The weather in Eagan on Sunday for Minnesota Vikings Training Camp wasn’t quite as picturesque as the previous day. The morning sun beat down a little hotter during the morning walkthrough, making things a little uncomfortable. The afternoon session was classic Minnesota summer—ominous clouds and a few sprinkles battled the sun and humidity only to give way to a chilly breeze at the end.
There even were a couple of stormy moments on the field. Let’s jump right into our Training Camp notebook from Sunday:
- The injury news was Sunday was almost identical to Saturday. Like Saturday, Pat Elflein worked out on the sideline before practice but remained on the PUP list. Like Saturday, Stacy Coley was present but didn’t participate in any drills. And like Saturday, Rashod Hill left halfway through the afternoon practice with an apparent illness. (Hill returned pretty quickly this time around though.) Everyone else was accounted for and participating.
- Danny Isidora replaced Tom Compton as left guard for the majority of first team offesnive line snaps. The rest of the line remained the same: Riley Reiff at left tackle, Nick Easton at center, Mike Remmers at right guard, and Hill at right tackle. Once again, Brian O’Neill appeared to receive most of the first team snaps when Hill went out.
- For those of you that believe all the cornerback depth will finally spell the end of the road for the tenure of Marcus Sherels in Minnesota: not so fast. Mike Priefer confirmed that Mike Hughes is entering camp as the kick returner and Sherels will once again be the team’s punt returner. Of course that’s subject to change, but you know what we always say around these parts: cockroaches, Twinkies, and Marcus Sherels are able to survive everything.
- Apart from the apparent starting duo of Hughes and Sherels, Cayleb Jones and Jeff Badet received quite a few reps returning during the special teams portion of practice.
- The biggest development on the defensive side on Sunday was how Anthony Barr practiced. The Vikings have talked about bringing in Barr off the edge as a pass rusher more often this season, and they appear to be backing it up. Barr practiced with the defensive linemen instead of the linebackers nearly the entire practice. In 11-on-11 he lined up on the edge fairly often, including a “4-3 Under” look out of the base package. For those that might be unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a good article from Danny Kelly explaining the defense. I’d guess that we might see a lot of it this season from the Vikings.
- The cornerback battle seems to be impossibly deep for some of the lesser-known players to break through. However, one player that stood out to me both days so far has been Horace Richardson. He made several nice pass breakups this weekend and he got quite a bit of run on the second team base defense opposite Mackensie Alexander. Again, this roster is absolutely loaded at his position, but keep Richardson in mind as a possible dark horse candidate for making the final 53. The next big hurdle regarding Richardson: remembering that he switched jersey numbers from #38 last year to #24 this year. I have had to check my roster every time he has made a play so far!
- Latavius Murray kept his same #25 jersey from last season, but he still looks a bit different this year. Namely, a little more fluid and nimble. Other people around practice have taken notice of it as well. A more versatile Murray can only help the Vikings’ backfield.
- While Murray seems noticeably better, Dalvin Cook looks about the same. But that’s great news considering the fact that he’s just over nine months removed from a major injury. I cannot believe how great the second year back from Florida State looks already. All signs are pointing to him being at full strength to start the season. That should make Vikings fans very happy and opponents very nervous.
- For those of you that had Holton Hill in your Mr. Mankato pools, your bet is looking really good so far. Mike Zimmer gave Hill some of his patented 1-on-1 “DB Guru” coaching during Sunday’s practice. Hill received even more praise today from Stefon Diggs:
As a CB you can see that he has confidence; I love him on my team because I like what he brings to the table. [He’s got] body control. He’s not a small guy, he can run. He’s a special talent, you can see flashes of it.
(To be fair, Diggs wryly finished that quip with “I’m going to keep barbecuing him though.”) Hill stood out with a couple more splash plays, including an expertly timed deflection on a long ball to Brandon Zylstra. He certainly appears to have all the tools to make this roster as a steal of the undrafted free agent class.
- Brian O’Neill was drafted in the second round largely because of his athleticism and agility; it’s showing so far. He was easily the quickest and most fluid during all the positional drills I watched on Sunday. Will he be able to hold up against the pass rush when the pads go on Monday? We’ll be keeping a close eye on it.
- As Chris documented earlier today, we had our first fight, so now Training Camp has officially started. This scuffle between Aviante Collins and Devante Downs started like many camp kerfuffles tend to begin. Collins was blocking Downs on a running play, Downs took exception to how long Collins held his block after said play was done, and shoving ensued. But this one got pretty heated—Collins ended up throwing some wild uppercuts at the back of Downs’ helmet after the original shoving match. (Side note: NOT A SMART MOVE TO PUNCH A DUDE WITH A HELMET ON.) The fight was quickly diffused after that—in large part by Zimmer, who flew into the fracas to pull bodies off the pile.
- The best part of the scuffle came immediately after it was broken up. David Morgan ran toward the mass of humanity, screaming “I GOT 99!” as he playfully grabbed Danielle Hunter. Because, you know, nobody in their right mind would ever willingly get into a fight with someone built like an action figure.
- There were a few standout plays from 11-on-11 worth noting:
- Blake Bell had a really nice one-handed sideline grab. The tight ends seem to be getting plenty of looks early in camp, and Bell used this play to his advantage.
- Stefon Diggs probably should have had two long bombs from Kirk Cousins. On the first play, Diggs used a nifty double move to get past Xavier Rhodes to find some space over the top away from the deep coverage of Harrison Smith. Cousins missed the connection, just barely overthrowing the sure touchdown. But Cousins made up for it almost immediately. He delivered a pinpoint 20-yard dart to Diggs, who created just enough space between himself and Trae Waynes to make the play. So, y’know, any time the Vikings want to announce that Diggs extension is fine with us.
- The unkillable Sherels picked up the first “official” interception of camp by jumping a Kyle Sloter slant intended for Jeff Badet. The defensive players were incredibly fired up after that one—you can tell Sherels has definitely endeared himself to his cohorts.
That’s all from Sunday’s action. Stay tuned for much more as the week progresses, including some exclusive interviews and features we’re lining up. Until then, bring on the pads on Monday!
If you aren’t following along on Twitter yet, click here to do so—the updates will be coming fast and furious from my account throughout camp.