Vikings Starter Having the ‘Most Disastrous’ Camp of His Career, Analyst Says

Kevin O'Connell

Courtesy of Vikings The Vikings "came very close" to trading running back Dalvin Cook to the Miami Dolphins in March, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reported.

Minnesota Vikings starting center Garrett Bradbury is under a magnifying glass this season.

The new regime of general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell declined Bradbury’s fifth-year option in May, pushing Bradbury into a contract year ahead of the 2022 season.

Bradbury, the 18th overall pick in the 2019 draft, came out of college undersized and has struggled, being overpowered by nose tackles in his first three seasons. He finished the 2021 season ranked the 29th best center in the league by Pro Football Focus (PFF).

Bradbury put on 10 pounds in the offseason to help with his anchor. However, it appears to have been enough, as nose tackle Harrison Phillips has bulldozed Bradbury numerous times in training camp.

Although it’s not a new development for centers to struggle in training camp when left on an island in 1-on-1 drills, The Athletic’s Arif Hasan reported Bradbury’s camp performance this season could be the worst of his career.

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A ‘Disastrous’ Training Camp for Bradbury

Appearing on SKOR North’s Purple Daily podcast on August 4, Hasan gave a brutally honest assessment of how Bradbury looked after just two padded practices.

“Bradbury’s been having, in my eyes, a really disastrous camp,” Hasan said. “He’s never really had a great training camp, which is not a shock given how he’s played in the regular season. But this is perhaps the most disastrous it’s been for him… Harrison Phillips has been eating his lunch day in and day out.”

Hasan did give Bradbury credit that centers often struggle in 1-on-1 drills due to normally having help from guards in live games. Pass-rushers are also afforded more space to operate than normal against a center, but that blend of factors has only exacerbated and magnified Bradbury’s poor pass protection.

“Centers are expected to have guard help and that there’s more pass-rush space available, it’s just going to be really difficult for a center to perform well [in training camp],” Hasan said. “On top of that, one of Garrett Bradbury’s weaknesses is his anchor, his ability to stay stout, his ability to win against strength. The fact his weaknesses are highlighted in a camp environment, it’s just not going to look good.”

The situation hasn’t improved since, considering O’Connell declared there is a competition at the center spot last week.

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The Backup Plan

Chris Reed, previously a guard with the Indianapolis Colts before signing with the Vikings in the offseason, has taken second-team reps at center along with Austin Schlotmann.

Reed has played center in the preseason but has yet to play the position in a regular-season game — the same as Schlottmann. Reed could be in line to take first-team reps from Bradbury, but his struggles snapping the ball seem to be in the way of him cutting into Bradbury’s work, according to Hasan.

“My theory is, I have no basis for this, is that they’re thinking about Chris Reed, who played really well and hard for the Colts last year as an injury replacement, could potentially be a starting quality center for them,” Hasan said. “The problem is Chris Reed has had some snapping issues while under center with Kellen Mond… I think it’s unlikely this is Kellen Mond’s fault, he’s been doing fine when Austin Schlotmann’s under center.

“That’s something they’re going to have to nail down if they’re really going to make a transition between the starting center Garrett Bradbury who has very rarely had snapping issues,” Hasan added.

Reed nor Schlottmann are proven to be considerable upgrades from Bradbury, but if the starting center continues to struggle he could force the Vikings’ hand.

The other option would be to sign or trade for another center if the situation grows dire. Former Cleveland Browns center J.C. Tretter remains a free agent and has Minnesota on a “short list” of teams he’d join.

However, it’s been “crickets” on the Vikings’ end.

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