As you all know there was a complete revamp in the Vikings coaching regime this off-season. The Mike Zimmer era has ended. This also means that the defensive-minded coaching priorities will most likely change. Although it seems Kevin O’Connell will enter as a more offensive-minded head coach, he is going to want to be known more as being balanced. Where does Irv Smith fit in?
Along with Coach O’Connell came newly appointed Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips. Phillips coat-tailed O’Connell from the Los Angeles Rams where he was Passing Game Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach. Phillips has worked with tight ends since 2013. Since then, every season he has helped a tight end reach at least 500 yards receiving. So what does this mean for Irv Smith Jr. on the Vikings? If you ask me, there isn’t a better scenario for Smith Jr.
“Big Irv” & Wes Phillips
On September 1st last year we found out that Irv Smith Jr. would require surgery to repair his torn meniscus. It was a very random and unknown situation for Vikings fans. There hadn’t been a lot of talk about Smith’s injury, and fans were excited to see what he could do on the departure of Kyle Rudolph. Unfortunately, it meant Smith Jr.’s season was over before it even started.
This season, Smith Jr. should be back, and the Vikings will likely ease him into play so that there isn’t any sort of re-injury. However, the addition of Phillips should be very beneficial to “Big Irv.” As mentioned, Phillips has a ton of experience working with tight ends.
Not only that, but he has a great background in developing young tight ends. Smith Jr. is still young, he will clock in at 24 years of age when the season begins. That gives him plenty of time to continue being a student of the game at Phillips. Don’t forget that Phillips helped develop Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed in Washington before heading to L.A.
Phillips will bring a positive, building experience for Smith Jr., along with the other tight ends on the team. As excited as Vikings fans were for Smith Jr. a year ago, they should be equally if not more excited this season to see him play. Smith has always had promise. In 2020 Smith Jr. caught 30 passes for 365 yards and five touchdowns.
Those numbers only came from 13 games played. Now imagine having a coach that works with tight ends, and actually wants to help develop your game. Toss in the fact that if he can stay healthy and play a full season, his production should be great. To me, the Smith Jr. and Phillips combination should be a successful one.
“Swirvin’ Big Irv”
The outlook for Smith Jr. in the 2022 season should be looked at as exciting and positive. The only thing that might be holding him back is if the Vikings rush him back from injury. They should let him ease himself back into things. Being a tight end isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes you’re in the trenches with the big guys blocking for your running back.
Sometimes you’re out catching 20-yard out route passes from your quarterback. The tight end position is actually one that is overlooked in the football world. If you can’t run block and pass block you aren’t going to be sent out to catch passes.
If Smith Jr. can come back to this training camp and pre-season and show the coaching staff he is healthy enough to block the big guys he will be just fine. Those blocks will turn into receptions. Receptions turn into yards. Yards turn into touchdowns. Those touchdowns will lead to victories. It will be fun to see Smith Jr. and Phillips connect and work together. Once that starts, hopefully, it will turn into a beneficial situation. Not only for “Big Irv,” but for the Vikings as a whole.