First of all, watching the afternoon practice from the sideline was a treat that I'll never forget. Standing literally 20 feet away from Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, etc, was a highlight. I was close enough that one of the sideline throws to Kain Colter nearly took me out. Thankfully my sweet side-stepping saved my life.
The afternoon practice was up-tempo and the players moved seamlessly from one drill to another, with very little downtime. I was impressed with the way the coaching staff kept things moving. There were plenty of F-bombs and I was within earshot of a couple of choice quotes from Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer.
Norv Turner, getting after Rhett Ellison after a poor route said:
We're not gonna beat anybody running straight down the f-ing field. Give ‘em a little something! You do that every time!
Mike Zimmer to the players before 11 on 11s:
If we bust our ass here in practice, we won't have to do conditioning after.
What I like about that last quote from Zimmer is his use of positive reinforcement to motivate the players to keep practicing hard. As a teacher it was refreshing to see that, as I've found positive reinforcement to be a much more meaningful motivator than negative reinforcement. In other words, use the carrot instead of the stick.
As far as the depth chart is concerned, I made many notes on my twitter feed about it, but to sum up here, Matt Cassel appeared to me to take the majority of the 1st team reps today. Bridgewater did take a few reps with the 1st team too, but it was not an even split, despite what many national media outlets would have you believe. Ponder took all his reps with the 3rd team.
As far as individual performances go, Jerick McKinnon is as fast as advertised, even though he was running with the 2nd and 3rd team. Asiata took a bunch of reps with the 1s when Peterson took a break (which was often), and Asiata looked good. His receiving skills were inconsistent as he had at least 1 drop that I recorded. I noticed that Adam Thielen was lined up out wide quite often opposite Greg Jennings, although I didn't see any passes thrown his way. Generally speaking, Cassel and Bridgewater looked great throwing the ball, and Ponder was inconsistent. Ponder had some nice tight spirals, and good placement, and also had some wobbly passes and high overthrows. It seems fairly obvious that he is not in competition for the starting job. On wide receiver drills I noted that Greg Jennings was super smooth and just looks like the composed 8-year vet he is, and Simpson was a little slow to react.
On defense, I was paying close attention to the linebackers as that might be the most unsettled position group, and noticed that Barr, Greenway and Brinkley took the majority of the 1st team reps, while Hodges, Watts and Cole took the majority of the 2nd team reps. I was hoping to see Mauti get a shot today, but did not see him in there with the 1st or 2nd team. In the secondary, today it was Smith, Raymond (with Blanton having a hamstring injury), Rhodes and Sherels. With the 2nd team the secondary was Sanford, Coleman, Cox and James. I really liked what I saw out of Derek Cox, as on one play I noted that his tight coverage forced Matt Cassel to tuck the ball and run (slowly I might add). While Munnerlyn came off the PUP list today, he only did individual drills and did not participate in the full 11 on 11s.
On Special Teams, I caught some punt fielding at the very beginning of practice, and Sherels is just leagues ahead of everyone else. He loses very little time catching the ball and getting up field, while everyone else takes a split second to secure the ball. I noted that Adam Thielen was receiving punts, and did drop one. There was some gunner work in the middle of practice and Coleman came up with a huge stuff of Kamar Jorden who was getting a look. At the end of practice, Jeff Locke was running the "fake punt" play and throwing the ball. I grabbed him after practice for a brief interview which I'll have up shortly.
All-in-all it was a fantastic day for me personally and I'm just glad that I got to be a part of the whole thing, if even for one day. Be sure to check out my twitter feed @CCNorseman for more details of my camp notes and a few pictures from practice. And I'd like to give a special thanks to the DN team for allowing me this great opportunity, for without their invitation to write last year I wouldn't have even been in Mankato today. Lastly thanks to all you readers for making the Daily Norseman the best place for Vikings Training Camp coverage. Even though it was just one day of coverage, it was "freaking amazing." Be sure to follow Eric Thompson: @Eric_j_Thompson on twitter as he takes over the Training Camp coverage tomorrow, and will be here in Mankato Thursday through Saturday.