Friday, August 2, 2013

Notebook: Rudolph solid, Mauti continues development

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 In the seventh day of practice, several players emerged in his mind. Daniel House shares his thoughts in his daily notes post.

Ponder nearly perfect, Cassel average

For all the Christian Ponder pessimists in the fan group, let Ponder play in game action before you critique whether he is the quarterback for the future. Today, Christian looked fantastic and completed the majority of his passes. I only recorded one overthrow and a underthrow in my notes from today's practice. He seems more confident, willing to step up in the pocket, and is making better decisions, which are all areas he needed improvement in. All I ask, is to wait to jump to conclusions until you see him play in game action on Sunday's.

Matt Cassel is playing subpar, but connected on a few passes he hadn't been making the pass few days. In the seam and flat he wasn't underthrowing running backs and was much more poised. He still underthrew two fade routes to Stephen Burton and Rodney Smith and struggles extending the field. This throw is one a quarterback needs to make in this league and frankly, it's backup material.

Randle shows motor and resilience

Bradley Randle runs downhill very hard and has a non-stop motor that is infectious. He catches a pass in the seam and has the ability to break quickly, lower his shoulder, and key his eyes up the field. Today, he recorded a brilliant shoulder to defensive back Roderick Williams. Coach Saxon is stressing hands down, eyes up, and accelerate, which are three areas Randle is flourishing upon.

Burton continues to dazzle

Stephen Burton is making a strong case for this roster and is multi-faceted in his skill set. What I mean by this is, he can not only run good routes, but he has proven run blocking experience. Players like Joe Webb can't say this and seem uncomfortable in that role as a wide receiver. Burton has great footwork and has been primarily targeted in the fade routes, which he has converted upon. I don't see how he can't make this roster, especially for his versatility and experience.

Rudolph has "gorilla glue" hands

Kyle Rudolph made a huge emergence last season and is doing the same during the 2013 training camp campaign. In a drill, he works individually with the quarterbacks and positions himself in corners, posts, fades, and drags throughout various field locations. He makes every catch in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills and is the safety valve and reliable target for Christian Ponder. I expect Rudolph to be a huge factor again this season. In fact, I think he could be even stronger statistically this year.

Olsen shifts to center

Center Joe Berger made a shift to right guard, while Seth Olsen made the transition to center, during second-team 11-on-11 skeleton work. The Vikings have always been fond of Olsen, an Iowa product, he saw time in the organization in 2010 and returns after a short stint with the Indianapolis Colts. If there is any way the Vikings can find a spot for Seth, I believe he pushes for a roster spot.

Bishop shaken up during drill

All fans held their breath as Desmond Bishop made his way to the training tent during the afternoon session in Mankato, with what appeared to be a hamstring issue. When asked after practice, Bishop said "he was fine," but we could receive more information on the nature of the injury during defensive coordinator Alan Williams' press conference tomorrow morning. Bishop entered the tent for a short time, left hobbling slightly, and made his way to the sidelines where he watched the last portion of practice.

Mauti continues positive charge

Michael Mauti was relatively quiet during the first few days of Vikings training camp, but is becoming more comfortable as he slowly returns from reconstructive knee surgery. I love the way he drops his hips and is aware in coverage. He can step up to the line of scrimmage when needed and is sound in gap separation. He will be one player to monitor throughout the preseason, but he is making strides from a mechanical standpoint.

Blanton continues to impress

I referenced Robert Blanton in one of my previous notebooks, but I had to mention the skills I witnessed today. From a footwork standpoint he is solid and has developed good awareness. I like his tenacity by lowering his shoulder and laying a hit on the receiver. He has a nose for the football and has been closing on plays each and every day. Watch out, he could slide his way into the starting lineup, but that stills seems like a stretch of the imagination at this point.

Plethora of punt returners get a chance

With the uncertainty surrounding the Vikings roster decisions at wide receiver and defensive back, one player could change the whole direction of the 53-man roster. The team could head in the direction of Marcus Sherels, who isn't a coverage corner and his role is solely through special teams, but this seems unlikely. With a great group of wide receivers, the Vikings may look within to fill this role, so they can keep a 6th wide receiver on the roster. Josh Robinson, Bobby Felder, Marcus Sherels, Greg McCoy, and Stephen Burton all saw extended action on punts. I really like Sherel's familiarity with this role and his comfort level at the position, compared to the inconsistent group I presented. This will become more certain after preseason action begins a week from today.

Locke drilling punts

Jeff Locke has been killing the ball between 60 and 75 yards each attempt and has brilliant hang time on his punts. I recorded one high end over end spinner at 5.6 seconds, which is absolutely remarkable for a punter. He booted a ball 75 yards and over the head of Stephen Burton, which drew one of the louder applauses from the fans today at Vikings training camp. One thing is certain, I have no concern from this special teams aspect.

Walsh struggles today

Yes, I used Walsh and struggles in the same sentence, which seems more preposterous than Stephen A. Smith on ESPN's First Take. Blair Walsh missed in his two field goal attempts from 47 and 52 yards during situational drills. I attribute some of this to Blair's transition from Kluwe to Locke as a holder. This is a mechanical type operation and requires precision, which is something Walsh isn't concerned about when I talked to him today during an interview embedded below.

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