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2015 Minnesota Vikings Training Camp Notebook: Days 6 Through 13

It's been a while since I've posted a camp notebook. I hope this whets your appetite.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry for the lack of training camp notes. I missed out on many of them last year and hoped to enter this year resolving that issue. While I have done a better job, it's not a complete one. In my defense, last year it was due to poor planning and energy management on my part. This year, it is in part due to poor planning on the part of an airline and my scheduling issues with a wedding (also poor planning on my part, but in a different way).

Depth Chart

The Vikings official unofficial depth chart and the preseason game both present alternate realities from each other and the depth chart that has appeared in training camp. Because you can figure out the depth charts on your own from those games and because the whole point of these things is my access to training camp, the depth chart I'll present is the one I've observed—before they departed for Canton.

Vikings Depth Chart 8-11-15

A "Training Camp Only" Depth Chart of the Minnesota Vikings

It's difficult to get a measure on everybody; injury made it difficult to ever evaluate how the roster was shaping up on a particular day, but with observation over the past several days in training camp, the above list is what I cobbled. Again, don't worry about the SS/FS designation because it doesn't matter.

Naturally, what the Vikings put forth in the Hall of Fame Game differs from what they showed in training camp, and I think injury decisions had something to do with players like Zach Line and Captain Munnerlyn not seeing time.

Quarterbacks

A lot of people are freaking out about Teddy Bridgewater because they hear about interceptions, but aside from the fact that a lot of the reported interceptions are in walkthroughs and inconsequential, people are more likely to report, remember and focus on the negatives they see or hear than the positives (in part because it is not an instinct to report a completion, but it is to report an interception).

Beyond that, a lot of positive plays that do get reported tend to wash over Teddy's influence. If Wallace beats Newman on a dig route and catches the ball, it's also on Teddy to throw the right ball in the right space to advance the ball.

Honestly, there are very few incompletions in camp coming from Bridgewater, and he's strung together long series of completions. The first few days were a little shaky in some ways but that choppiness isn't something to have been concerned about, especially because it was still above the play of a typical second-year quarterback.

There have been a lot of great throws and though Bridgewater is playing somewhat conservatively, his deep throws have improved (marginally) throughout camp. Given that the Vikings were working on short passes early on in camp, I wouldn't even make much of the shorter passes.

So far the strength of his throws has seemingly improved and his pocket movement, like always, has been excellent. Playing from a compressed pocket (he's had a lot of pressure come at him) has created some problems, and a few of his interceptions have come from that--back foot floaters with no possibility of being completed.

Teddy has honestly looked good. The few times he's scrambled, he's kept his eyes up in the pocket and as he runs laterally out of the pocket, bailing only when he reads a bad throw or unopen receiver. While I haven't been able to "confirm" that no one was open on each of the scrambles, at least on his side of the field, it looks like he's making the correct decisions at times when I do have the ability to gauge it.

In practices, good quarterback play often looks boring until you get to a highlight. Often, when reporting the highlight, we use the name of the receiver and on occasion, the defensive back he burned. Much of the time, we don't talk about the excellent throw from the quarterback. Bridgewater's fine.

Very few notes on the backup quarterbacks other than madly inconsistent play from Taylor Heinicke who had some good moments and some awful moments. Shaun Hill still looks like the best of the rest and his arm strength no longer stands out as a glaring issue like it did in days past.

Heinicke did once again show flashes of plus anticipation, while Mike Kafka seemed to do a better job with decisionmaking, which must be stressed as only a faint compliment more than genuine optimism over his play. Heinicke is also struggling with more accuracy issues than Kafka and is prone to overthrowing passes over the middle.

Wide Receivers

Not a lot of notes on receivers from the previous several days, mostly because I made it a mission to focus on the linebackers to see what could be gauged. Still, it was pretty clear that Stefon Diggs was definitively the star of the Day 6. Aside from two highlight catches (both against Marcus Sherels), Diggs showed off excellent route-running. It wasn't just his agility (which has been well-chronicled), but use of head and shoulder fakes that allowed him to move defensive backs. He did well against Sherels, Newman and Waynes.

Every note in the notebook I have on Diggs over the past several days has been positive. Catch, catch, catch, diving catch, good route, sharp route, deceptive route, etc. He ended the most recent day of my notes with an impressive one-handed grab that saved an errant Hill pass that was destined for the sideline area (a statement which implies that Diggs can alter fate, which is fine by me).

He certainly looks like more than a fifth-round pick. Caveats apply, of course, about preseason superstars. It seems like his presence and performance is a little different if only because it's not reduced to highlights but consistent play against different levels of competition, but it's always good to be wary.

Charles Johnson continues to look good, though his route-running wasn't quite as effective on Day 6 as it was the prior few days. That will happen, and I'll consider the day a positive if only because he grabbed another contested catch on a physical play. It truly was his greatest weakness last year and it's really heartening to see it working out well for him here. The hope, of course, is that it continues into the preseason, then regular season. His routes have been good, but not necessarily pristine. On each day, there are still moments where he'll round out routes and tip off defensive backs, but for the most part he looks good as a route runner.

He's winning routes with deception and hopefully the issues he tends to have in precision are irrelevant because of how well Teddy anticipates his route-running.

Mike Wallace also looked good, though not quite as good as before. It will be up to him to maintain sharpness throughout his routes. One enormous positive for him is his willingness to get physical in the run game, and he's been an effective run blocker in camp. It's more than just willingness, too, it's solid technique against DBs--getting leverage underneath the DB's armpits and constantly moving feet through the block.

Wallace is more often used as a decoy in the run game than as a blocker, but he certainly is getting things done.

Wallace's best route, aside from the go, is the corner route and we haven't seen a ton of that in camp yet. The Vikings have been working a lot on dig and comeback routes and although Wallace is better on dig routes this year than I remember from the scant instances on film in Miami, it's still an area of improvement.

Cordarrelle Patterson is maintaining, and I think that's a good thing. There's a greater risk of regression for him than anything else as he works to convert work to habit and that his route-running is adequate at the moment is an enormous positive for me. Zimmer mentioned consistency as something he's looking for from Patterson and to that end: so far, so good.

Patterson still needs to attack the ball a bit better. I did not note any drops in my limited WR exposure for many of the days. He did have issues against physical play again, both from Xavier Rhodes (expected) and Jabari Price (unexpected). One interesting moment: falling down mid-route against Rhodes, then recovering while leaping for the ball to get the catch.

Jarius Wright is doing a better job underneath (or has been, the past few days) and does a good job finding himself in the holes between zones, doing his best on vertical/seam routes from the slot but also finding places that linebackers have vacated. His hands have been great, and he's been surprisingly sharp with his routes. His ability to break free based on the leverage of the corner is helping a lot, and he's figured out the kind of offensive contact he can get away with. So far in camp, he may prove me wrong about his one-dimensional game (though it seems like no matter what, he will be relegated to the slot). If he can replicate the possession role he had in Arkansas, all the better.

Of the rest of the roster, I did not get any real looks at most of them, unfortunately. Adam Thielen had a solid showing, and is doing a much better job with his routes, though the inconsistent hands he had two years ago in camp showed up again. It's not as bad as it was, but it's still a concern. His ability to get open more comes from deception than precision it seems like, but that can alter timing with a quarterback. That might be way he's doing better on late-breaking routes, but it's not as if he doesn't have intermediate game. I'd like to see him do better on contested catches.

Isaac Fruechte helped himself, for sure, but not enough for me to think he's moved into contention for a practice squad spot. Jordan Leslie had a bad drop on Day 6, and it was his fault more than the QB's. On Day 8, he had another drop that was largely his fault. The only "bottom of the roster/not starting six" receiver to really look good to me was once again Davaris Daniels. Though nothing quite as big as the fantastic corner route he ran the other day, he still got open and caught the ball, which I gather is his job.

Tight Ends

I expected more blocking drills from the tight ends early on, which would have let me look at them against the linebackers, but no such luck (I expected it not because of anything the Vikings said, but because there was a big focus on blocking on Day Six). Instead, we saw pass-blocking drills in the later days and have some data to work with in terms of how the tight ends, linebackers and running backs did in their pass-rush/protection duties.

My impression of Rhett Ellison was neither positive nor negative, which is a small break from previous camps where he was a little impressive to me. It's a good thing I logged the limited pass-blocking reps he had, however, as he was the best of all the running backs and tight ends in pass protection. As a run blocker, he was functional and I did not see any notable mistakes, but did not drive players off the ball. Mistake free is good, however, and Ellison is an example of why leaving with just "impressions" of players may not be the strongest method of evaluation.

As a route-runner, Ellison did not look particularly fluid or wooden, and was mostly limited by his speed. His hands didn't seem to fail him on his limited targets, but it seems clear he's designed more to block than to catch. The Vikings offense is not trying to use him in the passing game as anything other than an outlet receiver, and speed may be the reason.

Kyle Rudolph had, surprisingly, as good a time in pass protection as Ellison, but I saw fewer of his reps so that is a less reliable observation. While Ellison continues to win with solid technical work, Rudolph won a few of his reps more with raw strength. Still, he had good adaptability and handwork when dealing with some of the better pass-rushers in the drills.

Rudolph looks more fluid as a route-runner than he did last year, but not, unfortunately, faster. Every year, there's reason to believe Rudolph will be noticeable faster (recovery from injury, full recovery from a college injury, lost weight, etc) and every year it doesn't seem to pan out. He could very well be faster—I don't have good reference points to draw off of—but I don't think he is, at least in a straight line. He turns direction much better than I recall him doing last year (which is when he lost weight).

MyCole Pruitt won more contested catches, as he usually does. He did well on Day 8 against Antone Exum on nearly consecutive plays, but most importantly: he's winning high-pointed catches in the air, a supposed weakness of his to watch out for because of his unusually short stature at his position. While he hasn't had to do that many times against linebackers (which therefore may make it a misleading observation), it's still good to see.

As a pass-protection guy I expected to see more struggles than I did, but I also didn't see too many reps of his. For the most part, he was positive, but didn't have the toughest competition to deal with (he started off losing to Robert Blanton and winning against Eric Kendricks, Brian Peters and Shaun Prater).

Chase Ford may have lost ground in the preseason game because of the turnover ripped from his hands, but he still seems like the fourth tight end on the roster to me. He had some issues in pass protection, but they weren't egregious—though it is perhaps relevant that he lost to Edmond Robinson specifically in pass pro, a player who is supposed to be quite raw. Ford did have a drop that I observed in 11s, and his issues seem much more pronounced than MyCole Pruitt's. If the Vikings only roll with three tight ends (which I doubt), Ford would be the one that is cut.

Brandon Bostick has improved slowly over time at camp, but I don't think he'll do it enbough to make the roster. He is playing to his scouting report, and excelling at finding ways to get open (against a relatively weak defense on the third team) and reeling the ball in, but was relatively mediocre in pass protection and the most problematic of the five tight ends in run blocking.

Running Backs

Over the past several days, I've been able to more closely observe the running backs, which has been a relief. It is difficult in camp to determine how well they do because of the contact rules, viewing angles and complete lack of replay. To that end, these observations will always be limited except in the context of individual skill drills, like pass protection. Still, when focusing on running backs, it is possible to evaluate them from the ground, even if it's not complete in the way that practice film would be.

Adrian Peterson is not showing visible signs of aging at the moment. In previous years, it would be difficult to get a comparitor to really gauge this, but with Jerick McKinnon in camp, it's relatively easy to gauge relative levels of athleticism. McKinnon is an explosive back and showed it in spurts throughout the year. He has it again this year in camp, and show excellent burst and cutting ability. All that said, it seems as if Adrian outclasses him in every athletic context (which is astounding given the information we have about their testing numbers as well as his age). That may not bear out once the season starts and they start hitting him, but he may have one more season of extremely high-level play left in the tank.

As a pass-catcher, Adrian is OK. He looks the ball in and has adequate hands, but does not have a catch radius or much of an ability to adjust to the ball in the air. "Adequate" also means drops at times, but nothing egregious and nothing that suggests the kind of stone hands that seems to have saddled his reputation as a runner. The Vikings attempted running him through mid-level routes and a basic WR route tree, but it seems like they have stopped with that. Flat routes, occasional wheel routes, hitches and basic checkdown routes seem to be his bread and butter so far. That's fine, he may get up to 50 receptions this way (he had 43 with Bevell and Favre, and 40 with Ponder and Musgrave, so it doesn't seem to out of hand to assume he can get 50 with Turner and Bridgewater).

As a runner, he shows the same speed, agility and strength we're used to as well as next-level vision. He seems like an elite back again. It's training camp, so grains of salt, but there it is. As a pass-protector, I'm concerned. I was of the opinion that heading out of 2013 and into 2014 that he was an average pass-protector that got a bad rap because of his earlier years (something that was sort of confirmed when Norv Turner argued that he was misused in this manner), but in camp so far he's been troubling.

Day Nine of camp, the most recent day, was his best so far, so it could be simply shaking the rust off of a skill he wasn't used to having anyway. His strength is there and his patience may have come back in that regard, so we will see.

Jerick McKinnon has continued working in a wider route tree than any of the other running backs and it seems clear that the Vikings currently intend to use him in a variety of ways, and in particular give him snaps in the slot and out wide that are not simple fast/now screens. I think his ability to track the ball and adjust to it is better than last year, and better than Adrian's, but I need more evidence that he can continue to succeed in the actual act of catching the ball. He has had issues holding on, though they don't seem as serious as they did last year. Perhaps I am projecting a little and giving way to optimism? I'm not sure, but it seems better.

Running the ball, he needs to be more decisive still, but isn't hesitating as much as he did last year. It's limiting his ability to create burst, especially on zone plays, but it's still not as bad as it was. I think the extra weight he added may have slowed him down a little bit, but I think the preseason games will be a better gauge of that. Still, as far as I can tell, I don't have too many issues with his vision at the moment.

He's a dogshit pass-protector.

Wow. I hope he gets better at this. He tries to cut when he shouldn't and doesn't cut when he should. He's not good at redirecting pass-rushers and swim moves destroy him. It's not as if he gets moved when he anchors; it's that his ability to hold ground doesn't matter.

Matt Asiata seems to have a little more speed in him this year, and I'm wondering if his move to lose weight will give him some speed. I don't think it will be adequate for him, mostly because his athletic profile does not suggest that it would help generally speaking. He's still weighty for a back, so it's not as if he's become a waifish stick-in-the-wind that will bounce off players, but it may limit him from his forte, which is short-yardage running ("is he *too* fast?" is not a question I expected to ask). I have not seen evidence of his vision that I'm comfortable reporting yet, but I assume it will be as high-level as it was last year.

His pass-catching has been fine, and he has more reliable hands than he's given credit for--a quality of his that seems to have bled over into training camp this year. As someone who was faster than he was last year, he could be a better asset in the passing game, though obviously don't expect explosive YAC. He gets yards with vision and intelligence and somehow finds ways open. That is nice.

I'm worried that his pass protection isn't up to the standard it was last year, where he was very effective. He has been moved a little bit and doesn't show quite the ability to redirect or anticipate. His angles are not as clean, either. With what I expect to be more pressure coming from the left side this year, it's a little concerning that last year's best pass-protector may be struggling in that department.

Joe Banyard is a better pass-protector than last year, it seems like, though that doesn't necessarily mean he's good. I've had issues with it, but his biggest problem last year wasn't technique, it was assignment. There hasn't been much. As for his vision, it seems better than I remember but not necessarily spectacular. His likelihood for bouncing things to the outside seems to have diminished, and it seems like none of the running backs on the roster are relying on that rookie crutch.

Dominique Williams is still a functional player that can fit in on most teams, and I think his high-level of agility is always surprising because of his build. That's a good asset, but I'd like to see him play with better vision. Though he usually has good hands, he did not in the past several days of camp, and logged more than one drop. He can adjust to the ball in the air better than most running backs on the roster can, so if he was forced to fill in, there would be a role for him.

DuJuan Harris has looked worse in pass protection than any other back, but occasionally has flashes of quickness in the passing game that exceed the rest of them, too. There haven't been enough reps for me to really evaluate his fit in the system or whether or not his vision in Green Bay translates in Minnesota. For the most part, he looks successful as a runner and could be a better player than Joe Banyard were it not for his injury history (extensive) and pass protection problems (severe).

Defensive/Offensive Line

I've been spending most of the day finding ways to quantify the reps I've been seeing in one-on-ones. For now, the most reps anyone has had has been 21, which is not enough to draw many conclusions about from a win/loss perspective, even if it's enough to start talking about technique and whatnot. Though it would be easy to say that the Griffen hype and Kalil pessimism could be dulled because of that, it should be noted that they have continued to look this way in unlogged 11-on-11 drills.

Matt Kalil never looked this bad when going up against All-Pro Jared Allen in camp, nor did he look this bad in 2013. Like Christian Ponder, Kalil may simply look the worst in his final year of camp. Note that these observations are all before a somewhat encouraging performance in the preseason game against Pittsburgh, where he did exactly what a starting-quality tackle should do against an opponent of the caliber he played against.

I've included "strength of opponent" adjustments, which are entirely organic; which is to say I don't determine how good a player is, but let the results speak for themselves. If Loadholt beats Hunter, who beats Kalil, who beats Trattou, then Trattou would be the weakest of the set. With 350 interrelated results among the 30 players, we have a full set of results that interact with each other to create a reasonable, if incomplete, adjustment for strength of opponent (which is to say, it gives us the ability to see what happens if Trattou loses to Kalil, but beats out Loadholt on a rep or so—weighting it all appropriately).

That is to say the quantified results are interesting, but not necessarily meaningful just yet. Here are the ranked results:

Player

Rank

SOS

Rank w/o SOS

Tom Johnson

1

3

3

Linval Joseph

2

4

6

Phil Loadholt

3

7

3

Mike Harris

4

2

12

John Sullivan

5

1

16

Sharrif Floyd

6

8

6

Scott Crichton

7

11

3

Joe Berger

8

6

9

Brian Robison

9

20

1

Shamar Stephen

10

5

16

Tyrus Thompson

11

9

12

Brandon Fusco

12

12

9

Austin Shepherd

13

15

9

Everson Griffen

14

26

2

Justin Trattou

15

19

6

Zac Kerin

16

14

12

Chigbo Anunoby

17

13

16

David Yankey

18

10

23

Tom Farniok

19

17

16

Chrishon Rose

20

23

16

Caesar Rayford

21

18

21

Isame Faciane

22

24

21

Danielle Hunter

23

25

23

Matt Kalil

24

21

28

B.J. Dubose

25

16

29

Leon Mackey

26

27

12

T.J. Clemmings

27

22

30

Babatunde Aiyegbusi

28

29

25

Bobby Vardaro

29

28

26

Carter Bykowski

30

30

26

The opponent adjustments are already taken into account when determining the rank, but I thought it would be useful to include it as a comparison. I don't really think that Kalil is as bad Babatunde Aiyegbusi (or a number of players that he's ranked below), but that's the danger of quantifying with only 21 reps (at most—average of 5.8 reps) to work with. I will be continuously updating this table to the best of my ability throughout camp, and will throw in work from 11s (but not 7-on-9, because it will be a purely pass-rush oriented grade).

People have talked a lot about Everson Griffen's great camp, but both Phil Loadholt and Brian Robison have dropped below the radar. To me, there's not much question that Loadholt has performed as the best offensive lineman so far, and it's encouraging to see that both Robison and Loadholt can rank highly because of how utterly they have dominated their matchups when not playing each other. In this case, the numbers meet the eye test.

Brian Robison also deserves credit for his pass deflection and near-pass deflection in the past several days.

I don't think these results speak too poorly to Danielle Hunter. He has lost to Loadholt and beaten most everyone else, and he's looked good all the while. For Loadholt-Hunter battles, I've often found it to be a judgment call and Hunter is doing a good job keeping their battles close. One loss against Aiyegbusi dropped him further than it should have as well, and I think his pre-camp hype is absolutely worth noting.

For a player like Shamar Stephen or Linval Joseph, I don't think the numbers match the eye test, at least so far. I think this will continue to be a problem for centers and nose tackles generally, and something we should take into account. I think both looked good, but Joseph in particular has looked great. Joseph continues to pierce the protection of the offensive line and show up at the center-snap exchange and he looks better in one-on-ones. Stephen also gets penetration, but hasn't been in as many obvious passing drills as Floyd and so has more often been asked to hold the fort in the A Gap, where he has done well—doing so against Kerin, Berger, Vardaro and Farniok in 11s. He does not look as good in one-on-ones as I seem to be gathering from the 11s.

Shariff Floyd is also a player I continue to be high on throughout camp. He's the kind of player whose stock rises in this kind of metric I think with more reps, and I have shockingly few logged in the database here so far of him. Not everything I saw made it into the database if only because the first day in pads didn't have the kind of logging that the second and third days in pads do.

Oh right, and how about that Tom Johnson? Great scores. He looks fan-freaking-tastic.

We'll see as camp progresses if this kind of logging has any worth.

Quickly:

That holds true to me, of course, even without the "numbers" to back it up. In fact, the eye test and the numbers match up much better if we reduce the importance of strength-of-opposition (instead of giving it equal weight, give it something like 25% weight).

I think that though Matt Kalil's play has improved throughout camp, his performance in camp (excluding the preseason game we watched) warrants a lot of worry. "Improvement" does not mean "good" and he was still playing, as of Day 12 of camp, horrendously. John Sullivan's struggles in the preseason are were not quite reflected in my observations, and I think he has been playing better in camp than he did in that drive. That isn't to say he has been excellent—he ranks 16th of the 30 players in raw success rate. It has just been the fact that both Floyd and Joseph have been excellent in the rankings above and Sullivan has handled every other DT he's been up against in both one-on-ones and in 11s, where he fared better against Floyd and Joseph than he did in one-on-ones.

I stand by that, and he had a great showing in the preseason drive to boot. He has been dominant.

Tyrus Thompson's play fell of quite a ways before the preseason game, and his first two days of relative success have not translated. Since then, he hasn't had a good day at guard. Zac Kerin is doing a good job, and it's notable that he grabbed first-team center snaps while Sullivan was with his wife during their child's birth and while Joe Berger was injured. He isn't showing dominant strength, but solid leverage and seems to be making the right calls in protection.

David Yankey is showing up much more as a left tackle, where he played alright, than as a guard where he had some issues in the later days of camp. The most pleasant surprise thus far has been Mike Harris at right guard. I entered camp with severe reservations about his ability to start, and I truly expected a player like David Yankey to win the job from him. He doesn't just look like a starting-quality player, he looks like a genuinely reliable guard. We'll see, but so far, so good.

I haven't done much observation of Brandon Fusco, but I would wager that his performance in 11s is matching his performance in one-on-ones. From what I can tell, he's doing an even better job of adjusting to delayed blitzes and general OL awareness, and has retained his ability overall as a guard. While I was not a fan of him moving to left guard for a few reasons, he is settling in there well. If he is 85% as effective at left guard as he was at right guard in 2013, he will be a very good left guard. It seems to be better than that at the moment.

Eden Prairie native Carter Bykowski is hard to gauge because of his injury absence, but he was not doing very well at left tackle when I saw him, and had a lot of issues containing Danielle Hunter. You can see above that his reps have not spoken very well of him in one-on-ones, and though he's done a much better job in 11s, I'm not sure he makes the cutoff for a 9- or 10-man offensive line (even though he is currently the second string).

Polish tackle Babatunde Aiyegbusi is probably the worst player in camp, despite what the rough chart above may indicate about the state of the offensive and defensive linemen. That is to be expected and I hope the NFL allows an international exemption for the practice squad, because seeing how much a player like him can grow (technically, at least) in one year will be absolutely exciting.

The former Alabama tackle who was supposed to be a guard and is now a tackle (in camp; having played guard a little in the preseason), Austin Shepherd has looked better than I expected him to. His rankings in the one-on-ones are average, but that is pretty good for a third-string lineman—especially given the fact that his raw success rate is very high.

As for defensive linemen, I mentioned Everson and Brian's performances above, as well as much of the line rotation, like Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen. Worth noting is Leon Mackey, who has improved in camp noticeably in my eyes. Initially, he was only able to beat Babs in one-on-ones, and he didn't do it all of the time. That would be grounds for cutting at the 75-man deadline to me. Lately, he's had success against all the left tackles. Some less than others, but still an optimistic outlook.

He only had four snaps in the preseason game, but they weren't bad or anything. He was noted for picking up things quickly while working with coaches in the Arizona Rattlers organization and that ability to pick things up quickly may be translating.

I do not have any notes on Scott Crichton. He has been injured. Both Crishon Rose and Chigbo Anunoby impressed me to varying degrees early on in camp, but did not follow through with that (in my eyes) with consistently impressive performances. Of the two, I think Anunoby is better and if the Vikings keep five defensive tackles, I'd prefer the fifth be Anunoby despite the fact that NTs are less useful than 3Ts in depth. I'm not sure how my answer changes if we understand B.J. DuBose to be a defensive tackle and not a defensive end.

Linebackers

With an increase in the focus of linebackers at the expense of wide receivers and cornerbacks, it's a little easier to tell who is slipping on their blocking assignments, who flows to the ball and who lacks the fundamental skills needed for the position.

Chad Greenway continues to look good in camp. He plays with confidence and moves to the ball well, and does not tend to miss his assignment. There are still moments of concern, including repeated instances of getting sucked up in play action or an odd movement in zone coverage, but for the most part he looks good. In drills, he's had good moments uncoiling into blocking dummies, shedding blockers or controlling run lanes and tackling with form. He did have issues in run lane assignment drills, often working too quickly into a lane that was being pressed by a running back instead of attacked, but largely succeeded in individual drills as well as he did in scrimmage.

His biggest weaknesses, as they appear in camp, have been surprisingly late diagnosis (which gives rise to susceptibility to fakes) and occasional moments of lethargy, as when he disposed of a blocker but still missed his way to a running back.

Audie Cole has looked great in camp. It isn't just filling in lanes and meeting his assignments, it's shedding blocks and flowing to the ball. He did that in the preseason game as well, and it looks like things are translating for him, and how. He initially looked solid as a pass-rusher in one-on-ones, but he tailed off, and had issues beating anyone but Banyard to the quarterback.

Before Anthony Barr's participation was reduced, I thought his performance in team drills and individual drills was good. He did a good job running through blocking dummies (in a good way) and exploding through his hips, an occasional issue of his last year. He flowed well in drills and didn't seem to make mistakes in run fits.

Having Gerald Hodges play in Barr's place has been nice, and it seems like the Vikings have some excellent combination of linebackers they can play between Barr, Cole, Kendricks and Hodges. Hodges has been playing faster this year (not physically, but mentally). This camp is a lot different for him; he's energetic and vocal. His communication was a big part of what he needed to work on in 2014, and Zimmer has argued that Hodges didn't just improve his ability to communicate, but his understanding of the defense.

He has been performing well in individual drills as well and is a solid pass-rusher in elevens. I haven't been able to watch him engage (or disengage) from blocks, but he's flowing to the ball well. He needs to be more consistent about his pass rush, however, and his work in individual drills against running backs and tight ends was very poor. I suspect Hodges' true pass-rush ability it somewhere in the middle between his performance in individual drills and my scant observations of him in team drills.

Eric Kendricks popped off the tape in the preseason game, and his performance in camp is a reflection of that. His strength is showcasing well in camp, and he's performing as a better middle linebacker taking on blocks than I expected. He has the ability to squeeze lanes if that's what the scheme calls for or the ability to shed blocks and make the tackle himself—both things that were probably his biggest knocks coming out of college.

His pass-rush in elevens has been unusual because the times I've seen him do it, he hasn't been picked up by an offensive linemen, which is a better test of his ability than bowling over Joe Banyard. In individuals, he wasn't able to get past Blake Renaud. Still, his instincts have been top-notch and it's been fun watching him play. He has a lot of pop when taking on blocks and has attacked the ball.

Brandon Watts has been inconsistent between the different days and has had some very bad days and some very good days. His speed has been on full display and he did a good job flying to the flats on horizontal plays. But he's missed his gap assignment and has been spotty in coverage, with good plays to come with the bad. He's doing well on special teams. He has done very well in pass-rush drills, but not a great job getting off of blocks on running plays.

Converted former safety Brian Peters looks like a safety and his build is a little difficult to get used to in the linebacker corps. It doesn't help that he wears a number that safeties could wear (#45). That size is sometimes a problem, as he hasn't shown an ability to reliably get off of blocks in the run game, even when the OL blocking him hasn't been all that great. But Peters has been showing up in the passing game with pass deflections nearly every other day and solid positioning.

Like Watts, Edmond Robinson has been inconsistent, but has shown a lot more strength at the point of attack, which makes him intriguing—even if he's not as fast as Watts (despite himself being a very fast guy). Robinson has worked himself up the special teams depth charts and that alone is worth keeping an eye on. The initial special teams rosters had him in very limited roles deep on the second and third units of some of the special teams rosters. Since those earlier days, he's had time with the ones of various units and earned praise from Mike Priefer for his preseason play.

I didn't get the chance to look at him in the context of running lanes and discipline, but I can say he needs work as a pass-rusher. His long arms should help there, as they've helped him in pass coverage. His movement needs to be more efficient, but it is at least smooth.

I don't have many notes on Michael Mauti but I will say that he's improved as a pass-rusher and is playing disciplined. He may need to play more aggressively or faster, but the small sample I have of his play isn't really sufficient enough to make that diagnosis. I have similar sample problems for Josh Kaddu, but he's had more obvious strength issues in drills and elevens for me to feel more confident about his chances of making the team (slim). Kaddu is best as a pass-rusher and doesn't seem to be as cognizant of his run responsibilities.

Secondary

Trae Waynes' improvement has been notable in the past several days, though nothing has met his performance from the family football night. The efficiency of his footwork isn't something that's easy to gauge, but I would argue that he is at least doing a better job of keeping in line with receivers through a variety of routes. Both Ben Leber (during camp) and Bucky Brooks (during the preseason game) noted that Waynes is better in press coverage than off coverage and that his bad play comes in off coverage. While that seems true during the game (if overblown), it's a little bit of an exaggeration to say that's the core of the issue he's been having in camp or the reason for his "sudden" improvement.

Again, he had issue with in-breaking routes, especially the dig route, and lost leverage on post routes, but held up well on streaks, comebacks/curls (an issue earlier in camp) and on short routes. How he holds up against the corner route, I have yet to see. It's a relatively rare route run so far in camp and I'm also surprised at how uncommon it is in the NFL given its applicability to zone coverage (and Cover-2 in particular). It makes some sense, though--it's one of the hardest rhythm throws you can ask a quarterback to execute, especially in a five-step system.

Terence Newman and Xavier Rhodes continue to look good, and truth be told, Newman has been having a better camp than Rhodes. That isn't to say Rhodes is having a bad camp or anything, simply that Newman has been very good. The fact that he keeps largely step for step in stride with players like Mike Wallace and Charles Johnson is mind-boggling to me. He does a great job of reacting to the play as it develops, whether it's turning his head with the receiver to look for the ball or cutting underneath a route. He's great at disrupting the catch before it turns into possession, too. Both Wallace and Johnson have described Newman as "frustrating" and watching him makes that seem like an understatement at times.

It's not that Newman is playing like Sherman or Revis—he can get beat, especially deep, and he doesn't read receivers as well as either with fewer physical skills to make up for mistakes. But he looks better in camp than he did in play last year for the Bengals and he was alright for them.

Rhodes has looked fine as well and is winning a lot of matchups. There's simply less press in camp this year, so it's harder to see him in the exact situation he excels in

To say Harrison Smith looks good would be boring, but it's true. He's had much more struggle with pass-rushing in camp this year than last year (and he did identify it as an area to improve upon despite leading safeties in sacks last year, as well as sacks+hits+hurries), and his individual drills in the area have been the worst so far of the linebacker-safety group. Still Harrison is obviously a top-level safety talent and while I've seen a number of safeties beaten over the top or to the sideline, I don't think I've seen it happen to Smith. Like an offensive lineman, sometimes safeties are better when you don't notice them.

In doing play by play for camp, it's easy to remark on Shaun Prater getting thrown over or at, but Harrison is not very often targeted. A lot of times this is because of box play, but many times it is because of his leverage. He is doing well in the box when called upon, too, and does a good job providing second-level run support (as if he were a linebacker) as well as third-level force/spill work. On the edge, he redirects runners, but in the box, he'll often attack them.

Every other safety, including the three competing for the spot next to Smith, have made big mistakes. While Robert Blanton is and probably should be leading the pack, he's hardly exciting. He's made his share of errors, but has done a better job of positioning himself where he needs to be. While he still needs to work on run angles, it's something he improved upon over the season last year and maintained in camp.

Andrew Sendejo and Antone Exum have similar problems, but Sendejo may be playing better of the two. Both have issues staying on top, in part because they react late to route developments, but Sendejo is doing a better job being aggressive to the ball. He dropped an interception the other day, but for the most part has adjusted to quarterbacks better and is better at squeezing seams when they are attacked by receivers. Exum seems to be fitting into runs better, but for the most part, Sendejo looks better.

Jabari Price continues to impress me. I don't know, he looks like the third-best corner on the team. He tracks well on nearly every route, challenge big receivers in the air, plays physically and contests the ball. It's clear that his height is a ceiling and it's a problem, but he's just playing well. He doesn't seem to bite on route fakes and pushes players to the sideline on outbreaking routes. He has some trouble over the middle and when the ball is placed well (yes, all CBs have a problem when the ball is placed well, but for him more than most). I like Price and want to see him play against first-team players more.

Punter returner/scapegoat/cornerback Marcus Sherels has had a good few days in practice, but nothing astounding. For the most part when he plays on the outside he looks a little better than Trae Waynes, and has had issue with faster receivers, though interestingly enough, not necessarily taller receivers. Or rather, his issues with receivers tend to be related more to speed or route-running than height. Still, he's certainly playing like a rosterable corner.

Receiving a lot of attention from Mike Zimmer has been DeMarcus Van Dyke, but I don't think he'll end up challenging for anything, unless it's a practice squad spot. It's partially because of the depth of talent at corner, but also because he hasn't been interesting. I don't think he's playing particularly well and he isn't as fast as his listed speed (which isn't to say he's not fast) and can get pushed around a lot. I think he's either reading plays poorly or not reacting well to the plays he's figured out. Either way, it's a bit of a liability. If he plays more confidently, he'll play better.

I didn't catch much of Josh Thomas, Jalil Carter or Justin Coleman but Carter did improve over my initial impression of him, while Coleman has more to do. Thomas doesn't get on the field much but did have a great play or two yesterday.

Shaun Prater has been more of a liability than a help, and his splash play in the preseason game is not representative of his camp. That isn't to say he hasn't had his shining moments: on at least one day he had the second-best safety in camp. But for the most part, he is late to the ball and takes too long to react to the quarterback/route combinations.

I haven't seen much of Anthony Harris play at safety, but it hasn't been altogether amazing. Like Sendejo and Exum, it's up-and-down and he gets bodied frequently. He can't seem to close down on the sideline, or stay on top if he shouldn't close. Unlike Sendejo, he's not aggressive about jumping routes. A lot of this could be because he needs a year for the game to slow down (and to add weight).

I hope this was worth the wait.