Tuesday’s training camp practices featured mostly rookies as the veterans are just reporting on Wednesday. The afternoon session began with special teams drills on one practice field, while the quarterbacks and offensive lineman worked technique drills on the other field. The task for Special Teams was punt formations. Rodney Adams and Stacey Coley were back deep fielding punts from the ball machine. Neither player looked as smooth and natural as Marcus Sherels fielding punts, but I noted that Coley muffed one of his, while Adams caught all of his. After those punt drills, they moved to more fake punt formations. I won’t reveal too much about those, but I will say that Taylor Symmank did not look great taking a handoff, and fullback C.J. Ham did not look great passing the ball. I think they are better suited to run traditional punts and leave the trickery for other teams and players.
I walked over to the other field to take a look at the offensive lineman drills, and I got an up close and personal look at Tony Sparano’s coaching style. As a teacher myself, I was very impressed. His attention to detail, technique and instruction to the rookies was outstanding. I observed for about 5 minutes and his focus with all five offensive lineman (that is all they have for the rookies) was their footwork. He was giving them specific direction about where and how to move their feet as they explode out of their stance, and referencing things they had already studied about themselves on film review. For as much flack as the offensive line has gotten over the years (especially last year), based on this limited viewing, I’d say that the issues don’t lie with Sparano’s coaching. He strikes me as a “teacher’s coach”, which is something Zimmer has talked about wanting in his coaching staff a number of times.
From there, the players broke into position-specific drills, and I had a front-row seat for the wide receivers. I noted that again Rodney Adams and Stacey Coley were the quickest out of the breaks in come-back drills, and overall looked to be the smoothest and fastest technicians. Coley in particular drew repeated praise from the coaches. Cayleb Jones is one of the tallest receivers in the group yesterday, but also one of the slowest. Moritz Bohringer continued to show his unrefined technique as he was slow out of breaks, and dropped some easy passes in the catching drills.
Later on in the afternoon they finally got to the 11 on 11 session. There was a lot of action happening all at once, but here is a list of some of the notes I took during the session in terms of who was making plays and who was getting beat.
-DB Terrell Sinkfield (converted from WR) made a nice defensive stop while covering WR Stacy Coley
-QB Case Keenum overthrew a wide open WR RJ Shelton who got open against CB Tre Roberson
-DB Antone Exum Jr. (coverted to CB from S) brokeup a pass to Rodney Adams in tight coverage
-DT Jaleel Johnson was consistently generating interior push
-LB Elijah Lee burst into the backfield for a nice TFL
-There was a miscommunication between CB Jack Tocho as he passed off WR RJ Shelton to CB Tre Roberson, and Shelton took advantage with a nice catch over the middle.
-DB Jack Tocho missed contain on the following play allowing a decent run gain
-Case Keenum worked several short passes to TE Bucky Hodges
-RT Arturo Uzdavinis did a great job picking up a corner blitz by CB Jack Tocho
-TE Kyle Carter beats Exum on a shallow crosser, Keenum hits Carter again on a great crossing pattern in stride
-DE Ifeadi Odenigbo generated some push and received some praise from Zimmer for it
-Case Keenum hits Stacey Coley on a quick slant
-TE Nick Truesdell catches several shallow crossing routes
-Taylor Heinicke misses Isaac Fruechte on a 3rd and long play, although Fruechte may have been held by Exum
-DT Chunky Clements throws his hands up and gets a nice blocked pass
-DT Dylan Bradley falls for the hard count and jumps offsides
-LB Ben Gedeon gets lost in zone coverage and allows a big pass play
I had an incredible time covering training camp yesterday. While most folks would be interested in seeing the superstars and the household names as they report in today and begin practice tomorrow, I had a great time getting a more intimate look at all these rookies and new players. Most of them will not get the same level of reps once the veterans and starters arrive, so these first three days are a chance for these players to show the coaching staff what they can do.
It’s still extremely early, but there were several rookies that stood out to me. If I had to pick some that I thought might have a good shot to make the final roster, or at least the practice squad, I would go with the following:
RB: Dalvin Cook
WR: Rodney Adams, Stacey Coley
TE: Bucky Hodges, Nick Truesdell
OL: Pat Elfein, Danny Isidora
DL: Jaleel Johnson, Ifeadi Odenigbo
LB: Ben Gedeon, Elijah Lee
I was hoping I would get to see the kickers in action, as K Koehn and P Symmank were both at practice yesterday, but I did not see either of them do any real kicking. Perhaps they will wait until the veterans arrive, or maybe they were kicking on the opposite field during 11 on 11s and I just missed it. Either way, that’s something I’ll be paying attention to as our other writers offer their coverage of camp over the next few days.
I’d like to thank Christopher Gates and the Vikings for giving me the opportunity to cover training camp, and I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed being there and writing about it! There are some talented rookies that the team has brought in, and I hope some of them can leave a lasting impact. At the very least, the coaching staff should have some difficult decisions to make!