The top two defenses in the National Football League were on display today, and they both took care of business. So, if you were looking for long bombs from Cousins to Diggs, you would be disappointed. Same with Bortles to whoever. Nata. Nope. Niente.
I’m not sure I saw a completion more than a 5-10 yard crossing route for the Vikings first string offense, which I watched mostly, and from what I could tell, the Jaguars first offense did about the same, except Bortles threw a pick, and Cousins did not.
The Vikings first team offensive line had a couple good run blocking plays that opened a nice hole for Dalvin Cook to exploit on the left side (Riley Reiff, Tom Compton), and those were the most productive plays for the Vikings offense in 11-11 team drills for the first team.
But those were the exception.
More often running plays were shut down for little to no gain or a TFL.
For the most part, that kinda jives with my impressions of the Vikings run game in earlier practices as well - several not that productive runs, but a couple big ones mixed in. It’s an over-generalization, but the Vikings pass game is kinda like that too.
Bottom line impression I get from watching the Vikings offense so far in training camp and against Denver - they are more dependent on- and perhaps more capable of making - the big play.
The mere fact of that may cause defenses to adjust - more Cover-2 - which will open up more bread and butter plays. We’ll see. But the Vikings have big play capabilities at all the skill positions on offense, and that will lead to their fair share of them.
It’s only a defense as good as the Jaguars that can do a good job preventing them - but even the Jags were like 21st against the run last season, so it wasn’t surprising the bigger plays the Vikings offense had today were runs.
There was so much going on in so many different places - twice as much as a normal training camp practice which is difficult enough to follow - it made it even more difficult to really watch any player for any length of time. Nevertheless, a few things:
- Mike Remmers was at practice and participated in some OL position group drills - but not any team drills. His spot was taken again by Danny Isidora in team drills. Still, that’s progress and I would not be surprised to see him miss this Saturday’s game but be full-go next week.
- In general, these practices are not where you see high-end vets shine. Most I suspect use the training camp / pre-season as a ramp up to the real thing, but they’re not worried about winning a roster spot. The main thing for them is to avoid injury, and so for a lot of guys from Harrison Smith and Terence Newman, to Linval Joseph and Riley Reiff, to Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr - these guys are unremarkable in training camp. Yes, they show on occasion why they make the big bucks, but for the most part they’re walking the line between getting ready for the regular season and not getting hurt. Sure a guy like Terence Newman says he’s still “trying to get better everyday” (right up there with “I feel good” for throw-away lines from players in training camp), but he needs drill practice about as much as Keith Richards needs a guitar lesson at this point. He knows the deal, it’s just a matter of how well his body can hold up.
- There is a chorus of praise for Mike Hughes, from both media and coaches, and I echo that. He shows good cover skills and I haven’t seen him make a mistake recently in coverage.
Mike Hughes looking good in coverage drills vs. the Jags pic.twitter.com/Jm9QRXOphz— Warren Ludford (@wludford) August 16, 2018
Mike Hughes looking good - again - in coverage drills vs. the Jags. pic.twitter.com/X95gEoXY1b— Warren Ludford (@wludford) August 16, 2018
- That well-oiled phrase from coaches in training camp - competition is good and helps everyone get better - seems to be holding true for MacKensie Alexander. With Mike Hughes on his heels at nickel corner, Alexander is showing up well too.
- Among the wide receivers, Kendall Wright might be considered a relative bright spot - he had a nice TD catch in 7-7 drills I believe, but a whole lot of not so much for that group today. I did notice that Trevor Siemian was on the mark today with Tyler Conklin for a couple nice completions where he was accurate and hit him in stride - unlike Saturday in Denver. A couple other clips:
But while there weren’t a lot of big passing plays today for the Vikings, it was a mildly good day for Cousins as he took what was there and didn’t force the ball or press. He had a few incompletions but most of those were marginal potential completions anyway - good coverage, and at the sideline or corner of end zone. Siemian and Sloter were ok too from the standpoint of not making mistakes.
- Terence Newman had a pick on Bortles, but otherwise was lackluster- for reasons mentioned above.
- Near as I could tell (I had a poor vantage point- everybody without binoculars did), the left side of the first team OL did better than the right side. Runs left seemed more productive, and pressure on pass plays seemed to come more from the right side too - although that’s a generalization too. Sadly it was too far away to get a good view of how individual offensive linemen fared, but more often than not they struggled - except for a couple big runs. Most passes were ok too -but most of those were quicker hit type routes.
- Brandon Zylstra was rehabbing on the side today, and from the looks of it won’t be playing in Saturday’s game. I could be wrong, but given the abundance of caution regarding injuries in pre-season, I would expect him to be out. I can’t help but think this is not good for his chances, but so far other receivers haven’t stepped up much either.
- Tashawn Bower did not participate today either. He had his leg wrapped in an ace bandage, but I doesn’t seem like he will be out long.
- Pat Elflein was watching as well, had his jersey on but didn’t participate- nor was he working on the side as he was last week. Not sure if that is significant or not.
- Everson Griffen wasn’t at practice - apparently he cut his leg on a table and it got infected so he’s missed a couple days.
- Jayron Kearse was a full participant today after missing time last week and the game at Denver.
- I’m not sure when, but I think Brian O’Neill could be the starting right tackle before the end of the season, and maybe before the bye week. Just an impression, but he seems to be closing the gap with Rashod Hill to the point where he could overtake him in the not too distant future.
- Everyone was on their best behavior today on both teams. No sign of any friction whatsoever.
- Mike Zimmer seems much more upbeat during training camp this year compared to the last couple years. I don’t know if players are practicing better or not, but he seems relatively comfortable and in a good mood at TCO Performance Center compared to Mankato. Maybe the nicer digs suit him better. Super Bowl expectations are higher than ever, and maybe he likes that. Whatever the reason, he seems to be enjoying training camp more than previous years as far as I can tell. Not sure what to make of that, but there you go.
- It seems this year the Vikings have opted for a media version of the ‘play 60’ program, incorporating stair climbers for the media covering training camp at TCO Performance Center:
Perhaps the Vikings PR team felt that if media writers are in better shape, they’ll feel better and write better stuff about the Vikings. Lol.
I’ll close with a gallery of photos from the day:
- Mike Zimmer with Tony Sparano Jr. - who’s TE coach for the Jags - and perhaps Tony’s widow. Warren Ludford
- Mike Zimmer, Jags head coach Doug Marrone, and Zygi Wilf Warren Ludford
- The Big Man on Campus - Vikings owner Zygi Wilf Warren Ludford
- Jaguars warming up for practice Warren Ludford
- Blake Bortles warming up Warren Ludford
- Vikings warming up Warren Ludford
- Vikings offensive line huddle Warren Ludford
- 99% body muscle. Warren Ludford
- Anthony Barr was back in action today. Warren Ludford
- Mike Remmers getting some drill work today. Warren Ludford
- 6’8” Calais Campbell is hard to miss Warren Ludford
- NFL Network well represented today - Tom Pelissaro and Ian Rappaport on hand for Vikings - Jags practice.
- Tashawn Bower with bandage on leg today - not participating Warren Ludford
- MacKenzie Alexander talking up his height advantage with 5’6” WR Shane Wynn Warren Ludford
- Jaylen Ramsey didn’t make the trip, but the Jags have another pretty good corner that did. Warren Ludford
- Rick Spielman as he usually is during practice - alone with his thoughts. Warren Ludford
- Leonard Fournette got a taste of a pretty stout Vikings run defense today. Warren Ludford
- These guys were happy to have a day off from battling each other Warren Ludford
- And of course autographs for the youngsters Warren Ludford
- A few Jags fans on hand as well Warren Ludford