Today is the last day of Vikings minicamp, and the last team activity until training camp starts at the end of July, so we’re about to go into the dead spot of NFL football news, which is typically filled with reports of players doing stupid things - which happily haven’t involved any Vikings the last few years if memory serves - and hopefully won’t this year either.
But getting back to minicamp, there are a few more tidbits out there worth mentioning:
- Anthony Barr has been working with the defensive line group to improve his pass rushing skills, may see more action off the edge ?
More from #Vikings minicamp:— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) June 13, 2018
-Anthony Barr working on pass-rush moves w/ DL during positioning drills. Vikings want more out of him off the edge.
-Rookie Mike Hughes w/ a deflection from left corner, guarding Jake Wieneke.
-DT Jaleel Johnson getting run w/ 1's
I see this as a positive development, as Barr’s best PFF grading comes as a pass rusher. Could also be a sign of some new wrinkles Zimmer and company have in store this year. In his press conference today he was asked about Barr as a pass rusher, and I got the sense he didn’t want to talk too much about it - but that had been the plan from early in the spring.
- Speaking of that, Mike Zimmer did mention in an interview with Paul Allen, that they had been experimenting with some new things on defense, and that it’s gone well so far. I suspect we may see more of what those new things are in training camp and in pre-season games.
- The defense, not surprisingly, appears well ahead of the offense in team drills. The offense is learning their new scheme, while the defense is so well versed in their scheme they were told to ratchet it down a little. Apparently after exchanging audibles, the defense audibled again something they hadn’t taught the new guys yet (in this case Sheldon Richardson), so the coaches had to tell them to slow it down a bit at this stage. Talk about good problems to have.
- With Everson Griffen out with a tweaked knee, Danielle Hunter has been playing his spot at RDE, and apparently showcasing some new pass rush tools he’s developed over the off season, in addition to having become an even more fearsome physical specimen. He looks to be around 270 pounds now - with maybe 5-10 pounds of body fat - which is to say he’s all muscle. In any case, it’s good to give him reps at RDE, as I could see him taking over that role at some point, and rotating with Griffen at times this year too.
- Speaking of weight, Rashod Hill said he lost about 13 pounds this off-season, going from about 325 to 312, which has helped him move better, and may also help his endurance. He commented about being fatigued late in the playoff games, so he decided to cut out the midnight snacks and improve his diet. All that bodes well for Hill, who looks like the current favorite at right tackle. He’s been playing with the 1s.
- Brian O’Neill, who has been busy putting on weight, still hasn’t lost any of his athleticism, which was on display - as previously reported on the DN - catching passes with the offense. O’Neill was a TE before he converted to OL, so catching passes is not something new for him. His ability and athleticism should add a new wrinkle on tackle-eligible plays.
- On the kicker competition, Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer seemed to downplay Daniel Carlson’s advantage somewhat, saying that he was only a couple field goals better than Forbath from his charting, but he also liked his kickoff ability. Carlson missed his first two in front of the media, from 35 and 55, while Forbath missed one from 46. He was also asked when a decision would be made on who the kicker would be, and he deferrred to Zimmer and Spielman. He said he gave his two-cents, but what happens remains to be seen. I suspect they’re waiting to see how Carlson does in pre-season games before making a final decision, but it remains Carlson’s job to lose.
- Mike Zimmer continued his praise of first-round draft pick Mike Hughes, saying he’s done as well picking up what’s being thrown at him as any cornerback he can remember. He went on to say MacKenzie Alexander feels pushed, and the competition is good. Apparently that competition will continue as well:
Mike Hughes will continue studying nickel position for next five weeks before camp, he said. Still the focus after 13 practices, which they’ve used in past as a gauge for if a player can handle it. They seem to think Hughes can.— Andrew Krammer (@Andrew_Krammer) June 14, 2018
Hughes’ progress at this point is a positive surprise, but I’m not sure if he’ll be able to supplant Alexander and/or Newman at slot corner. He seems to be making a case so far anyway.
- MacKenzie Alexander isn’t the only one Hughes is pushing either. He continues to split reps with Marcus Sherels for both kick and punt returns. From Mike Priefer’s comments, he seems comfortable with Hughes as a kick returner, but continuing to teach him punt return technique, which he said he is picking up well. If he’s able to do that well enough by the end of training camp, and I expect he will, he’ll likely displace the previously undisplacable Marcus Sherels.
- Defensive secondary getting the best of the QBs. Kirk Cousins threw a couple picks yesterday- which he said he was salty about. One he described as not being able to get through his throwing motion well enough so it went short and got picked, the other he described as testing what he could get away with on a particular throw, going on to say this is the time to experiment with throws a little, when there are no real consequences. Trevor Siemian also threw a pick, but continues to get praise all around on how he’s looked in OTAs and minicamp so far.
- Also looking good are both running backs Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray. Cook is ahead of schedule in his rehab, and has been able to start working with the team and the latest reports are that he’s proving to be the same Dalvin Cook as last year, pre-injury. Latavius Murray also is looking very good, helped by not having to rehab an ankle injury like he did last year. Mike Boone appears to be getting most of the reps as the third running back in minicamp. Mack Brown was described as limited.
- As mentioned in a tweet above, Jaleel Johnson got some work with the 1s at DT, which is a sign he’ll be more heavily involved in the rotation this year - Zimmer has hinted at that as well - most likely behind Sheldon Richardson at 3-tech. Zimmer also mentioned David Perry would be at NT (no surprise), behind Linval Joseph.
- As previously reported on the DN and elsewhere, Terence Newman took some reps at safety. If Mike Hughes and/or MacKenzie Alexander prove to be stronger in the slot than Newman, he could potentially be used situationally at safety, as a fourth corner, and a backup at pretty much every DB spot.
- Laquon Treadwell is having a good OTA and minicamp. He’s had a couple nice catches - one for 50 yards - which may help him with his rapport with Kirk Cousins. Mike Zimmer has said he’s done a good job not pushing himself too much as well, although Treadwell himself seems to bristle a bit about comparisons with previous years and proving people wrong. Treadwell also commented that one thing he liked about DeFilippo’s offense was that there are a lot of moving parts and it’s harder for the defense to know where the quarterback is going with the ball. Interesting.
- Brandon Zylstra continues to get good buzz at WR, but beyond that there hasn’t been much at all on receivers further down the depth chart. Haven’t heard much of substance on Kendall Wright, and next to nothing on any of the other wide outs. Jeff Badet has missed most of OTAs and minicamp with an ankle injury, and Stacy Coley has missed a lot of time too. But no news is not good news for guys further down the list trying to make the team. I view that as a bit of a negative surprise so far. Hopefully that will improve with guys getting healthy and over the course of training camp.
- Besides Jeff Badet and Stacy Coley, Everson Griffen, Pat Elflein, Hercules Mata’afa (IR), Jalyn Holmes, and Andrew Sendejo were held out of minicamp with an injury.
- Danny Isidora continues to get work with the 1s at left guard, and praise from Mike Zimmer. It will be interesting if Isidora gives Nick Easton a run for his $2.9 million once Pat Elflein returns for training camp. It’s shaping up that way, with Tom Compton in the mix too.
- At this point it seems likely that Mike Remmers will take over for Joe Berger at right guard. Left guard and right tackle may be the more competitive spots on the OL when training camp begins. We’ll see. Things could change once pads come on.
- Overall the offense looked better with the deep ball than in the red zone- which fits with Kirk Cousins’ history. Continuing to get better in the red zone will likely be a big emphasis in training camp. John DeFilippo also commented that he also wants to focus on getting off to a fast start to begin games, and he’ll continue to work on that going forward.
But for now, we’ll have to wait five weeks - when training camp opens for the first time in Eagan - for any more developments.
In the meantime, (I forgot to add initially) with the Twins struggling, there’s that other football game being played - aka the World Cup tournament - which can have some pretty good plays too. And some interesting international versions of Paul Allen calling the play-by-play.