Friday, July 31, 2015

Day 5 Training Camp Notebook

Photo Courtesy of Vikings.com

After having the practice off on Thursday, the players were pushed hard in the afternoon session of day five. Daniel House takes you inside his notebook from today's practice sessions. 

Updated: July 31st, 2015 10:10pm

By: Daniel House


After having the practice off on Thursday, the players were pushed hard in the afternoon session of day five. It was a warm day in Mankato that featured more 1-on-1 battles and difficult individualized work for every position group.

Bridgewater continues to perform well, backups make slight improvement

Today's session of practice didn't really involve a multitude of passes being thrown very long down the field. In the afternoon, the offense definitely was focusing on short and intermediate passing situations. Teddy Bridgewater continued to perform well and connected with Charles Johnson and Mike Wallace on a frequent basis. Johnson acted like he was going vertical, but slowed up and came back on the ball to beat Trae Waynes. Bridgewater placed the pass on the outside where only Johnson could make the play. Wallace also ran a dig route to the sideline and caught Bridgewater's pass over the outstretched arms of Xavier Rhodes. Bridgewater continues to make all the throws in the system, but the key will be if he can be provided with adequate time in the system. Shaun Hill didn't have as many problems throwing the ball today. He managed to get his passes out on time and only threw three poor passes during the team period. This included a high throw to Adam Thielen that tipped in the air and landed in the arms of Jarius Wright. Hill is much more successful when throwing towards the middle of the field and he continues to struggle delivering passes to the sideline. Taylor Heinicke is still throwing high passes, but also delivered some better passes too. He hit Jordan Leslie in a tight gap over Marcus Sherels, but three plays later followed it up with an overthrow to DaVaris Daniels. Progress is definitely being made behind Bridgewater and it is going to take some time.

McKinnon slowly progressing as pass protector, Zach Line struggles

For the first time in training camp, the coaches tested the running backs in pass protection. Jerick McKinnon needed to work on this in the off-season and today, he showed some improvement as a protector. He lost a few battles, but won some matchups. Anthony Barr handled him easily in the 1-on-1's and Chad Greenway tossed him around once. However, he managed to block well against Audie Cole and Gerald Hodges in the same drill. There are still inconsistencies in his pass protection abilities, but he is slowly improving in this aspect of the game. Fullback Zach Line didn't handle the drill well and that is slightly concerning. He was beaten three times and dropped a pass in the flat in team drills. Line needs to pass protect and more importantly, block well in this system. He didn't show that in today's practice session.

Diggs makings some tough grabs, Patterson and Johnson continue to look impressive

Stefon Diggs is starting to get some love in his effort to win the Mr. Mankato award from 1500ESPN. Diggs' most impressive play of the day came when he hauled in a contested catch in the end zone over Marcus Sherels. He high-pointed the pass and controlled his body as he came down with the ball. He also hauled in a tough catch on a slant pattern across the field with Sherels all over his back. In the early portion of training camp, Diggs is getting open and is handling the physicality well. Cordarrelle Patterson is continuing to get open in a variety of ways. He is using improved footwork and technique to do this. He hauled in a tough catch on a dig route over Jabari Price in team drills. He used a mix of speeds and a quick initiation inside to gain leverage to catch the pass towards the sideline. Charles Johnson is also running smooth routes to gain separation in the secondary. Johnson acted like he was going vertical, but slowed up and came back on the ball to beat Trae Waynes. The Vikings have plenty of playmakers on offense and will need to be creative to get them all on the field at the same time.

Pruitt continues to flash at tight end

For the first time this season, MyCole Pruitt was tested as a blocking tight end. He passed the first exam and perfectly laid a block on linebacker Gerald Hodges in the second level. Today, the tight ends were working on blocking in their individual position work. Tight ends coach Kevin Stefanski was really stressing the importance of pad level and getting position underneath the shoulder pads. We are accustomed to see Rhett Ellison block well and he did frequently today. However, he was out of position twice and plays were stopped for him to get aligned in the correct formation.

Sullivan and Thompson handle the D-Line, Aiyegbusi and Clemmings struggle

John Sullivan dominated the 1-on-1 drills with the defensive lineman today. He won battles against several interior lineman and coaches were continually praising him for his ability to keep his center of gravity low and athletic. Tyrus Thompson is leaving a good impression with the coaches after every practice. Thompson continually won battles today and handled Shamar Stephen very well on two occasions. Brandon Fusco wasn't going to be moved on any occasion either. Fusco perfectly picked up a defender and saved Teddy Bridgewater from being sacked by Everson Griffen. Matt Kalil struggled again to handle Everson Griffen. He was beaten on an inside spin move and simply was destroyed off the edge on one occasion. However, Kalil rebounded and handled Justin Trattou on two consecutive matchups. Babatunde Aiyegbusi couldn't handle any defensive lineman he was lined up against. Anthony Barr hardly even had to touch Babs to blow past him in the 1-on-1 drill. T.J. Clemmings is struggling with his footwork and was beaten badly by Leon Mackey and Scott Crichton in the 1-on-1 drill. The offensive line didn't look as terrible today in the team drills, but they certainly weren't great either.

Floyd and Joseph getting it done in the middle, Griffen looking sharp

Sharrif Floyd is quicker this season and he showed it today in the 1-on-1 session with the offensive lineman. He was winning every 1-on-1 battle during that session. Not to mention, Floyd was disruptive in the running game and would have tackled Jerick McKinnon in the backfield for a loss. He is being more physical in the interior and the coaches are consistently preaching that to Floyd on the field. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph is having an excellent training camp thus far. He is finally using interior leverage and his size to an advantage. He won every 1-on-1 battle and appears to be taking the next step in the system. Everson Griffen is simply a man among boys. He is disruptive in every practice he is on the field. To reach the quarterback, Griffen has been using an inside spin and a swim move to the edge. He is making contributions in run defense and has been the total package in training camp. Danielle Hunter saw some snaps with the first-team today in pass rushing situations. He played left defensive end for a few snaps and would have reached the quarterback on one occasion. Hunter also swam through a pool of offensive lineman to make a tackle on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. The coaches are impressed with where he is at thus far and he will continue to see more snaps.

Hodges and Barr are smooth in coverage

When you watch the linebackers work on their individual coverage skills, both Anthony Barr and Gerald Hodges are stand-outs. Barr is so athletic as he gets into his back pedal. The coaches were consistently praising him for his ability to swivel his hips quickly. He manhandled Jerick McKinnon in a 1-on-1 drill and won three battles against the offensive lineman today. Barr is an athletic specimen and continues to be a vital key of the Vikings' defense. Gerald Hodges was all over the field again today. He had some of the best ball skills among all of the linebackers. He added a defensed pass in team drills and is continuing to prove he should see extended playing time this season.

Waynes is struggling, Rhodes is shutting the door

In today's practice, Trae Waynes really struggled to cover the wide receivers. He trailed behind Corrdarelle Patterson on a dig and slant route and pass interference was called on him when he grabbed a hold of Mike Wallace's jersey. He seems slightly over-matched physically and Patterson has been beating him with finesse. He needs to get in better position to make more plays. Mike Zimmer was repeatedly working with him on technique and footwork today. Sometimes it takes a few practices to put it together in a new system, but Waynes seems overwhelmed at this stage. He won't develop into a premier cornerback overnight; it will take some time. Xavier Rhodes defensed two passes in team drills and is totally covering his side of the field. Not to mention, he is beaming with confidence in practice.

Exum Jr. sees a few reps with the first team, Blanton sees the majority of work

Antone Exum Jr. saw some snaps with the first team during a portion of team drills. It was for a few snaps, but Robert Blanton returned for the remaining reps in the afternoon session. Exum Jr. is getting a few chances and with Blanton continuing to perform average in training camp, we could start to see each of them rotate more. Neither of them performed notably today because the majority of practice was predicated on the short passing game.

Locke drops three punts inside the five 

Jeff Locke punted about six balls and three of them landed inside the 5-yard line. Trae Waynes was playing gunner and sprinted down the field to snatch one of the kicks. Locke was using the swirling wind and his aussie-style roll to pin the ball deep. The specialists haven't spent much time kicking and we still haven't seen Locke punt from deep distances yet. As of now, the main focus in practice has been improving in coverage and the return game.

What's Next? 

The Vikings will have a morning walkthrough on Saturday from 10:30am-11:30am, followed by a night practice from 7:15pm-9:15pm.

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