We will continue the "Training Camp Chronicles" series with an analysis of Wednesday and Thursday's practices.
The new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) that has taken affect has brought changes to how training camp operates around the league. New language in the CBA will not allow "two-a-day" practices. This helps prevent injuries and provides less wear on the players bodies. With this new rule, a team can still hold two practices during the day, but one practice must be a walkthrough. After attending the Vikings walkthroughs, they are very low key. The players walk out in jerseys, shorts, and baseball caps. The Vikings coaches have expressed how the walkthroughs are productive from a learning standpoint. They can install plays by walking through the formations and then can execute the formations in the full practice later in the day. From a fan standpoint the practices can be very tough to watch. The practice primarily focuses on special teams. You won't see any passing take place unless fake punt formations are being installed. The special teams specialists don't even kick the ball during the walkthroughs. These practices stay true to the name "walkthrough."
The afternoon practice primarily focused on screen passes, and blitz pickup situations. During 11 on 11 drills Christian Ponder completed 7 of 10 passes. This is an improvement, but is expected when the practice is focused on short passing. Reggie Jones looks great at practice and batted away several balls in traffic. He has been so impressive, the coaches have worked him with the number two nickel defense. Bobby Felder continues to impress the coaches as he recovered a fumble by Manny Arceneaux and was solid in coverage all day. Kerry Taylor has been getting continued action as a first team wide receiver. Taylor hasn't been overly impressive and has a tendency to run poor routes and doesn't get open very well. I do like his speed and with some work, he can be an average receiver in this league. Brandon Burton made a nice juggling interception of Sage Rosenfels. Burton had the opportunity to work with the second team defense. Brandon will have to work hard to impress the coaching staff before roster cuts come around. Overall, this practice was very laid back and it was very tough to tell whether the offense or the defense had the edge.
The Vikings hit the field with the temperature just a little lower than the past few days. It was still very hot, but the humidity was lower. This didn't affect performance, as there were many excellent highlights of today's afternoon practice. Christian Ponder was 5 for 9 during 11 on 11 drills. Ponder was intercepted by Chris Cook on a pass he telegraphed to Percy Harvin. I would like to see Christian make some quicker decisions. He seems to be slightly indecisive at times. Chris Cook looked very impressive at cornerback today. Jarius Wright ran a fade route and had Cook beat by a step. At the very last second, Cook turned on the jets and made a spinning interception. Cook finished the day with two interceptions and looked impressive. Phil Loadholt has struggled in protection, especially when the defensive lineman fakes inside and sprints outside. It hasn't been a major issue, but was just an observation I made. He just doesn't seem to be strong and agile. Loadholt needs to improve so he has a chance to receive a contract extension at the end of the season. Everson Griffen made an impression at linebacker today. During the goal line stand, he put a huge hit on rookie running back Jordan Todman. The hit caused Todman to suffer a sprained ankle. I love Everson Griffen's size at linebacker. I would love to see the Vikings blitz Griffen in blitzing situations. He has so much size and speed, that he could detroy opposing quarterbacks. Tyrone McKenzie continued to look impressive during today's practice. He dropped into coverage and swatted the ball away from Kyle Rudolph. Over the past few practices, he has stood out as one of our best linebackers in coverage. Marvin Mitchell also made a nice play as he also deflected a ball thrown across the middle. Mitchell has had experience in this league and would be good for a young linebacking core. Jerome Simpson ran a beautiful fade route and made an acrobatic spinning catch on an underthrown Joe Webb football. Chris Carr had great coverage, but Simpson's athletic ability took over. He stood up after hauling it in and ran the rest of the way to the endzone. He always finishes every play by running into the endzone, no matter short or long pass. That is the type of intensity this team needs to improve this season. Greg Childs made by far the best catch we have seen at camp this year. Childs ran a fade route and had a step on cornerback Brandon Burton. Backup quarterback Joe Webb underthrew the ball, but Childs came back for it, reached his hands around Burton's helmet in midair and snatched the ball on top of Burton's shoulder pads. He then held on as they both hit the ground in the end zone and Burton's helmet came off. This is the type of threat the Vikings need on their roster.
Overall, several players seem to be emerging as impact players for the Vikings. It will be interesting to see who continues to be impressive during tomorrow's practice and Saturday's scrimmage. We will keep you posted with the latest developments.
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