The afternoon practice was met with a lot of anticipation from players, coaches, and fans. The practice field bleachers were full of fans wanting to see the first semi-real football in months. Unfortunately, it started raining pretty hard, and said fans had to run for cover. It didn't last long, though, and by the time the team was done stretching, the rain had subsided. Notes from the first full contact practice:
The practice started right off with full 11 on 11...but only one play each from the first, second, and third string. After that, they broke off into individual unit drills. Because most people were asking about the lines, I spent most of that portion of practice over there.
OL/DL: The first drill I watched, which is the one that's the main picture, is an offensive line drill. Player on the left sets up in a pass protection stance, player on the right stays low through the chute and they engage once player on the right is clear. Most of the first string guys did okay on that drill; leverage and foot work seemed pretty good. Towards the end, though, Kalil was playing on defense, and absolutely blew up Charlie Johnson.
From there, I moved over to the defensive line drills, which were geared towards engaging and shedding blocks. Both Everson Grifffen and Brian Robison looked good. Scott Chrichton was okay, but got better. Not a lot to discern from that drill, to be honest, as it was a minimal engagement type drill, with a lot of focus on technique, at least it seemed that way.
Finally, the offensive and defensive lines joined up and did some one on one blocking drills. Matt Kalil completely stoned Everson Griffen. Like stopped him dead in his tracks stoned. Not once, but twice. All in all, the offensive line seemed to have a big advantage over the defensive line in this drill, winning almost all the battles. One notable exception was DT Tom Johnson, who schooled Brandon Fusco with a textbook swim move to the inside.
During 11 on 11's, Brian Robison would've had a huge sack on Matt Cassel, but overall the offensive line seemed to win the battle of the trenches today. There were a lot of holes for the backs to run through, and quarterbacks, for the most part, had time to set up and go through their progressions.
QB: Not really a whole lot of changes here. Cassel and Bridgewater both looked good. Cassel made a couple of bad throws, including one that might have reached the third row in the Metrodome. Not to be outdone, Christian Ponder launched one that I think, if I'm not mistaken, was aimed for the dude running the camera in the high lift, some 50 to 75 feet above the practice field. Teddy Bridgewater had the nicest throw of the day, hitting Adam Thielen in perfect stride on an inside seam route.
RB: Adrian Peterson reminded us why he's the best running back in the NFL. He took a handoff, made one of the sickest cuts back to the inside I've ever seen, and was gone. He was like 10 feet from me when it happened, and all you can do is just chuckle and shake your head in disbelief. It brought a huge roar from the crowd, too. Jerick Mckinnon looked good in 11 on 11's running tough between the tackles.
LB: Audie Cole, Chad Greenway--who fist bumped Arif walking off the practice field today, and the fist bump was initiated by Greenway (I'm 100% serious on this, it actually happened) and Jasper Brinkley were the first team LB corps during 11 on 11's. Mike Mauti was not wearing a knee brace, and was moving well. He absolutely stuffed Matt Asiata on a running play during 11 on 11's, and Anthony Barr made a huge play, too. Had it been full contact on the quarterback, he might have maimed Teddy Bridgewater. As for Barr, he's been mostly with the 2's, but was mixed in with the 1's a little bit. Not today, but earlier on in camp. It seems that missing those OTA's due to the UCLA school schedule has put him a little bit behind, but you can see his natural ability. I have the sense that once he gets caught up, he'll rotate in with the first team. Gerald Hodges also made a couple of real nice across the field pursuit plays working with the first unit.
Skill Guys: Cordarrelle Patterson did not practice with the team, but was out on the field, away from the rest of the team doing some work with a member of the training staff. Adam Thielen continues to impress, and even made a brief appearance with the first unit on 11 on 11. Most of the time, though, your top three receivers were Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, and Jarius Wright. When the Vikings went into a two tight end set, it was still Kyle Rudolph and Rhett Ellison.
Overall, it was a good first practice with pads. The first half of the practice was crisp, uptempo, and a lot of people shuffling in and out of both the first and second team. Adam Thielen continues to impress, and it kind of feels that the first team offensive line and defensive line depth chart is settled. At least for now.