The Vikings came out for practice on Tuesday afternoon at TCO Performance Center in shells and shorts. Naturally I assumed that it was going to be a relatively low-key session, but I was quickly proven wrong. There were plenty of splash plays and notable performances by several players. Let’s dive right into all of the action from Day 14 in Eagan.
Who’s in, who’s out
Ameer Abdullah was the only player missing from Monday’s practice that was back in action on Tuesday. He didn’t get a ton of work in team drills but still did plenty of special teams work, including kick returns. Jaleel Johnson was back in full capacity after leaving early the day before. Brian O’Neill, Aviante Collins, De’Angelo Henderson, Kris Boyd, and Ade Aruna remained sidelined with the other three players still on PUP and NFI.
Depth chart and formation update
Rotation was the name of the game on Tuesday, as plenty of players got snaps outside of the units they usually play for. The offensive lines remained largely unchanged, but there were plenty of changes everywhere else. Olabisi Johnson started the day getting WR3 reps with the first team. Chad Beebe, Jordan Taylor, and Jeff Badet also got some snaps with Kirk Cousins and the starting offensive line. One wide receiver that still didn’t get any first team reps: Laquon Treadwell. I think his absence from that rotation was rather telling.
Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, and Ben Gedeon still got the lion’s share of the first team reps at linebacker. Jayron Kearse filled in for Anthony Harris here and there at first team safety, but the rest of the starting secondary remained mostly unchanged. The defensive line saw the most new bodies. Shamar Stephen lined up at nose with Jalyn Holmes as the 3 technique a lot on Monday. Later, Stephen switched back to his usual position while Armon Watts got some run with the first team. Jaleel Johnson and Hercules Mata’afa rotated in a bunch as well.
There weren’t many exotic looks from either side as far as formations go. Barr lined up on the left edge a lot like he has throughout camp, and there were a handful of snaps in 22 personnel from the offense. But other than that, most of the action was pretty straightforward.
One thing I can say definitively: while the offensive line appears to be much improved, putting a mix of second and third teamers out there against the first team defensive line was patently unfair. The 1’s on defense dominated the 2’s on offense about as much as you’d expect during the end of practice when they mixed up the 11-on-11.
Big plays of the day
Might as well get the Amazing Adam Thielen Catch Of The Day® out of the way, right? Thielen had just missed a diving grab near the front pylon in 7-on-7 red zone work early in practice. It was honestly the first time I can remember in camp where he didn’t come up with the amazing catch. But just two plays later, he did this:
The catch might not have looked all that spectacular, but the initial move on Xavier Rhodes and the toe tap in the corner of the end zone were beautiful. He followed it up later with another ridiculous diving grab in front of Trae Waynes, an event that has seemingly occurred about 40 times in camp.
Thielen is always going to get his, but the defense made the majority of the big plays on Tuesday. Kearse picked off a Cousins pass intended for Thielen on a corner route that was thrown a bit behind. Marcus Epps had an extremely impressive day, snagging two interceptions. The first was a pick six on Jake Browning. Treadwell had a half step on his defender and the throw was on target, but Epps jumped the route perfectly and sprinted down the right sideline for a score. The second was an impressive diving effort after a late deflection of a Browning pass. Eric Wilson joined in on the fun by stepping in front of an ill-advised pass from Sean Mannion and taking it to the house.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the offense though. Mannion led a solid hurry-up offensive drive to set up a long field goal attempt with under a minute remaining on the clock. (More on the results of said kick later.) Kyle Sloter found Brandon Dillon in the back of the end zone through an extremely tight window in red zone drills. Cousins hit Kyle Rudolph with nice throws on a couple of occasions, including a perfectly weighted pass to his tight end at the back left pylon and a “throw him open” pass over the middle against tight coverage from Kendricks.
Surges and slumps
- I’m really not trying to pile on Treadwell, but it seriously looks like he doesn’t even want to be out there sometimes. It appears that he’s always going about 75% whether the drill calls for it or not. He had another drop on Tuesday and has yet to make an impact anywhere outside of special teams. I’m all for eating the dead cap and moving on from the whole mess this season.
- My Dillon Mitchell pick for Mr. Mankato looks all but dead in the water. He had another drop on Tuesday. Mannion found him wide open up the right seam in 11-on-11, yet Mitchell didn’t turn for the ball in time. The last few wide receiver positions on the roster remain wiiiiide open, but the former Oregon standout isn’t taking advantage.
- Yesterday I commented on how Alexander Mattison didn’t look all the way healthy. Today he looked much better, cutting with a little more confidence and not walking tentatively after reps. A good sign for him.
- Everson Griffen has been beating Riley Reiff off the edge on pass rushes consistently throughout camp, including a few more instances on Tuesday. I think it says a fair amount about how both are performing so far in the preseason.
- Kyle Sloter had a pretty awful start to camp while Jake Browning was fairly impressive early on. The practices this week have been the exact opposite. Sloter seems to be gaining confidence and consistency by the day while Browning is waning in both categories. There’s still plenty of football to play, and I think both are still behind Mannion on the depth chart, but right now I think Sloter has the advantage.
- The depth at linebacker has been notably better than the depth in the secondary. Reshard Cliett, Cameron Smith, Devante Downs, and Kentrell Brothers have all been heavily involved with special teams and most have had some promising reps with the second team defense. According to Mike Zimmer answering a question from Courtney Cronin, there’s a decent chance that all four backup linebackers could make the team at the expense of a member of the secondary. From what we have seen thus far in Training Camp, I wouldn’t argue against that decision.
Call me Vanessa Williams, because I went and saved the best for last. We finally had a perfect day of kicking from Dan Bailey! The results:
- 51 yards, left: GOOD
- 33 yards, middle: GOOD
- 33 yards, middle: GOOD
- 55 yards, left: GOOD
- 33 yards, middle: GOOD
- 40 yards, middle: GOOD
- 33 yards, middle: GOOD
Chad Beebe was the holder for each kick, and each snap from Austin Cutting was right on the money. Bailey is now 49/64 (76.6%) in “live” kicks during camp.
Maybe it was the consistency in the snapping and holding. Maybe it was having four kicks from extra point distance after various touchdowns in practice. Maybe it was having none of the seven kicks from the right side, where the vast majority of Bailey’s misses have come from in camp. Maybe it was having a new kicker brought in. Whatever it was, let’s hope that we’ll see more days like this going forward.
Kaare Vedvik did all of the punting and kickoffs on Tuesday, showcasing his powerful right leg. Each of his kickoffs to Badet and Bisi Johnson were at least a few yards deep in the end zone. The majority of his punts had plenty of height and distance, highlighted by a 61-yard boomer that made Mitchell back up about ten yards. Meanwhile, Matt Wile did...well, nothing. Apparently Wile cut his left thumb on some equipment in a bizarre accident during the game in New Orleans that’s keeping him out of practice. But if the current kicking trends continue, Wile might have to use that thumb to hitch a ride out of town soon.
The Vikings have on off day on Wednesday and then they’ll be back at it on Thursday afternoon for the penultimate practice of Training Camp. 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: