Not to go all The Rock on you, but ERIC...HAS RETUUUUUUURNED...TO MANKATO!
And man, does it feel good. I have been lucky enough to cover parts of the past three Minnesota Vikings Training Camp for our humble little site. It's still such a cool feeling to walk across the street from the campus buildings to the practice fields with the players, glancing at the kids lining the fences wondering aloud to the players when they'll be able to get autographs.
But that cool feeling is quickly followed by the realization that morning walkthroughs still aren't all that exciting to watch, regardless of how close you are to the players.
The action on the field was the same half-speed, ho-hum drills you'd expect for the AM Training Camp sessions. However, there was plenty to read into as far as lineups go. It seems that the first- and second-string teams are starting to take more of a consistent shape.
On offense there weren't any surprises or changes. Matt Cassel was still taking reps with the first team while Teddy Bridgewater took second team snaps. The backfield showed a couple packages that featured Rhett Ellison, Zach Line, and Jerome Felton rotating in at Fullback/H-back; other than that the pecking order was as you'd expect. Nothing new to report with the wide receivers or tight ends either.
The offensive line is the same as what the team had in 2013: Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, and Phil Loadholt. At this point I'd be very surprised if this wasn't the Week 1 O-line. David Yankey might get his shot eventually but it certainly hasn't come during this Training Camp yet.
The depth along the defensive side of the ball might raise a few eyebrows though. The base front seven looked intact: Brian Robison, Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, and Everson Griffen in front with Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley, and Anthony Barr at linebacker. Captain Munnerlyn was getting most of the first team looks at nickel back with Josh Robinson and Xavier Rhodes playing the outside. The first big surprise was the sight Jabari Price taking a handful of first team snaps at nickel. The second surprise was the sight of a second unit of linebackers that didn't include cult favorite Mike Mauti. Gerald Hodges, Audie Cole, and rookie Brandon Watts took the snaps after the starters went out.
The back of the secondary was a little tough to read from where the players gathered behind the drills but Jamarca Sanford was still firmly entrenched with the 2's even after the injury to Robert Blanton. (Mistral Raymond filled in this morning with the starting unit. But as you'll learn in the Mike Zimmer press conference recap later that's still very fluid.)
Other than that, there isn't a whole lot to report on from this morning. Oh, the weather! It's freaking amazing today. Sunny, 75, with only the slightest of breezes. Sure beats working!
After practice a group of us stopped Chad Greenway and chatted with him for a couple minutes. He explained how everyone is still getting used to the new scheme and getting work in with pads on at the moment. When asked about his new teammate, first round rookie Anthony Barr, Greenway had a glowing review:
Anthony's doing really great. He's been really responsive to the coaching and I think he's picking up the scheme really well. And he's obviously physically very gifted. Hopefully he gets to a point mentally where he can just let his physical play take over.
Greenway acknowledged that he has taken a handful of snaps at middle linebacker but that probably won't be where you find him this season. The linebacking positions seem pretty fluid right now but Greenway feels that he has the most defined position in the group.
You never know with the season what could happen with injuries, to be able to have the ability to play multiple positions can be really beneficial for our team.
Greenway addressed the rotation of linebackers that seems to be coming in and out for nickel packages.
It's pretty typical. Obviously somebody's leaving the field when you go to nickel and it depends on who that is...but you know, everybody does it differently and Coach Zimmer is mixing and matching at this point. Nothing's solid and set in stone. I think he's still trying to get to know his players; we've only been in pads for three days. I think we have a long ways to go to determine all that. It's probably just really too early to tell at this point.
Finally, Greenway explained that his responsibilities and calls are completely different under the new scheme. Outside of one or two familiar plays, it's brand new for everyone involved, even seasoned veterans like himself.
We're a little over an hour away from the afternoon padded practice along with a press conference from Greg Jennings (I PUT DA TEAM ON MY BACK DOOO). I'll be posting the Mike Zimmer press conference recap from this morning shortly.
IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK.