In the third day of practice, the pads were strapped on for the first time, Daniel House shares his thoughts on the first "light" day with pads.
Ponder improves, Cassel average
Christian Ponder threw about three bad balls the entire practice and played very well in today's practice. He made several great throws on out routes to Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson. These balls were the type that needed an extra zip and he provided the velocity. He had several moments where he was slow to make a decision and had to throw the ball away. Better than taking a touch sack, but he needs to establish more confidence with himself.
Matt Cassel had his moments of success and poor play in today's session. His specialty pass is the seam route and it definitely is his confidence pass. He drilled Rhett Ellison across the middle for a 15-yard touchdown in redzone drills. The pass required precision and he excelled. In addition, he nailed Stephen Burton for a long touchdown over the top of Andrew Sendejo. On the flip side, he struggled during two occasions to throw the out route and overshot Joe Webb and Rodney Smith, who were in perfect position. Ponder has proven he can make this throw, which will help his chances to stay at the helm.
Stephen Burton hits endzone three times
Stephen Burton is one player who needs to prove he can play, in order to remain on the roster. Today he took one step in that direction after recording three touchdowns, including two intermediate pass plays in redzone drills. As earlier discussed, he also connected on a pass from Matt Cassel for a 40-yard touchdown. Burton is a great run blocker and if he can develop as a pass catcher, look for him to have the shot at a spot on the 53-man roster.
Randle lays down the law
Today was a rather light practice and no players were really allowed to take to the ground, but Bradley Randle proved he was ready for the pads. In 11 on 11 drills, Randle lowered his shoulder and gave an oncoming Greg McCoy a nice shot in the chest. It was a nice showing of physicality, along with speed and presence, which are major keys to being a running back in this league.
Bond sees time with second-team
2013 draft pick, Travis Bond lined up at both the left and right guard in the second-team offense on Monday. Known for being a tackle, Bond has been rumored to be making the switch to the inside and looks to have potential as a pulling guard.
Jennings a perfect fit
The Vikings have really been revolving around bubble screens and short intermediate outs and crosses to Greg Jennings. His specialty has always been to carve teams over the middle of the field. He is a crafty route runner and put a nice double move on Chris Cook the other day. He is consistently talking to Ponder about things and is a mentor for him on the field. Really, Jennings is the perfect fit at wide receiver for this team, if he can stay healthy.
Wright showing development
Jarius Wright is really improving, running nice routes, is confident, and is very quick. He is being used primarily in the slot and is starting along with Jennings and Simpson. I like his athleticism and his awareness on the field. This is very encouraging for a 2nd year player and means we are developing talent.
Rhodes is getting noticed
The Vikings spent a first round pick on Xavier Rhodes and need him to step up in the absence of cornerback Antoine Winfield. He has went under the radar, but really emerged during today's practices. He had two very nice deflections and an interception of a telegraphed pass by McLeod Bethel-Thompson. Rhodes let Jarius Wright get behind him in the redzone and was burned for a touchdown. Improvement is there and we can expect rookie mistakes, well, from a rookie.
Bishop still with second team
Linebacker Desmond Bishop, who was signed last month after being released by the Packers, lined up with the second-team defense and Marvin Mitchell continued as starting weak-side linebacker on Monday. This should come as no surprise to Vikings fans, until Bishop has been evaluated and has proven he can succeed.
Robinson, Cook start as base corners
Josh Robinson and Chris Cook remain the starting base corners and first round draft pick Xavier Rhodes is receiving work with the second-team. Robinson had two very nice deflections, especially on a pass intended for Jerome Simpson. He curled around his back, made the deflection with the non-dominant hand, and recorded a pass defensed. Robinson is improving and could see an elevated role on the starting defense this season.
Guion's elbow checks out well
Letroy Guion returned to the field Monday afternoon wearing a brace on his right elbow after leaving Saturday's practice. Guion had a magnetic imaging test on the arm on Sunday and the results came back negative.
Several players highlight punt return
Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, Marcus Sherels, and Jerome Simpson highlighted the group returning punts. No player stood out and special teams is a really tough determination until live action begins towards the middle of the week. I see Sherels winning this job because of his familiarity of punt returning.
Walsh booms field goals
Blair Walsh drilled field goals all the way back to 37 yards and then made his way forward and starting kicking 28 yarders. During team drills, Walsh drilled his final field goal from 45 yards. The kick easily had another 15-20 yards more distance. One thing is certain, Walsh hasn't lost his edge.
Locke will be fill the role
Jeff Locke was hitting balls 65+ yards with a rocket of 70 yards, with nice hang time and spin. His left footed kick has great spin and nice hang time, which caused many of the returners to struggle corralling the ball. He also drilled another bomb from the endzone, which landed at the 25 yard-line and rolled inside the 10. There is no doubt in my mind after today's practice, that the Vikings made the right decision to release Chris Kluwe and draft Locke.
Felton leaves practice
Fullback Jerome Felton left practice on Monday so he could attend to a personal matter, Coach Frazier announced after practice.