It feels fantastic to be back in Mankato covering Training Camp for the Daily Norseman. It’s like getting a mid-summer Christmas present to be able to be on the sidelines, right up close to the action with a press pass. When I arrived to the media area at Blakeslee Stadium, I stopped right behind the goalpost and kind of took it all in. I turned to look behind me, and literally 2 feet from where I was standing sat Coach Zimmer in a golf car. He was right there you guys! I’m grateful to be able to have this kind of access and to be able to share it all with you.
Today was a mostly rookies day, as the bulk of the team will not report to training camp until tomorrow, but there is a lot to learn in a practice like this, because those rookies that are getting the bulk of the reps are likely the ones that the coaches like the most. This morning revealed a lot, even though it was a simple walk-through practice. The team started off working offense and defense at opposite ends of the field for the first 30 minutes, and then did 10 minutes of offense vs defense, followed by about 20 minutes of special teams work.
I watched the offensive drills first, since they were happening right by the media area goal post. I made note of the starting lineup and here is what I could make out:
QB: Case Keenum
RB: Dalvin Cook
WR: Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley and Cayleb Jones
TE: Nick Truesdell
OL: LT Aviante Collins, LG Freddie Tagaloa, C Pat Elflein, RG Danny Isidora, RT Sam McCaskill
The offensive line basically stayed intact during the entire morning session, but other skill position players rotated in at QB, RB, WR and TE. Both Keenum and Taylor Heinicke threw a number of passes, and unfortunately, both were inconsistent. I wouldn’t read too much into it, because it was pretty windy and it was a half-speed walk-through on only the second day of training camp with mostly rookies. But it’s worth pointing out that some of their passes were not placed well, or were wobbly in their release. It’s also worth mentioning that Zimmer talked about that same inconsistency in his presser and said that the two of them are battling for the backup spot behind Sam Bradford, and that Preseason games will determine who gets the #2 spot. Wes Lunt also got a few reps, but did mostly hand-offs.
At running back, Dalvin Cook is as speedy as advertised. He looked quick and was able to find the cut-back lanes with ease. CJ Ham and Terrell Newby also got some reps at running back, and unlike Cook, both just took what the blocking gave them. I spotted Latavius Murray on the sideline, mostly just standing around and observing, although he did a little stretching as well. He did not get any reps during the walk-through from what I could tell.
The two most favored wide receiver targets this morning were WR Rodney Adams and WR Cayleb Jones. Adams lined up outside and in the slot, while Jones was primarily outside. Speaking of Adams, he looked very smooth in his routes and also got some looks at punt returner. He got a lot of reps in general this morning, and Zimmer praised him and Stacy Coley in the morning presser. I know it’s early, but I think Adams might be the #MrMankato frontrunner. Moritz Bohringer got a few looks in walkthrough, catching a shallow crosser from Case Keenum. Zimmer also talked at length about MoBo during the presser mentioning that he has a real shot to make the team. He said that he is “still aways away” from making the final roster and still needs to work on “bump and run, catching the ball and getting in and out of his cuts”, but noted that he has made significant improvement from last year: catching the ball better and learning the playbook better.
Tight End Nick Truesdell also stood out in the walkthrough, literally. The guy is built like a tower, and his height and size shows up big time in person. He caught a number of passes, and was also getting some pass blocking reps. He could give Adams a run for his money in the Mr. Mankato competition.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch much of the defensive side of the equation, because they were on the opposite side of the field. But I hope to get a glimpse of some of that during the afternoon session. Speaking of the afternoon session, they will still not be in pads, but it should be a little more full speed action. I am aiming to get my write-up of the afternoon session out sometime tomorrow morning, so keep your eyes open for that and be sure to follow me on twitter @CCNorseman for some photos and live tweets the rest of today.