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More Vikings OTA Tidbits

NFL: Preseason-Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings are about half-way through OTAs now, and there continue to be little bits and nuggets of news and info that filter out about how things are going.

Here are a few more:

Mike Hughes

There continues to be positive buzz about how Hughes is showing up on the field, his demeanor, and how quickly he’s picking things up at corner. He’s been getting time playing both outside and in the slot, working with the third team. Additionally, he’s getting reps as both punt and kick returner, and it seems the Vikings are grooming him for those positions. Special Teams coach Mike Priefer seemed to indicate he’s performing better as a kick returner so far, and that they are continuing to teach him the various techniques associated with punt returns.

Holton Hill

Hill also continues to get positive buzz about how he’s doing on the field- playing opposite Hughes on third team as well. Tom Pelissaro reports that Hill told him he sought treatment last fall for his marijuana use, and that he hasn’t smoked since then (which may contradict a report that he failed the drug test at the Combine). He’s also seeking positive influences from the DB group around him and is focused on making better choices, so all that bodes well. There wasn’t much doubt that he showed starting-level ability in the NFL from his tape in college, and he has impressive measureables too, so if he’s able to keep clean off the field, the Vikings may have just landed another diamond in the UDFA market. Pelissero reported that the Vikings gave him $75,000 guaranteed, which is a huge amount for a UDFA contract. Nevertheless, that’s a pittance in guaranteed money by NFL standards if he makes the team and eventually becomes a starter or contributor.

Carlson v. Forbath

5th round draft pick Daniel Carlson may be off to the early lead in the kicker competition. Apparently both kickers had 5 longer field goal attempts in an OTA this week, and Carlson made all five, including a couple from 50+ yard range. Forbath went 3-5, missing two in the 40 - 49 yard range. Mike Priefer is charting all their kicks, so advantage Carlson so far. I suspect Carlson also has the advantage in kickoffs, as he has a stronger leg that should result in more touchbacks than Forbath. Still, I don’t expect the kicker competition to be decided until after at least a few pre-season games. It may becoming Carlson’s job to lose, however.

Kirk Cousins

Cousins continues to generate positive buzz, most of it around his throwing mechanics and accuracy. Coaches and receivers alike have had many positive comments. One that stood out to me reported by Tom Pelissero:

One of Cousins’ former coaches once told me he also processes as well as any QB in the league, reacting to what he’s seeing and getting the ball out without thinking. That trait probably contributed to high interception totals early in Cousins’ career, but he’d learn from those mistakes and improve.

Hopefully that will be the case, as perhaps the biggest negative stat in Cousins’ stat line has been his turnovers, averaging 17 per season between interceptions and lost fumbles over his three years as a starter.

It was also reported that the Vikings are continuing to emphasize and work on red zone and third down situations in OTAs. They did so last year as well, and coaches continue to focus on doing well in those situations. Apparently while at Philadelphia, OC John DeFilippo headed up the red zone offense, which the Eagles and Carson Wentz led the league in success rate last season. Cousins has under-performed in the red zone since becoming a starter, so this work should help him improve in this area as well.

Offensive Line

As Christopher Gates posted, Mike Remmers is taking reps at right guard with the starters, along with Riley Reiff at LT, Danny Isidora at LG, Nick Easton at C for the injured Pat Elflein, and Rashod Hill taking over at RT. I’d be willing to bet the farm, if I had one, that this won’t be the last starting combination the Vikings experiment with over the course of the off/pre-season. It may not be until mid-August before the Vikings decide on their starting five offensive linemen. Riley Reiff at left tackle is about the only sure thing, barring injury, that I would count on opening day.

It was also reported that Nick Easton is pushing for a contract extension, after the Vikings executed the tender on his contract, good for $2.9 million this year. That makes Easton the highest paid offensive linemen on the roster after Reiff and Remmers (Reiff makes about as much as the rest of the OL roster combined). That may create a burden on Easton to deliver in the off/pre-season to justify his deal- which is not guaranteed and no dead cap hit if the Vikings chose to go another way.

Anthony Barr

The Vikings seemed to emphasize in the video clips and interviews from OTAs that Barr is now taking part, after missing last week’s OTAs. Apparently he missed them because he was out getting an injury insurance policy to cover future potential income in the event he is injured in this his last year of his rookie deal. Timing may not have been ideal, but to me this is another instance of the Vikings being too secretive for seemingly no reason - as has been the case on occasion with injuries in the past. I’m not sure why the reason for Barr’s absence could not have been mentioned until after he returned. I imagine his return could have been delayed if there was a problem underwriting the policy, but still not a reason to just mention why he’s out and move on.

In any case, it’s nice to see the Vikings have a full contigent of players on hand for voluntary OTAs, which is always a good sign compared to numerous teams with hold outs on non-participants, especially given the limited practice time allowed under the CBA.

In terms of a contract extension, Ben Goessling tweeted that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Vikings had some long talks with Barr’s agent, who they’ve had a long and productive relationship with over the years, possibly leading to getting a deal done.

Not Too Many Other Mentions of Value

Other than that, not too much else of value out there. Lots of general ‘he looks good’ type things as usual from players and coaches, to be taken with a grain of salt. For the linemen, not much to talk about until padded practices, so it’s not unusual there’s not much talk there. Not much talk of value this week about receivers either, so apparently not any standouts so far among new receivers.

Overall, it seems there is still a lot to learn on the offensive side, with new QB and OC, which is expected, and progress is being made. Not much negative news or buzz so far either, which is good, and injuries have been few and minor - knock on wood.

Bottom line: so far, so good.