Hey gang, with the Friday practice wrapped up, let’s recap what we saw.
On offense, I still can’t really get a feel for the offensive line. The Vikings put on pads tomorrow afternoon, and then we’ll find out a lot, but for now, these are more educated guesses than anything. Although I will say it ‘feels’ like the team is practicing at close to full speed, even with shells.
RT Mike Remmers started out okay, but as the afternoon wore on, his performance dropped. He gave up at least two, and probably three sacks. Jarrod Hill fared a little better, and although the interior line seemed to form a pretty good pocket for Sam Bradford when he set up to pass, the Vikings running backs didn’t seem to be able to get to the second level untouched. There was a lot of traffic for them to navigate 2-3 yards past the line of scrimmage, and had that been a full contact scrimmage it feels like most of the runs would have been of the two, three, and four yard variety.
That said, when RB Dalvin Cook got some daylight, he has a gear that reminds me of Percy Harvin in a lot of ways. He really passes the eye test, and I think the Vikings might have a really good football player here. He has exceptional vision and cutback ability, and is smooth catching the ball out of the backfield. Yes, yes, let’s see how he looks in pads and all that, but he is easily the best running back on this football team, from what I’ve seen.
Bradford had a really good day. I can only think of two passes off the top of my head that were poor throws, and one of them you could make the argument the coverage by Harrison Smith was solid, and Bradford threw it to the only place the receiver had a chance to get the ball, only it was dropped. And again, I don’t know if it’s because of the shells only, but Bradford seems to be doing a really good job of stepping up in the pocket, and using his feet to give himself more time to throw. He looks really comfortable in the offense, and seems very much at ease as the Vikings signal caller.
I focused most of my attention on the offensive line today, so my observations of the defense as a whole are limited. What I will tell you is that the Vikings defensive line looks to be downright ferocious. Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter looked utterly terrifying coming off the edge, and in a somewhat ‘oh, that’s interesting’ move, they were switching sides fairly regularly this afternoon. I don’t know if this is something that will become a thing or not, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.
I watched a lot of the wide receivers individual position drills, and my impression is that this is a sneaky-good unit, with more depth than we might have expected. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are picking up right where they left off, and Laquon Treadwell looks like he is really having a bounce back camp so far. He did have a bad drop on a well thrown Bradford pass, but he shows more burst coming out of his breaks than at anytime last year, and made a few nice catches over the middle.
And another guy that had a really good day is Michael Floyd. It kind of felt that every big catch a receiver made today was made by Floyd. Yeah, he has a four game suspension coming, but a four deep of Diggs/Thielen/Treadwell/Floyd looks pretty impressive right now.
After that, the other receiver that really stands out is Cayleb Jones. He runs drills with precision, and the sloppiness I noted during individual unit drills didn’t come from him. If The Gang of Four above are your top four receivers, and they appear to be, then Rodney Adams and Jones seem to be the top candidates for the fifth receiver right now. After that, I think you can rank order them any way you want and you won’t be wrong, starting with Jarius Wright.
I think we’ll get a lot of answers about the offensive line tomorrow afternoon, when the team has their first full pads practice. If you put a gun to my head right now and say ‘evaluate the offensive line, dummy’ I will say they definitely look better than past offensive lines I’ve witnessed under similar circumstances in Mankato. Remmers had a tough second half of practice, but I thought he was okay to start. The run blocking was better, but there were no gaping holes. The gains were mostly of the 3-4 yard variety, which isn’t great, but it’s not the train wreck we saw last year. I guess the best word I can use right now is inconsistent...while not great, is much better than ‘eye bleeding toxic waste that makes you want to literally vomit on every play’.
So there’s that.
Finally, on the injury front Riley Reiff didn’t practice again. During practice, LB Kentrell Brothers seemed to injure his hamstring. After the play was over, he was in noticeable discomfort, and down on the ground for several minutes. He was gingerly helped away from where the team was practicing, and was carted off the field towards the locker room.