January 3, 2021; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Irv Smith (84) was the tight end of the Minnesota Vikings before playing against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Compulsory Credit: Raj Mehta – USA Today Sports
Last year, everyone was excited to see what was in front of the Vikings’ Tight and Irv Smith Jr.
After playing two seasons in the league behind Kyle Rudolph, the tight end is set for a breakout season. Rudolph left and will eventually join the New York Giants, leaving Smith in a tight end position at the top of the depth chart, which the Vikings will remember when they drafted him in the second round of the 2019 draft. Expectations were high.
He has done enough to give his first two seasons a reason to be optimistic – not only from Vikings fans, but also from spectators around the league. Throughout his first two seasons, he averaged 66 out of 90 for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. These are perfectly good numbers for a tough ending, but the consensus was that much more had to come.
Alas, it wasn’t supposed to happen. A knee injury in the run-up to the season landed him in the injured reserve and ended before his season started. Instead, it was Tyler Conklin who had a breakout season of his own. Conclin is out of the deal and with the signing for the New York Jets. All eyes are on Arv Smith again.
Not surprisingly, head coach Kevin O’Connell indicated that Smith would be a significant part of the Vikings’ offense. There is no explicit “Tyler Conclin” on the roster to depute if necessary.
Johnny Mund followed O’Connell from Los Angeles to Minnesota. His reputation comes as a blocking tight end, although O’Connell has expressed his belief that he can be more than in the past.
Then there is Ben Elefson, who was picked up by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020 after being undefeated. On August 21, 2021, before the Vikings demanded a waiver. He has a catch to his name in his career.
Then there’s Jack Davidson, a fifth-round rookie from last year who spent the season almost exclusively in the practice squad – as well as Nick Muse, this year’s seventh-round rookie.
It’s no surprise the Vikings want to be responsible with Arv Smith. They desperately need him. Tyler Conklin did his best to carry the position last year with very little help. A trade did not work for Chris Herndon because he had so little influence for the fourth round pick that the Vikings were traded for him and picked up a sixth round from the Jets. He will not return this season.
Smith’s return to offense could be a key factor in a successful season for the Vikings. As good as Tyler Conklin was last season, Smith is much more likely. Its size at 6’2 ″, 240-pound 4.6 speed and presents serious matchup problems for anti-athletic defense. In place of an offensive head coach, Arv Smith has more reasons to be optimistic for a breakout season.
As long as he is strong and comes back healthy, the sky is suddenly limited Fourth– Hard end of the year. Everyone should be excited about what he can produce this season.
The Vikings have a lot of talent in offense and they should be a dynamic and explosive unit this season. Justin Jefferson, Adam Thilen and Dalvin Cook will lead. A healthy Irv Smith would certainly be a big factor, too.