After winning their preseason opener against the Saints on Friday night in a surprisingly high scoring 34-25 affair, the Vikings were back on the practice field Sunday afternoon at TCO Performance Center in Eagan. The session itself wasn’t exactly the most eventful, but the team made some moves that are setting up what is sure to be an exciting final week of Training Camp.
We usually finish with the kicking recap, but it felt like we should lead with it today due to all the moves the team made. Before practice on Sunday, rumors were swirling that the Vikings were interested in Ravens kicker Kaare Vedvik. Those rumors came to fruition as practice got underway as news broke that the Vikings had traded a 2020 fifth round pick for Vedvik. In order to make room for the new kicker, the team released long snapper Kevin McDermott. That means 2019 seventh round pick Austin Cutting appears to have secured the job for the season.
I’m not a fan of spending draft capital on kickers. Especially since the last kicker the Vikings spent a fifth round pick on a kicker, he lasted all of two games with the team. And to be honest, McDermott was probably having a better camp than Cutting. Both were doing fine overall, but most of the handful of bad snaps there have been were from Cutting.
My best guess on why they parted ways with McDermott now: the Vikings didn’t want to deal with all the permutations of having five specialists in camp. I assume that the team thinks Cutting is doing a good enough job so far, and since he comes a bit cheaper than McDermott, they removed a variable before adding another in the kicking game.
But oh, what a variable Vedvik might be! The Norwegian can kick, punt, hold, and do kickoffs. As of right now, it isn’t exactly clear whether the Vikings intend for him to take the job of Dan Bailey, Matt Wile, or possibly both. The current kickers avoided the media at all costs after practice, so it looks like we’ll have to wait until Monday or later to get some clarification. Apparently Marwan Maalouf has a mentality of starting over when it comes to the specialists, and Wile didn’t do any holding on Sunday. So read what you will into that.
As for the actual kicking during practice, Bailey had a good start but his arch nemesis returned at the end: the right hash mark. The results:
- 33 yards, middle: GOOD (McDermott snapping, Chad Beebe holding)
- 36 yards, left: GOOD (McDermott/Beebe)
- 40 yards, right: GOOD (McDermott/Beebe)
- 39 yards, right: GOOD (Cutting/Beebe)
- 43 yards, left: GOOD (Cutting/Beebe)
- 47 yards, right: NO GOOD (off the right post) (Cutting/Beebe)
- 49 yards, right: NO GOOD (wide right) (Cutting/Beebe)
One of the misses featured a low snap from Cutting. For those of you keeping track at home, Bailey is now 42/57 (73.7%) in kicks during practice in Training Camp. There have been plenty of variables that went into those 15 misses, but the undeniable trend of pushing so many kicks to the right might be why we’ll be seeing Vedvik in a different shade of purple soon.
Ultimately, all Vikings want is for the kicking carousel to come to a stop and for the team to find a modicum of consistency there. If throwing away another Day 3 pick on a specialist means they finally found someone reliable, so be it.
How do you sarcastically say “no pressure” in Norwegian?
Who’s in, who’s out
Outside of McDermott snapping for the last time, there were some new faces on both sides of the participation ledger on Sunday. New signing and former Golden Gopher Nate Wozniak dove right in, becoming the third offensive lineman to wear #79 in Training Camp this season. Running backs Ameer Abdullah and De’Angelo Henderson weren’t in pads after getting dinged up in New Orleans. It sounds like Henderson sprained an ankle on Friday. Armon Watts got 16 snaps on Friday but sat out Sunday. Kris Boyd didn’t play against the Saints and didn’t play this afternoon. Ade Aruna, Brian O’Neill, and Aviante Collins all remained sidelined as well.
Linval Joseph started the day in pads and got a bunch of short sprints in with the training staff on the far field. Toward the end of practice he took off his pads and watched the rest from the sidelines.
Depth chart and formation update
The second team offensive line got a bit of an overhaul. Dakota Dozier got a lot of run at left tackle with the second team as Dru Samia got extended time at right guard with the 2’s. Danny Isidora played left guard, Brett Jones was at center, and Storm Norton at right tackle. Wozniak played a lot of third team left tackle.
For the first time in Training Camp, Shamar Stephen participated in team drills. He actually started with a couple of snaps alongside Jalyn Holmes, but the rest of the time Jaleel Johnson played the nose tackle position while Stephen played three-technique. Anthony Barr lined up on the left edge for a handful of snaps again.
Other than that, the lineups and practice had a bit of a “back to basics” feel on Sunday. There were extended individual drills by position group to start practice. In fact, we were about an hour in before any 11-on-11 took place. The only new offensive wrinkle I noticed: they ran an end around for Laquon Treadwell.
Speaking of things I didn’t expect to see in camp...
Kirk Cousins making light of the sweaty backside of Garrett Bradbury last week was the perfect camp story. It was lighthearted, silly, and it shouldn’t make a bit of difference once the regular season starts. However, after witnessing something I had never seen before Sunday, there might actually be some substance to Cousins’ joking remarks.
When the team took a water break just over halfway into practice, Bradbury actually changed his pants! The rookie center literally put a new pair of white football pants on right in the middle of practice.
So the two biggest stories of Vikings camp thus far:
- A revolving door of snappers, holder, and kickers.
What a time to be alive.
Big plays of the day
With so much focus on positional drills, there weren’t many “wow” plays to report. Of course, Adam Thielen still makes “wow” plays on a daily basis.
Thielen and Stefon Diggs are both so incredibly good at creating just the slightest bit of separation and perfectly placing their hands right before the ball arrives. That catch was in the situational drill the team usually runs at the end of practices, which was a rare win for the offense in those situations. Beebe had a nice contested snag against Mackensie Alexander in 7-on-7. Everson Griffen perfectly knifed between Riley Reiff and Pat Elflein for a quick sack in 11-on-11. The defense didn’t have a lot of splash plays on Sunday but they definitely won the majority of the plays in the later rounds of team drills.
Surges and slumps
- Davion Davis had a rough day. He had two drops and allowed Nate Meadors to step right in front of him for a pass breakup in team drills. He and a bunch of the other young wide receivers are starting to run out of time to make enough of an impression.
- Bené Benwikere still looks a bit lost out there. He had a pretty rough game on Friday and it still looks like he’s trying to catch up mentally with the rest of the defense in practice.
- Brett Jones, Danny Isidora, Storm Norton, and Dru Samia all had good showings in OL vs. DL 1 on 1. Danielle Hunter is still destroying everyone in his path.
- Khari Blasingame keeps doing everything that is asked of him at a high level. The undrafted fullback made a good impression against the Saints and he has caught my eye more frequently over the last week. Blasingame is catching everything thrown to him and has shown some impressive lead blocking skills. I still believe that it’s C.J. Ham’s job to lose. But when a team is as cash-strapped as the Vikings, the cheaper player could still get the nod, even at less glamorous positions like long snapper and fullback.
- For what it’s worth, Wile had a couple of booming punts in live punting drills. Apparently he’s aware that Vedvik punts too.
The Vikings will be back on the practice field Monday afternoon in Eagan, and hopefully we’ll get some answers about which specialists are doing what by then. To follow along for live updates, you can find me on Twitter at @eric_j_thompson.
If you’d like to catch up on anything you might have missed, here are links to all my previous recaps: