Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 4 Notebook: QB battle is tighter, Robinson growing quickly

Daniel House penned his notes during the night practice and provides all the observations in this post. 

Updated: July 28th, 2014 11:24pm

By: Daniel House

The Vikings held their first night practice at Blakeslee Stadium tonight in Mankato, MN. The pads were on and the fans filled the stands to catch a glimpse of the progress the team has made. The intensity was high and the pace was fast during the night session of the training camp. I opened my notebook and provided all the highlights and analysis from today's festivities.

Coaching staff teaching the basics

The progress has been immense since the Vikings arrived in Mankato. The coaching staff has been working hard from a fundamental standpoint and have been coaching the players actively on the field. During the morning walkthrough and the night practice, this trend was evident. Norv Turner was working with the offense and making sure the wide receivers were placed perfect in the formation. He made sure the quarterbacks understood the formations and stopped several plays to give the quarterbacks advice. Mike Zimmer has spent the vast majority of his time with the defensive side of the ball and it has been paying off. He fixed a technique issue early in the day with Josh Robinson and he had best practice of camp later in the day. Zimmer has been spending most of his time in the secondary, but he also has drifted up to work with the linebackers. This coaching staff has been stressing the fundamentals and is preaching discipline, which is something we anticipated when Mike Zimmer joined the team.

Offensive Line dominates goal-line session

The Vikings offensive line dominated the first live goal-line session of training camp. The push they were receiving was huge and it resulted in three rushing touchdowns. Asiata added one touchdown and McKinnon added two more on the goal-line. The defense was biting hard on the play-action and Teddy Bridgewater found Zach Line in the flat for a touchdown. I'm not concerned with the defense having problems, especially during the first goal-line session of camp. It is just encouraging to see the offense succeed at this point.

Bridgewater steals the show under the lights

Teddy Bridgewater stole the show tonight and completed every pass but one at practice. His only incompletion came on a drop by wide receiver Rodney Smith. The Vikings threw a heavy amount of blitzes at the rookie quarterback, but he remains calm and cool under pressure. He finds the safety valve and does so before the pocket collapses. Tonight was the first night I felt like Teddy Bridgewater could start for this team immediately. His poise, along with his ability to be efficient under pressure stood out. Matt Cassel made the throws necessary to be successful in the offense, aside from two overthrows tonight. I still believe he leads the job because he is a veteran and has total command of the team and playbook. Teddy made a charge and if he can continue to play like this, he will put the pressure on the coaching staff to give him more reps with the first-team. Mike Zimmer indicated today, that the reps would be divided more on Wednesday, which means Teddy could see more reps with the first-team.

11-on-11 QB Stats: 

Matt Cassel: 5 for 9
Teddy Bridgewater: 12 for 13 (only incompletion a Rodney Smith drop)
Christian Ponder: 1 for 2

Kyle Rudolph excites on the goal-line

Kyle Rudolph inked his new five-year extension and tonight he proved why he will be worthy of the money by the end of the 2014 season. He hauled in a difficult leaping touchdown grab in the 7-on-7 drills and added another in the live 11-on-11 goal-line session. The Vikings are using Rudolph in a wide variety of ways and Norv Turner has to be excited to use his athleticism on the field. He has improved as a route runner and his slimmed frame has helped him become more of a threat through the air. If Rudy can stay healthy, the success coming his way, will surprise many throughout the NFL.

Thielen excites again 

Adam Thielen is developing beyond words and the progress he has made is dazzling. He is making some insane catches and running speechless routes. Tonight, he made three spectacular catches, all of which were contested by defensive backs. His work this offseason from a fundamental and technique standpoint has taken him to the next level. Thielen has a new acceleration and he has become more athletic coming off the ball. He is definitely challenging for the fourth wide receiver spot on the depth chart.

Robinson, Sherels, and Cox impress in secondary

Josh Robinson has been transitioning from the slot to the outside and it appears this is going smoother than anticipated. He struggled early in camp, but Jerry Gray has been working with his fundamentals since the day he arrived at training camp. It has been starting to pay off and he added an interception and a pass deflection yesterday, along with two more today. Gray has been trying to teach Robinson to not do too much and play within himself. We will see how he handles more live action, but it seems he has taken a step in the right direction. Marcus Sherels added another pass deflection tonight and has been blanketing wide receivers all over the field. He has really developed as a cornerback and may not be just a punt returner anymore. Sherels can provide the Vikings with great depth, in the event an injury strikes the secondary. Derek Cox continues to impress me and I love how aggressive he is as a cornerback. He knocked away a fade intended for Jarius Wright tonight and continues to show his physicality may earn him a spot on the roster.

Rhodes and Sanford struggle badly tonight

Xavier Rhodes was burned on three occasions and Rodney Smith made him look like a fool. Following the burn, Jerry Gray was on the sidelines working with Rhodes. He was looking to fix some footwork mistakes and appeared to be directing him with some tips on placement in certain situations. It isn't time to get concerned as of yet, but Rhodes will need to play at a high level if the Vikings want any chance to win football games this year. As for Jamarca Sanford, he saw first-team reps next to Harrison Smith for the first time tonight. I don't know what led the coaching staff to make this move, but he was burned twice by Matt Cassel. Mistral Raymond has been seeing all the special teams looks and has been involved in the 'three-safety' package the Vikings have been implementing. We will see if Sanford sees more reps as the coaching staff begins to divide them on Wednesday.

Griffen explosive off the edge 

Everson Griffen added a touch sack tonight and has been showing off his edge speed recently. Yesterday, he did the same and he has been giving Matt Kalil all he can handle in practice. Tonight, he blew around Kalil for a sack and later got a great jump and was majorly held. The Vikings signed Griffen to a big contract this off-season and if he can produce at a high level, the defensive line will flourish.

Patterson sits out again 

Cordarrelle Patterson did not participate in any team or 1-on-1 contact drills, as Mike Zimmer reported on Monday morning. Patterson continues to rehab a strained foot he suffered during his training in Los Angeles, CA.

Ownership attends practice

Mark and Zygi Wilf were watching tonight's practice, as Vikings ownership and partners are in Mankato for an annual meeting. Zygi spent time on the field and also sat with GM Rick Spielman, who was in the opposite bleachers in the top row.

Injury Report

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. Wednesday appears to be the target date for the Vikings new cornerback.

What's Next?

The players are off tomorrow, but the Vikings fifth practice session begins Wednesday with a morning walkthrough from 10:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m. The walkthrough will be followed by an afternoon practice (full pads), which begins at 3:00 p.m. and concludes at 5:10 p.m.

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