The Vikings just finished up their first full practice in pads, and the players loved the intensity. There was a different atmosphere in camp, and some players took advantage of the ability to engage in contact and really showed up.
Some quick hits on the first team before the jump:
- Vikings focused a lot on short passes, with the padded install working on screen passes and passes to the flats, including catches by Gerhart, D'Imperio, Asiata and Felton.
- Lots of technical work with pulling guards; Charlie Johnson seems to be thriving here. Good footwork without much space, and he's getting to his assigned area
- Ponder was somewhat inconsistent in 11-on-11s with contact. By my count, 7 for 12, with one touchdown (another seam pass to Rudolph). More intermediate routes than last practice, but only one pass (the TD) that went long. Still a focus on soft coverages
- One on one drills were good. Kalil held his own against Allen, only giving up one sack in a a few attempts in the drills, and one sack in the contact-heavy 11-on-11s.
- Loadholt is holding up well in pass protection, both in scrimmage and in drills against Robison.
- Gerhart is getting better at reading his blockers. Did well in drills on this.
- Aromashodu started out well, but faded as practice went on.
- Kerry Taylor took slot and flanker snaps for the first team while Harvin was out temporarily. Looked OK, but nothing stood out, poor or not. Was covered by Winfield, but caught one pass.
- Tyler Holmes as getting beaten in the one on ones, but it was Pasztor and Murphy were the biggest problems in the 11-on-11s. Was not impressed, and they are having communication and leverage problems.
- Patrick Brown is hungry and has been grabbing extra practice whenever possible.
- Todman stood out—excellent burst once he gets through the line, and good cutting. Still needs work finding the right zones (which was a focus of practice earlier in the day). I wouldn't be surprised if he bumps Hilliard out of the 3rd RB spot. Frazier has been emphasizing versatility for that spot, and both of these running backs have performed in the passing game and running game. Not a lot of plays where the RBs stayed in pass protection, and we still need to see how they do on special teams.
- Saulsberry seemed to stand out in one-on-ones.
- Webb was 8 for 9 with some good short passes, including an excellent play by Hilliard for a big gain.
- Sage was 4 for 6. Good at reading defenses, and one of the incompletions was a drop by Childs.
- McLeod Bethel-Thompson is looking good, but not good enough to unseat Rosenfels. 4 for 6. One of the incompletions went deep to Wright, but was excellently defended by Reggie Jones (who Eric should be posting about soon).
- Asiata has been performing in the individual pass blocking drills. He keeps his knees in the right place, gets under the pads and keeps driving forward. Hard to get by. He also took one of the first big hits (from Reggie Jones, no less).
Joe Webb is making balls easy to pluck out of the air by his receivers by putting good velocity on the ball and keeping the tip of the ball up when it's in the air. I initially criticized his footwork, but that improved as the day went on as well. Good timing with the running backs and smoother dropbacks.
Webb still needs to work on going through his reads faster and doesn't always place the ball well. I saw several passes too low or too high and he sometimes has issues throwing in ways that allow for yards after the catch. Lots of short passes that sometimes wouldn't get too far.
Rosenfels is clearly a veteran. Good at figuring out what the defense is doing and what tendencies to exploit. His throws are starting to lack zip, but he's a good presence; always talking to Ponder and Webb about what can be done or how to read a particular defensive formation. Sage seemed the most comfortable out of the three QBs expected to make the roster at making deep throws (about as successful as the others, however).
MBT is mostly working on footwork and touch. He's not going through reads correctly, but seems to be using the extra time he's given himself to improve his decisionmaking. Specifically, the Vikings are focusing on his touch passes, and that seems to be working out well for him.
Aromashodu flashed some skill that he didn't during the season early on. Excellent routes run with precision, while catching in stride, including a great slant for a catch from Rosenfels. As time went on, his routes were a bit more ragged, his timing was off, and his inability to adjust to the ball well in the air really displayed itself, including two plays that would have gone for long.
Phil Loadholt was really impressive, and swallowed up Robison on nearly every pass play. Robison tried a variety of moves, but Loadholt seemed focused. I think this is more to Loadholt's credit than it was Robison's blame, and it was nice to see. Pretty confident he also drew the only false start of the practice, however.
Excellent pass-catching work by almost every tight end. Rudolph's big hands aren't a lie—they are enormous. And he can haul in a number of spectacular catches, although he did have one drop in one-on-ones. Mickey Shuler drew several applauses from the crowd, as did Rudolph. A number of one handed catches for balls that had intentionally poor positioning by the coaches, including one or two off the back shoulder. You can download a video that has one of these catches and a bit of the tight end drills below:
Jerome Simpson was a delight. Good against Cook (who did play better than before) and very good-natured. Excellent catches on digs, curls, and comeback routes. Didn't see as many go or post routes as I would have liked to.
Perhaps the most amusing story of the day came from him: a fan was cheering for Cook, and taunted Simpson by yelling that Cook was going to lock him down. After the snap, Simpson grabbed a ball and ran it for eight or ten yards.
"How's THAT for lockdown?"
Simpson has been jovial and fan-friendly all day. He wouldn't promise another flip into the endzone, however. Excellent to have, and hopefully he'll be a good interview if I can grab it.
Fusco looked good as the right guard. Schwartz will have to fight hard in order to get that spot.
Eric will have some notes about special teams, but I do want to say that Bryan Walters looked great and Wright was surprisingly disappointing as a kick returner.
That's all for now. More on Kalil/Allen later on (around midnight) during the media roundup. If you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer them. Either comment or tweet at me.