The first full padded practice has concluded and Daniel House opened his notebook to provide you with all of the exciting moments.
Updated: July 27th, 2014 9:14pm
By: Daniel House
The Vikings third session of training camp had high anticipation from fans who were excited to see the team's first practice in pads. This excitement was met with disappointment, as a hard rain shower blew through Mankato. The shower lasted for a few moments and took place during the stretching period, but the rain came back towards the end of the practice session. Fans who braved the elements got to see one of the most exciting practices so far during training camp. I have compiled all the notes from today's practices and have laid them all out in this post.
Coaches stressing fundamentals and technique
For the first time during training camp, the coaching staff was working very diligently to refine technique. Mike Zimmer spent a large amount of time with the defensive backs and was correcting footwork and technique on a frequent basis. As for the offense, Norv Turner was working right on the field during walkthrough plays and constantly was showing players little footwork and technique flaws that needed to be fixed. The refinements made by the coaching staff were helpful and the players responded positively by fixing the mistakes. This group of coaches has a hands-on approach and I have never witnessed a coaching style like this in Mankato.
Secondary working hard to improve
The defensive backs really struggled at practice yesterday and the coaching staff was constantly fixing flaws amongst this group. Today, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray was on the field 20 minutes early with the secondary, working on coverage schemes and was running them through various situations. He would quiz their knowledge and understanding of certain concepts and then run them through the drill. The secondary seemed to benefit from this coaching and had their best day of training camp. The cornerbacks were able to jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and this seemed to help the overall scope of the problem.
Bridgewater extremely efficient in day three
Teddy Bridgewater had his best training camp practice session today. His decision making and poise as a quarterback was the most impressive element from the rookie. Bridgewater stands tall in the pocket, pats the ball, and finds the open receiver. Today he was blitzed hard, but he stayed cool, stepped up in the pocket, pumped, and found a wide-open Kain Colter on a corner post. The pass was a perfect spiral and smoothly left his glove. Teddy seems very comfortable throwing the ball to Adam Thielen. He found him on a beautiful pass in the seam early in practice and the bond has been established since the first practice. Teddy is so calm and collected, which varies slightly from Matt Cassel. Today, Cassel didn't handle the pressure very well and threw two passes away, was touch sacked, and had one batted down at the line of scrimmage. He did make a couple beautiful throws down the field and connected with Jerome Simpson on a 'stop-and-go' route. Things didn't go quite as smooth for Cassel with pressure coming for the first time today, but he still made enough throws necessary to be successful. Teddy was efficient, accurate, and calm under pressure, but he still needs to show more abilities in live action to challenge for the starting role.
11-on-11 QB Stats:
Matt Cassel: 10 for 13, 1 INT
Teddy Bridgewater: 9 for 10
Christian Ponder 3 for 6
Peterson breaks ankles
The running backs worked really hard today and were tested for the first time with more rushing plays being called. Adrian Peterson took an inside handoff, reached the outside, and nearly broke Jabari Price's ankles in half. It was a run that showed why he is one of the greatest to ever wear an NFL uniform. In a game, that run would have been a top highlight and likely touchdown. I discussed how the running backs were tested more today and this came in pass protection. Jerick McKinnon struggled to stop Anthony Barr off the edge and Kirby Wilson really was trying to enhance his blocking technique. This was a concern when the Vikings drafted McKinnon and is certainly an area he will need to improve upon.
Barr electrifies the defense
Mike Zimmer spent a large chunk of time working with Anthony Barr during the walkthrough today and it paid off in the afternoon session. Zimmer was working hard on technique and footwork, while telling Barr to be aggressive. He lived up to this expectation in the afternoon and registered two quarterback hurries. Barr made his most impressive play of the day, when he sniffed out a Jerick McKinnon inside run and recorded a 'touch tackle for loss.' Barr saw looks as a starter in the nickel defense, but spent the majority of his reps with the second team. Barr's explosiveness off the edge, combined with his awareness, are two attributes that are very encouraging.
Mauti dominates in run defense
Mike Mauti had himself a day as the second team middle linebacker today. He sniffed out a Matt Asiata run and popped his pads a bit in the process. Mauti finished the task and Adam Zimmer gave him a congratulatory high-five. Mike Mauti wasn't done for the day and blew up Jerick McKinnon on an inside running play. His efforts in run support were recognized today and his relentless nature was on display for the coaching staff. Mauti really got after it, and it was rather impressive.
Watts seeing plenty of playing time
Brandon Watts has been seeing more reps than many anticipated in training camp. He spent time with the second team linebackers at one point today and registered two quarterback hurries. Watts has an immense amount of athleticism and his ability to come off the edge and rush the passer has impressed me. Not only can he rush, but he is markedly better in coverage than one would expect. He blanketed Matt Asiata on a passing play across the middle and caused an incompletion. Watts' role on special teams has been maximized and he has witnessed first-team reps on kick coverage. Keep an eye out on the Vikings seventh-round draft selection during the preseason.
Three safety looks plentiful
On several occasions, the Vikings defense was structured with three safeties on the field. Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, and Mistral Raymond all saw the reps with the first-team in this package. Raymond has seen a slightly higher amount of reps than Jamarca Sanford and the Vikings seem to like Raymond's playmaking potential better. Blanton continues to see all the first-team reps at safety and Shaun Prater and Jabari Price have witnessed all the snaps at nickel corner in Captain Munnerlyn's absence.
Robinson bounces back
Josh Robinson had a tough time on the outside during yesterday's practice, but bounced back at today's afternoon session. He recorded an interception of a Matt Cassel pass and added a deflection on a Cassel throw intended for Adam Thielen. Robinson sometimes lets his athletic ability get the best of him and is over aggressive at moments. Today, he played more within himself and handled the role rather nicely. Hopefully this trend continues when Captain Munnerlyn returns next week.
Patterson returns on a limited basis
Cordarrelle Patterson (foot) participated in the walkthrough this morning, but did not pad up for the afternoon session. He did arrive on the field and ran routes on the far field in shorts and a t-shirt this afternoon. Patterson, who injured his foot while training in Los Angeles, CA last week, is expected to be eased back into his normal duties very soon.
The Vikings' injury report includes Captain Munnerlyn (hamstring), Andrew Sendejo (back) and Chase Ford (foot). Munnerlyn is expected to return to the field very soon, but he has yet to participate in any portions of practice. As I discussed above, Cordarrelle Patterson was limited in practice today, but participated in the walkthrough and his own individual drills.
The Vikings fourth practice session begins tomorrow with a morning walkthrough from 10:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. The walkthrough will be followed by an evening practice (full pads), which begins at 7:30 p.m. and concludes at 9:30 p.m.