EAGAN, Minn. -- Some of the Vikings' biggest moves in 2023 have involved saying goodbye to fan favorites and former Pro Bowlers, from Dalvin Cook to Adam Thielen to Eric Kendricks. The roster reconstruction has been so stark that oddsmakers clearly like the rival Lions to unseat the reigning NFC North champions. Just don't tell that to linebacker Brian Asamoah II, an emergent focal point of new coordinator Brian Flores' defense, who believes Minnesota is "definitely a Super Bowl-contending team."
"Honestly I think we have (some of) the best (talent) across the board," the second-year veteran told CBS Sports after practice Monday. "We have a lot of young guys that are ready to step into big roles and take advantage of the opportunities given to them. This is definitely a Super Bowl-contending team. We've just gotta connect with one another (and) have good relationships so we can have unique results on the football field."
Asamoah wasn't predicting anything, but merely attempting to correct the notion that the Vikings are backtracking from last year's 13-4 finish under new coach Kevin O'Connell. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, of course, at one point declared this offseason to be a "competitive rebuild," but Asamoah had to fight back a playful scoff when presented with the "rebuilding" term at training camp.
Some of the reasons were apparent at Monday's practice: quarterback Kirk Cousins was sharp in red-zone drills against Flores' defense, even while star tight end T.J. Hockenson rested. Rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison, meanwhile, showcased what fellow wideout K.J. Osborn deemed "silky" footwork with three toe-tapping touchdowns. And then there was Asamoah himself, thrust into a multipurpose role at the heart of a reworked front seven, where Flores has deployed some truly diverse looks.
"He's definitely utilizing my skill set, which is my speed and my ability to cover," Asamoah said. "And it's been fun, because he's an aggressive dude. Definitely likes to blitz. I've gotten the opportunity to blitz a lot. My skill set and what he's calling is definitely going hand-in-hand."
A third-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2022, Asamoah appeared in 16 games as a rookie, playing sparingly behind Kendricks, the former All-Pro, and veteran holdover Jordan Hicks. Hailed for his "explosive pursuit speed" coming out of college, the 23-year-old is now penciled in as a full-time Swiss Army knife alongside Hicks. He learned valuable lessons from Kendricks as a rookie, he said, but also trains annually with longtime Buccaneers star Lavonte David, in preparation for his own emergence.
The young defender's gentle confidence could be seen in just about every answer he offered Monday. Addressing his West African roots -- he wears wristbands of the national flag of Ghana, in honor of where his parents grew up -- Asamoah casually called himself a "Ghanaian warrior out here in America." And when asked to identify an underrated teammate? He started with safety Josh Metellus before offering an obvious alternative.
"Or myself, until I break out."