeFilippo's work inside the red zone was noted often during his two years with Philadelphia. How the OC can help Cousins improve upon his 83.3 QBR inside the 20-yard line is something to keep an eye on over the next few months.
Dalvin Cook's rehab
The Vikings' star running back is 7.5 months post-op from an ACL tear he sustained in Week 4, and that's considered the "sweet spot" for his rehabilitation, according to head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman. He will be limited throughout OTAs, but coach Mike Zimmer told NFL Network that Cook is "ahead of schedule" with his remaining rehab. Cook remains on track to be full-go by the start of training camp.
In the meantime, Minnesota will use the next four weeks to get a better look at Roc Thomas and Mike Boone, two undrafted free agents who could compete for the No. 3 running back job behind Cook and Latavius Murray. The Vikings are still searching for a change-of-pace back after letting Jerick McKinnon walk in free agency.
The state of the offensive line
The right side of the offensive line remains the biggest question for Minnesota after free agency and the draft. Despite drafting tackle Brian O'Neill in the second round, the Vikings are no closer to knowing the combination of their starting five than they were the day Joe Berger announced his retirement. Where Mike Remmers takes his snaps during OTAs will undoubtedly feed into the equation. Whether the Vikings believe they can keep Remmers at right guard depends on how ready O'Neill is to take over at right tackle. It's also important to note that left guard Nick Easton and center Pat Elflein are both coming off season-ending ankle surgeries and might need to slow play their time getting back to full speed.
Initial impressions of the stacked D-line
Aside from Cousins, the Vikings made their biggest splash in free agency by signing defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Minnesota was able to fill a hole at the three-technique spot and boasts one of the best D-lines in the NFL between Everson Griffen, Richardson, Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter. The Vikings weren't able to generate a consistent pass rush down the stretch last season. With Richardson in the mix and several rookies aiming to be part of an effective rotation, Minnesota has the pieces in place to begin something special with this unit.
Which rookies will push veterans for jobs?
The Vikings don't necessarily need their first-round cornerback to compete right away, but the work Mike Hughes is getting inside could lead to a competition with Mackensie Alexander for the nickel corner job over the next few months. Minnesota will also have a kicking competition between fifth-round pick Daniel Carlson and Kai Forbath. The Vikings have a number of intriguing UDFAs who will get their first opportunity to work with the veteran players and make their case for a roster spot. These next four weeks are important for the likes of CB Holton Hill, S Tray Matthews, LB Hercules Mata'afa and others.