The Vikings had their first padded practice of training camp today, so yours truly decided to swing by and see what I could see this afternoon.
Here are some notes and impressions from the day’s practice.
- JC Tretter on Line One? In one-on-one drills, Harrison Phillips- who is basically the same size as Garrett Bradbury- put Bradbury flat on his back immediately on his first rep. The next rep he beat him with a swim move. Reminded me a bit of how Linval Joseph used to destroy Pat Elflein. Don’t know what else to say. He’s four years in the league, and no other offensive lineman gets beat that bad.
- RG is Jesse Davis’ to lose. This isn’t based on today’s performance, but right guard looks to be Jesse Davis’ to lose- and I don’t see him losing it before the start of the regular season. I wouldn’t say Davis has impressed- he gave up pressures- but Reed is worse and Ingram has a steeper learning cure. If Jesse Davis does lose his starting job mid-season, I suspect it will be to Ed Ingram rather than Chris Reed.
- Kyle Hinton No Longer at Center. Earlier this year it was reported that Kyle Hinton was practicing at center. He was not with the centers today, and looks to be at left guard. Austin Schlottman and Josh Sokol were the other practicing centers.
- OT > IOL. Not a tremendous revelation, but Darrisaw and O’Neill held up better than the interior line. Encouraging given the level of competition- especially Darrisaw.
- Phillips Not that Big, But Packs a Punch. My first impression of Harrison Phillips when he was out on the field with the other offensive and defensive linemen, is he doesn’t look very big to be a nose tackle. My second impression was his pancake of Bradbury. I think he’ll be fine.
- Danielle Hunter Playing on the Right Side. In previous seasons, Hunter has always played left defensive end- opposite the right tackle. He was at right OLB/DE all day in practice today. We’ll see if that’s a permanent thing, but it might be.
- Za’Darius Smith the Chess Piece. Smith lined up opposite Hunter at LOLB, but he moved around a fair amount. Sometimes lining up at a DT spot opposite the RG, another time next to Hunter outside the LT. It looks like the Vikings are planning to use him in a similar role as the Packers did in moving him around along the defensive line.
- DJ Wonnum and Patrick Jones II backup OLBs. It looks like Wonnum and Jones have the inside track on the backup OLB spots. They got all the reps with the 2s that I could see.
- Not Sure About DTs. I didn’t pay as much attention to the second/third team DT/DEs, but I believe it was James Lynch, Jaylen Twyman, and Julian Taylor with the 2s.
- DL > OL. For the umpteenth year running, the defensive line looked better than the offensive line in training camp- at least today. The difference is that both offensive tackles held their own against some top competition.
- Ty Chandler Getting Reps. The Vikings had Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison splitting the first team reps (not sure if 50/50 or not), and Ty Chandler getting the second-team reps. He stood out because he appeared to get more reps than any other RB, and because he looked good in them. Looks to have the inside track to RB3. Someone to keep an eye on.
- Dalvin Cook Looked Like Dalvin Cook. He’s a back like Adrian Peterson before him, for different reasons, that just stands out when you watch him with the ball in his hands. He has that quick acceleration, smooth, effortless style- always a pleasure to watch. There was a bad exchange between Cook and Cousins on one play that resulted in a fumble.
- Irv Smith Jr. left practice with some sort of injury- walking on his own power. He returned to the sideline later, but did not participate. From his body language when he returned, he seemed fine- probably something minor and he didn’t participate afterward for precautionary reasons.
- In Smith’s absence, Zach Davidson got some time with the 1s, and a few targets as well- particularly during a hurry-up offense situation. Mundt was working with the 1s as well, and I believe he was the target in a shallow crossing route that was intercepted by Eric Kendricks in the play of the day.
All the WR comments are from the 11-on-11 periods.
- Justin Jefferson doesn’t have trouble getting separation. Against anybody. Almost to the point where opposing cornerbacks are trying not to get too close to him. And maybe they’ve been instructed that way for injury prevention. In any case, he’s open a lot. He does run great routes though.
- Adam Thielen had a nice grab on a crossing route he had to dive to get.
- KJ Osborn had at least a few nice receptions. Including a nice diving catch in the end zone during a red zone period. He looks improved over last season. WR1, WR2, and WR3 are locked up on this team.
- The next two on the depth chart appear to be Bisi Johnson and Ihmir Smith-Marsette. I believe Johnson had a reception on one of the rare throws in 11-on-11 drills where either Kellen Mond or Sean Mannion threw more than 5 yards or so down the field. Jalen Nailor had another on a nice grab on a crossing route with the ball thrown behind him- although he’s further down the depth chart.
- Surprisingly, at least to me, both Trishton Jackson and Dan Chisena were out there a fair amount between the 2s and 3s and appear to be the next two on the depth chart based on that. It’s worth noting that Trishton Jackson came from the Rams, so the coaching staff knows him.
- Jalen Nailor, Myron Mitchell, Thomas Hennigan and Albert Wilson were out there for some reps too, but fewer than the others from what I could see. Nailor had a couple good reps - he almost brought in a difficult over the shoulder catch near the sideline as well. Kind of a weird angle on the ball- not the best throw. Wilson didn’t look that good- I believe had a drop or two- although that may be inclusive of some drills too. I don’t remember Mitchell or Hennigan being targeted during 11-on-11s.
- My take on the wide receiver depth chart:
WR1 (JJ), WR2 (Thielen) and WR3 (KJ Osborn) are locked up, no chance for anybody else to move up into any of these spots. Beyond that, there doesn’t appear to be a big differential between the next five guys or so. The veterans have the edge over Nailor at the moment, in part probably due to the learning curve. Smith-Marsette might be at the top of this second-tier group beyond WR3, but I expect pre-season games to figure highly in how the depth chart is sorted out. I highly doubt Hennigan or Wilson make the 53-man roster, would be surprised if Mitchell made it either, although he’s had some positives so far.
- Kirk Cousins had a down and up day. He had the interception by Eric Kendricks, which was more Kendricks making a great play than Cousins making a bad throw, and maybe Johnny Mundt not doing a better job to get the football. He also had a bad exchange with Dalvin Cook that resulted in a fumble, and a couple passes off-target. But toward the end of the 11-on-11 period he got back on track again, making what appeared to be a legit scramble (as opposed to defenders easing up) and a nice lob to Adam Thielen in the end zone. He then had two beautifully placed balls over an outstretched Cameron Dantzler and Parry Nickerson for big plays. The first to Bisi Johnson, the second to KJ Osborn for a touchdown.
- Kellen Mond and Sean Mannion continue to be meh. I believe ‘meh’ is about Mannion’s ceiling as an on-field quarterback at this point, while Mond just doesn’t appear to have the confidence yet at this point. He’s a bit more poised than last year, but still seems tentative in his decision-making, and perhaps not confident in his delivery. Not sure that’s the best way to describe it, but tentative in any case. Both Mond and Mannion appear more comfortable throwing the check-down or short crosser than anything further downfield unless the receiver is open by a full stride.
- It will be interesting to see if the new regime can develop Mond into a decent backup. He has a long way to go, but mostly above the shoulder development is needed.
- Patrick Peterson played exclusively left cornerback, which is opposite what he played last season for the Vikings.
- Cameron Dantzler played exclusively right cornerback, also opposite what he played last season. Not sure why the change, but that might be permanent. He gave up some big receptions, but mostly because the throw was even better than his coverage, or he was covering Justin Jefferson.
- Andrew Booth Jr. didn’t see a lot of targets, but he did have a bit of a dust-up with Bisi Johnson after Booth gave him a bit of an extra push at the end of a play that sent Johnson to the ground. Justin Jefferson and another defensive back had to help break up the argument. Booth is a guy that oozes swagger on the field the way he carries himself- which is a good thing in a corner and usually a requirement to be a top corner. He seems to have been taken under the wing of Patrick Peterson a bit too- at least they seem to get along well. Booth’s arrow is definitely pointing up.
- Eric Kendricks had the play of the day. I’ll include this with the defensive secondary because this is the only linebacker observation I have. Kendricks picked off Cousins on a short crossing route targeting Johnny Mundt. The throw appeared to be well placed, but Kendricks, as he is known to do a few times during the season, made a diving interception- really an exceptional play by Kendricks.
It was punting day on special teams today- no field goal attempts or kickoffs.
- Jordan Berry was a bit more consistent as a punter than his competition- Ryan Wright. Wright had a couple booming punts and appears to have the better leg between the two, but he also had a bit of a shank too.
- KJ Osborn and Ihmir Smith-Marsette were the only two catching punts today, perhaps whittling the punt return job down to those two.
That’s all I have from this practice. Not sure the next one I’ll get to, but I’ll keep you posted.