After a day off, the Vikings were back in pads and back on the field on Thursday afternoon in Eagan. With only two Training Camp practices remaining before the second preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, a sense of urgency is starting to set in for the players that are on the fringes of the roster. For the first hour of practice, the players looked a lot sharper after their day of rest during individual drills. Passes were accurate, movements were crisp, and there weren’t many footballs hitting the ground. The last hour of practice that featured mostly 11-on-11? That was more of a mixed bag. Here’s a quick recap of everything that happened in the penultimate practice of Training Camp.
Who’s in, who’s out
The Vikings got a little healthier on Thursday. Running back De’Angelo Henderson and corner Kris Boyd were both back in action, which is a good sign for two players fighting for a roster or Practice Squad spot. Brian O’Neill, Aviante Collins, and Ade Aruna remained out along with Mike Hughes, David Morgan, and Tashawn Bower on the PUP and NFI lists. We have yet to see Linval Joseph take a snap in team drills, but he did participate in defensive line drills before working with the trainers on the far field. Collins did some running on the side for the first time since hurting his left knee.
Depth chart and formation update
The first team offensive line remained the same, with Rashod Hill filling in for O’Neill at right tackle. There was a bit of shuffling on the second and third teams though. Dakota Dozier played left tackle with the 2’s as he has done most of this week, but he also played right guard with the 3’s. The full lines on Thursday:
1st team: Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Josh Kline, Hill
2nd team: Dozier, Danny Isidora, Brett Jones, Dru Samia, Storm Norton
3rd team: Nate Wozniak, John Keenoy, Cornelius Edison, Dozier, Olisaemeka Udoh
Hill also got a bunch of run as second team right tackle during 11-on-11 as Norton watched from the sideline. It appears that the Vikings are trying to figure out who they want as their backup/swing tackles. Sunday’s game might be a big indicator as to who fills out the back end of the offensive line.
As usual, the Vikings offense mixed in a lot of 2-TE and 2-RB sets during team drills. The pass catchers rotated heavily between teams. One seldom-used formation I noticed on Thursday: a big, unbalanced set with 13 personnel. Dalvin Cook lined up in the backfield while Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith, and Tyler Conklin all lined up off the left tackle.
The offense seems to sneak in at least one end around to a wide receiver per practice, and Thursday was no different. Today it was Thielen and Jeff Badet that got hand offs for nice gains. Later they faked the end around to Olabisi Johnson and handed off to Alexander Mattison. Be on the lookout for the Vikings to break a few out in the future; most of them have been pretty successful.
There were plenty of bodies coming in and out between the defensive units, but the defensive line featured more rotation than the back seven. Armon Watts, Hercules Mata’afa, and Jalyn Holmes all got plenty of reps on the interior with the first team.
Big plays of the day
There wasn’t a big supply of splash plays for either side on Thursday afternoon, but don’t tell that to Kirk Cousins. He made a noted effort to hype up the fans in attendance on several occasions. In one drill, the offense was playing against only coaches and no defense. He hit Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Irv Smith Jr., and Kyle Rudolph on consecutive “touchdowns.” After each throw, he did goofy celebrations and threw his arms up at the crowd to cheer. They happily obliged each time.
I love our dorky dad quarterback.
As for the actual big plays, Chad Beebe had a rare deep catch down the right sideline. It came the play after he got open on a crossing route for about 15 yards. He also scored in a 7-on-7 red zone drill. Brandon Zylstra had a red zone TD on a nifty out route, Thielen had a couple nice grabs just before falling out of bounds, and Diggs almost came down with a huge gain but had it glance off his outstretched hands.
But the circus catches were few and far between on Thursday thanks to another solid showing from the defense. Cousins was throwing the ball away like 2018 Aaron Rodgers due to consistent pressure, mostly off the edge.
The most riveting series of plays came toward the end of practice when it was first team vs. first team. The coaches put 2:03 on the clock with the offense down 5 and on the opponents’ 35 yard line. It was a back-and-forth affair that featured a penalty on each side of the ball and a few close calls. Thielen made a great catch on the right sideline to set up a quarterback “sneak” by Cousins for a first down on third and short. After an incomplete pass, Cook gained nine yards on a run and short pass to set up 4th & 1. On fourth down, Eric Kendricks POPPED Cook. Kendricks and Harrison Smith yelled loudly in solidarity after the short gain, but the offense was still given the first down.
It all came down to the ball on the 1 yard line with :05 left on the clock. Cook got the goal line hand off, but was immediately stopped in his tracks by a perfectly timed blitz from the Hitman.
Surges and slumps
- Beebe’s positive performance has solidified his position as WR3. Olabisi Johnson continues to be the only other young receiver that’s standing out on a consistent basis. Jordan Taylor started camp getting a bunch of first team reps, but he continues to descend down the depth chart. Taylor can’t get any separation on the top of his routes and hasn’t been very impressive in camp.
- Jake Browning is definitely doing everything he can out there, but it just isn’t happening this week. He took a few more deep shots on Thursday but all of his passes fell harmlessly to the ground. Kyle Sloter and Sean Mannion didn’t do anything spectacular, but they still appear to be ahead of Browning.
- I know I have mentioned them before, but Jayron Kearse and Holton Hill continue to impress on a daily basis. Hill is slated to return for the game at Kansas City in Week 9 after his suspension; that could prove to be very important for the Vikings.
- Mike Boone continues to find creases to burst through in the running game. He did have one drop on Thursday, but overall he has really come on lately.
- Xavier Rhodes can look like he’s taking things pretty casually at times during practice, but he still quietly gets all his work in. Most days during special teams work, Rhodes is behind the quarterbacks doing plyometric ladder work. For all the jawing Rhodes can do to offensive players, he still leads by example.
- Gary Kubiak praised Irv Smith Jr.’s blocking in a press conference on Thursday:
I think Irv has surprised us. We saw a smaller, athletic player but he’s really, on the line of scrimmage, has surprised some people, so we want our guys to be versatile and do a little bit of everything.
I agree that the blocking aspect of the rookie’s game has been solid. But we still haven’t seen a ton from him in the passing game. Most of Smith’s targets have been on screens and underneath passes. Hopefully we’ll get to see him make a big play before the regular season starts.
- Danielle Hunter is consistently destroying Rashod Hill and causing a lot of the Cousins sacks and throwaways. Get well soon, Mr. O’Neill.
Before practice started, Kaare Vedvik got a bunch of field goal attempts in with Austin Cutting snapping and Beebe holding. His kicks with the wind were excellent—he made all but one and had plenty of room to spare. Kicking into a decent breeze, he missed a few more and even left a 52-yard attempt short.
When practice got underway, we got to see the first six “live” kicks for Vedvik as a Viking. The results:
- 33 yards, middle: GOOD (Beebe holding)
- 37 yards, right: GOOD (Beebe)
- 40 yards, left: NO GOOD (wide right) (Beebe)
- 40 yards, left: GOOD (Matt Wile holding)
- 44 yards, right: GOOD (Wile)
- 48 yards, right: GOOD (Wile)
All six kicks were into the wind and the snaps from Cutting looked good. It was a solid debut by the new punter/kicker/holder/whatever-he’ll-actually-end-up-playing.
Wile was back in action on Thursday with a glove on his left hand, presumably to protect the thumb he cut in New Orleans last Friday. He punted during the final portion of practice everywhere from the back of his own end zone to midfield. All of his kicks looked good. Most of the punts were around 50-60 yards past the line of scrimmage, although he did have the wind at his back. His “coffin corner” punts all had a distance that allowed the gunners a chance to down the kicks deep. It was a good showing for someone that’s quite clearly kicking for his job.
It’s hard to believe, but only one practice remains in 2019 Vikings Training Camp. I’ll be at TCO Performance Center one last time to bring you all the action on Friday afternoon. 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: