Monday, July 27, 2015

Day 2 Training Camp Notebook

Image Courtesy of USA Today Sports

It was a warm and breezy day in Mankato as the Vikings began their second practice of training camp. Daniel House takes you inside his day two training camp notebook. 

Updated: July 27th, 2015 10:00pm

By: Daniel House

It was a warm and breezy day in Mankato as the Vikings began their second practice of training camp. Today, the team continued to focus on individual position work and light team drills, but will strap on the pads for the first time tomorrow.

Quarterbacks are slowly improving

Yesterday, all of the quarterbacks (with the exception being Bridgewater) were really struggling to deliver passes. Today, Shaun Hill was still under throwing passes to wide receivers. These balls were specifically thrown towards the sidelines. As practice evolved, he started to show some improvement, but he still wasn't consistent. His passes aren't tight spirals and the ball has minimal velocity as it moves towards the target. Some of this could be attributed to Hill gaining familiarity with his receivers and the playbook, but it's worth keeping an eye on. Mike Kafka and Taylor Heinicke still had their share of struggles and look overwhelmed early in training camp. Heinicke shows more flashes than Kafka, but they both have some work to do. Their recognition skills are very slow and it won't get any easier when the pads come on tomorrow. As for Teddy Bridgewater, he was in-sync for nearly every portion of today's practice. He only threw about four passes that were off-the-mark and two of them could have been equal blame between the receiver and Teddy. Bridgewater's highlight of the day came when he threw a 55-yard pass to Charles Johnson and hit him in stride. He continually places his passes in spots where only the wide receiver can make the play. Bridgewater is making any worry at the quarterback position nonexistent.

Peterson anxious, DuJuan Harris can catch

Every time Adrian Peterson touches the ball, you can see he is anxious to lower his shoulder and gain yardage. Unfortunately, he'll have to wait a few weeks for that day to come. Nonetheless, he is still bursting through the holes and making cuts in the second level of the defense. When he gets into pads, Peterson will feel even more temptation to run the football, but September 14th is the target date for this to happen. DuJuan Harris stood out in the running back group and he flashed his pass catching abilities for the second consecutive day. In addition, he added a burst and a quick cut when he was in space. Harris is seeing more action on special teams and that might be one of the few ways he can distinguish himself to the coaches.

Johnson looks polished, Patterson getting it done

Charles Johnson had some jitters on the first day of training camp, but he didn't show any in his second practice of the season. Johnson was gaining consistent separation from the defensive backs by running crisp routes. It was encouraging to see him make some contested catches that required him to leap. Johnson looks more comfortable high-pointing the football and coming down with the catch. Today, it didn't matter where the pass was thrown because Johnson was going to haul in the throw. He caught a few low passes and added two more leaping grabs in traffic. Teddy Bridgewater is comfortable connecting with Johnson on any type of pass and connected with him on a 55-yard fade. Everyone has been asking how Cordarrelle Patterson is progressing following his sophomore slump. The answer is -- much improved. Patterson is adjusting to balls in traffic and has refined his footwork to get open. He hasn't faced any press coverage and that will provide more of a barometer for this, but Patterson isn't having issues getting open. He adjusted to an underthrown fade and made the catch with a defensive back approaching him. Patterson also continually adjusted his body to make difficult catches over the middle of the field. It is early in training camp, but Patterson looks better than he did at this stage of training camp last year.

Pruitt and Bostick are the stand-out pass catchers

If you have been following along on Twitter, you know I've been really talking about MyCole Pruitt and his pure talent. He runs routes smoothly and has the athleticism to pair with his excellent frame. The underrated aspect of Pruitt's game are his hands. I haven't seen him drop a pass in two days and he seems very comfortable in the passing game. Now, we need to see how he run blocks when the pads start popping tomorrow. Not many people are talking about tight end Brandon Bostick, but I was impressed with him today. He cuts and breaks in and out of his routes very well. In his work with the quarterbacks, he adjusted well when two poor passes came his way. He has a steep hill to climb, but if Pruitt can run block, Rhett Ellison may become expendable and Bostick could land a roster spot.

Offensive line poses plenty of unanswered questions

The coaches have been working diligently with the offensive lineman on technique and fundamentals.  During the individual periods, Mike Zimmer spent the entire time overseeing the players as they worked on hand placement. It is pretty clear the offensive line is a major concern heading into the season. At this point, we don't know if Matt Kalil can handle the duties at left tackle. Everson Griffen beat him twice today and got to him once in the team drills. A small scuffle broke out, but the fire smoldered quickly. In other news, T.J. Clemmings couldn't handle Scott Crichton and at one point was thrown to the ground. It is hard to analyze the offensive line until the players get into pads, but you can see there will be growing pains with the younger prospects.

Crichton getting off the edge, Hunter flashing his athleticism

It's hard to get a grasp of the pass rush until actual blocking and rushing occurs in full pads. However, two young players stole the show in today's practice sessions. Scott Crichton torched T.J. Clemmings and was disruptive on two other occasions. For the first time, I saw him used in the interior with the first team defense. The coaches could try to use Crichton and Tom Johnson in third-down pass rushing situations. In addition, Danielle Hunter blew past left tackle Carter Bykowski and was extremely quick off the ball. His reaction and instinct off the snap are very impressive for a defensive end with his size. Tomorrow will be the first time Hunter lines up against several different offensive lineman in 1-on-1 drills. This is where we will see if his early success is simply a mirage.

Gerald Hodges is all over the field

Gerald Hodges is flying all over the field in both coverage and run support. Today, he deflected two passes and was praised by the coaches for reading a screen pass in the flat before it developed. He has been a very vocal communicator when he is on the field. Not to mention, on several occasions he was pulling younger players aside and giving them advice. He has saw a mixture of reps with the first and second team, but Chad Greenway is a player that will stand in his way to gaining a starting spot. The team is favoring veterans early in training camp and Hodges still has time to impress the coaches over the coming weeks.

Defensive backs itching for press coverage

The defensive backs have been 5-7 yards off the line of scrimmage for the first two practices of training camp. You can tell all of the cornerbacks are anxious to start playing press coverage in practice. This is where players will separate themselves in the secondary. Tomorrow will provide more clarity as to which defensive backs are the best fit in this defensive scheme.

Exum Jr. showing coverage ability, Sendejo adds 7-on-7 interception

During a team period, Antone Exum Jr. perfectly covered tight end MyCole Pruitt as he ran a pattern across the field. Exum Jr. stuck his hand in front of Pruitt and poked the pass away. He has shown his aggressive edge and physicality in coverage. Exum Jr. isn't afraid to take a gamble and make a play on the ball. As for Andrew Sendejo, he corralled an interception in the 7-on-7 period of today's practice. The pass was low and he snuck in front of the receiver to catch the pass. At this point, Robert Blanton is still seeing all of the first team reps, but that could change as practices evovle in a few days.

Special teams a major emphasis at practice 

The coaches have put a major emphasis on spending time learning the fundamentals of special teams. The kickoff coverage and return teams worked hard on blocking, staying in their lanes, and alignments on the field. There were three sessions for special teams in the afternoon practice and almost 30 minutes was dedicated to it in the morning walkthrough. Over the last two years, this is by far the most empahsis that has been placed on special teams technique and fundamentals. The coaches know this is an area that must improve heading into the season.

Injury Report

No new injuries to report -- Josh Robinson (pectoral), Shamar Stephen (knee), and DaVaris Daniels didn't practice. Anthony Barr was limited, but was working on conditioning with trainer Eric Sugarman on the far practice field.

What's Next? 

The Vikings will have a morning walkthrough from 10:30am-11:30, followed by their first full-padded practice from 2:45pm-5:00pm

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  1. Just loving the coverage, great work and looking forward to more!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Todd! It was great seeing you again the other day!

  3. Just curious if the writer has ever played the game of football? Comes across as a very young writer (not a horrible writer) and someone who doesn't really know what they are seeing on the field.