The weather on Saturday in Eagan was a carbon copy of the day before: sunny and in the mid 80’s.
The same could be said about Saturday’s Minnesota Vikings Training Camp practice.
For the second straight day, 84 of the 90 players on the roster participated. Jeff Badet was out on the field but didn’t participate in any drills or installations; the five players on the various injured lists remained out as well. The team spent most of the day working on installations and personnel groupings with a healthy dose of special teams work mixed in. There was some brief 11-on-11, 7-on-7, and situational work, but we’re definitely still entrenched in the beginning stages of camp before players finally put on the pads in the next day or two.
If you read my recap of Friday’s practice, there isn’t a ton of new information to glean from today’s action. But since I was there and took some notes, I might as well share some tidbits, right?
- The depth chart remained almost exactly what it was yesterday, with one exception that we’ll get to in a bit. All three offensive line units were the same and most of the skill positions lined up the same way. Alexander Mattison seemed to get more reps at running back behind Dalvin Cook today, where Ameer Abdullah had the majority yesterday. Chad Beebe got more WR3 reps than Jordan Taylor after a virtual 50/50 split Friday.
- It was a full house again at the punt returner position, with a few new names mixed in. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs actually took some reps, but I wouldn’t hold your breath when it comes to them doing so in actual games. Nine others joined in on the fun today: Beebe, Abdullah, Holton Hill, Taylor, Dillon Mitchell, Bisi Johnson, Craig James, Davion Davis, and Duke Thomas. It appears as though Marawn Maalouf is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding Marcus Sherels’ replacement. The Vikings haven’t really done much with kickoffs yet, so that return position remains a bit of a mystery for now. I will say that it has been fun to see Maalouf install a bunch of new drills and a different pace to his special teams practices. He and his assistants seem very detail- and situation-oriented.
- While Holton Hill got some reps in individual drills, he remained exclusively on the scout team in full team work. He appears to remain firmly entrenched in the Mike Zimmer Doghouse, which is historically not a great place to take up residence this time of year.
- Hill may be buried on the depth chart for now, but another Texas CB has been playing well thus far. Kris Boyd has looked impressive through the first two days of camp. Taking most of his snaps with the second team, he has looked very good in coverage.
- If you’re a fan of multiple tight end sets, you have to like what we’re seeing in camp through two days under Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak. The 12 personnel has been the team’s preferred grouping by quite a large margin. The Vikings seem to be emphasizing the versatility of Irv Smith Jr. early on. He was lined up in line, out wide, at H back, and put in motion to and from each spot. They threw a bunch of tight end screens to Smith and Tyler Conklin. On Saturday, they even threw in a bunch of 21 with C.J. Ham and Cook in the backfield, Diggs and Thielen out wide, and Smith at tight end. It’s exciting to think about all the possibilities and permutations available with the Vikings’ second round pick. Kirk Cousins has to be happy about all the weapons he’ll have this season.
- Speaking of quarterbacks, Cousins yielded a decent amount of his reps to the backups today. Sean Mannion struggled for the most part. He badly missed a couple throws and seemed hesitant about a few of his reads. However, he did have a wonderful long pass down the middle for a touchdown to Thielen right in front of the stands. I was impressed with Jake Browning today. He had good zip on his passes and hit nearly all of his targets. He was easily the most consistent of the backups. I’d like to see him take a few shots downfield in the coming days, as that was one of the bigger concerns for him coming into camp. Kyle Sloter didn’t get a ton of reps, but he did OK with what he was given. Nothing great, nothing terrible. The backup QB battle should be a very interesting one to follow throughout camp.
- Backup quarterbacks should be interesting, but suddenly backup defensive line has become alarming. There’s one new injury to report: Jalyn Holmes went down toward the end of practice with what appeared to be a lower right leg injury. He limped off the practice field with trainers. His status will be something to keep an eye on going forward. Linval Joseph participated in drills but is still doing next to nothing in full-team installations. Jaleel Johnson had a nice day in Joseph’s stead with the first team, making a couple very impressive plays in the running game. With Holmes, Joseph, and Shamar Stephen not participating, Hercules Mata’afa got some run with the 1’s today. I must say, I can see where all the hype was coming from this Spring. He is incredibly fast off the line of scrimmage. Mata’afa’s size might be a disadvantage when blockers get a hold of him right off the snap, but that task is easier said than done. He sped past Pat Elflein into the backfield on one of the few red zone plays the Vikings ran at the end of practice.
- Dillon Mitchell—my personal pick for Mr. Mankato—didn’t really help his case for the prestigious award on Saturday. He had a couple drops, along with one each by Conklin and Taylor. Otherwise it was a pretty clean practice for the pass catchers.
- The good news: Dan Bailey didn’t miss a single kick during the “live” portion of practice today! The bad news: he didn’t attempt any either. From what I saw on the far field, Bailey was making most of his kicks today. But hitting a few during the team portion of practice in the coming days might help ease everyone’s minds.
Well look at that. For a day of “same old, same old”, there was still plenty to talk about. We’re back at it again at the same place and same time on Sunday. To follow along for live updates, you can find me on Twitter at @eric_j_thompson.