|Photo Courtesy of Luke Inman|
A rain-soaked opening to practice and a baseball-esque 30-minute delay marked the start of the Vikings fourth day in Mankato. Daniel House takes you inside of practice with his daily training camp notebook.
Updated: August 1st, 2016 9:45pm
Updated: August 1st, 2016 9:45pm
By: Daniel House
By: Daniel House
A rain-soaked opening to practice and a baseball-esque 30-minute delay marked the start of the Vikings fourth day in Mankato. Today was the first time some tempers flared and players started popping the pads. The battle in the trenches heated up and technique was a huge emphasis in all of the position groups. Several players stood out and a few others disappointed in the second day of padded practice.
Take a look inside my notebook to see all of the details from today's practice:
Bridgewater does his job, Hill and Stave continue to struggle
Teddy Bridgewater wasn't asked to make a massive amount of throws, but for the most part, he did his job well. Kyle Rudolph set up Chad Greenway and Bridgewater hit him in stride as he streaked across the field on a drag. Teddy also fired the ball into a tight gap between Eric Kendricks and Harrison Smith for a nice gain up the seam to Rudolph. It's clear Rudolph has become one of Teddy's favorite targets this offseason.
Teddy used nice touch and velocity to place a ball to Stefon Diggs who beat Terence Neman on an out route. The only flaws from Bridgewater came on a fade to Adam Thielen and a comeback to Charles Johnson. Xavier Rhodes had excellent coverage on Thielen but the Bridgewater pass landed just out of his reach. Later, Teddy's arm appeared to be hit when he short-hopped an open Charles Johnson. The remainder of passes Teddy made were of the short variety and he had no problem executing in those situations.
Shaun Hill threw several passes high in today's session. He missed a wide-open David Morgan in a drill with the tight ends and airmailed a throw to Mortiz Böhringer in the same drill. Hill is having problems throwing up the field and in the seam. The balls tend to hang in the air and don't have much velocity. Most of his throws have the tendency to sail high and are frequently off-target.
Joel Stave again had a poor day. He was intercepted on a high throw by Jayron Kearse. Additionally, he threw a pass 20 yards away from the play and it was the perfect opportunity to test the football skills of several media members. Stave looked confused on several occasions and Norv Turner was having several long talks with him.
Asiata, McKinnon, stand out as pass blockers
Today, the linebackers challenged the running backs in pass protection. Matt Asiata didn't allow any pressure and Jerick McKinnon held his own against the competition. McKinnon kept his anchor and forced the defender outside. During the drill, McKinnon took a shot to the head and left the field. Mike Zimmer said after practice he got twisted a little, but would be fine. Additionally, fullback Zach Line was pancaked by Anthony Barr in the same drill. Conversely, fullback Blake Renaud showed a nice punch and held his ground against the competition. Renaud has shown some potential in limited action and might be a player to keep a close eye on in the preseason.
Offensive line shuffle continues, unit impressive in the running game
After one day of John Sullivan at center and Andre Smith at right tackle, both T.J. Clemmings and Joe Berger returned to the starting lineup. Coach Zimmer indicated that the Vikings would substitute different players into those spots frequently throughout camp. The goal is to evaluate every player to find the correct mix for the regular season. The offensive line really stood out today when the offense was practicing run plays. The entire unit was getting off the ball and opening some big holes for the running backs to sprint through. It was particularly noticeable on the left side of the offensive line. Alex Boone was opening up huge holes in the interior. He has made a huge difference on the left side of the offensive line. Additionally, Joe Berger was doing a nice job getting a good push in the second level. T.J. Clemmings has shown he is an excellent run blocker, but his pass protection skills still aren't up to par. Today, the Vikings offensive line had the advantage over the defensive line when it came to the running game. In the goal line session, Matt Asiata had massive holes on his two touchdown runs to the left side and T.J. Clemmings even did a nice job sealing off an Asiata run to the right. The offensive line really looked good when blocking for running plays today.
When evaluating the group in pass protection, the glaring weakness came on the right side. T.J. Clemmings was allowing some strong inside pressure from Danielle Hunter in team drills. Aside from that, Matt Kalil was beaten twice in 11-on-11's against Everson Griffen, but didn't allow any other notable pressures. He did lose a 1-on-1 matchup with Griffen, but it wasn't nearly as lopsided as yesterday. Brandon Fusco looks improved and was evenly matched in 1-on-1 work against Tom Johnson. In addition, Joe Berger didn't allow any pressure when squared up against Linval Joseph in 1-on-1 drills. The running game looked better with Berger at center today. Veteran John Sullivan struggled again and was beaten by Shamar Stephen rather handily. Berger has the early edge on Sullivan when it comes to who looks better early in training camp. Alex Boone is a wall in both run blocking and pass protection. He was the upgrade this team needed on the left side. When the offensive lineman paired together for a drill against two defensive lineman, Alex Boone and Matt Kalil easily handled Everson Griffen and Sharrif Floyd. It was encouraging to see both of them working so well together.
It appears the one weakness up front today was at right tackle. T.J. Clemmings couldn't handle moves from Brian Robison or Danielle Hunter. It wouldn't be surprising to see Andre Smith rotating in with this group. Smith held his own in all the 1-on-1 drills against Danielle Hunter today. In fact, Smith did substitute in with the first-team group for a short portion of an OL/DL drill.
Willie Beavers was destroyed by Sharrif Floyd in 1-on-1 drills and Jeremiah Sirles couldn't handle Justin Trattou. When it comes to the backups and Clemmings, the defensive line won big. Aside from that, several of the starting offensive lineman held their own better today. Overall, the defensive line had a slight edge, but it was much closer today than yesterday. In contrast, during day three, the defensive line absolutely dominated.
It's clear Tony Sparano is always coaching his players and that appears to be helping. During 1-on-1 drills with the defensive line, Sparano was instructing his players after every rep. Following the drill, while others worked on special teams, the offensive line did extra work. They were being coached hard in every drill today and the emphasis has clearly been technique and fundamentals. The group is showing small progress every day and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues moving forward.
Böhringer has some drops, Treadwell's blocking is natural
Moritz Böhringer probably had his worst day of practice. The German sensation had about three drops in various drills. In tram drills, he dropped a pass across the middle after getting a step on the defensive back. Additionally, he dropped a pass during individual work on an out route towards the sideline. Some of the deficiencies in Böhringer's game are from inexperience and being behind the learning curve, but part of it can be attributed to quarterback play. He hasn't had the chance to work with a competent quarterback and is forced to adjust to passes frequently. Böhringer is not only over concentrating on his footwork and route running but isn't receiving the best throws. That isn't an excuse and he is still behind the learning curve, however, it is another contributing factor.
Laquon Treadwell is one of the best run blocking wide receivers you will find. His technique and fundamentals are spotless for a skill player. In today's drill, he opened his hips, established an anchor, and exploded through the block. He will open up plenty of lanes in the running game with his relentless physicality.
Intensity blossoms multiple times
Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur popped Matt Asiata after the play and a few words were exchanged after his goal-line touchdown. Most notably, during team drills, Laquon Treadwell ripped Jabari Price to the ground and a small scuffle broke out. The coaches blew the whistle after about 15 seconds and separated the two players. All of the players were really getting after it today, especially the guys in the trenches.
Trae Waynes (lightly) blends in with the first team
During the morning walkthrough, cornerback Trae Waynes took a few snaps with the first-team defense. He played opposite of Xavier Rhodes on the outside and Captain Munnerlyn saw snaps in the slot within the nickel package. This was only for a few plays, but it was some of the few opportunities Waynes had to play with the first-team secondary. Later in the afternoon, Waynes did blend in with the first-team defense opposite of Xavier Rhodes. What's more, veteran Michael Griffin substituted into the first-team defense alongside Harrison Smith for a couple plays. The defensive backs spent a serious amount of time working on pressing the wide receiver and releasing into coverage. Mike Zimmer was in the secondary frequently instructing the defensive backs. He spent plenty of time with Trae Waynes, who continues to show improvement.
Emmanuel Lamur entered for Chad Greenway in a couple situations and Lamur notably knocked away a pass and nearly added an interception in 7-on-7 drills.
Kearse is shining
Following the off day, it will be interesting to see if Jayron Kearse rises past the third-team depth chart. Over the last two days, Kearse has been making plays and showing his physical presence in the backend of the defense. Today was another example of that. Kearse intercepted an errant Joel Stave pass in team drills. He has been around the ball frequently in practice and isn't afraid to lower the shoulder and make a big hit. In fact, several times, he has needed to stop himself from laying down the hammer when a receiver has entered his quadrant of the field. Kearse is making a strong push to see more action and might be the early front-runner for Mr. Mankato.
Audie Cole has a nice day
Today, linebacker Audie Cole had his best day of training camp. He beautifully sniffed out a dragging MyCole Pruitt and knocked the pass away. In addition, he nicely covered Jhurell Pressley in the flat and forced a dropped pass. Cole has been running with the second-team defense at middle linebacker and has been internal cog of all of the first-team special teams units. With a deep linebacker battle taking place, days like this will significantly help Cole's chances to make the roster.
Vikings sign Terrance Plummer
The Vikings announced they re-signed linebacker Terrance Plummer who spent part of last season on their practice squad. He hadn't arrived for practice yet, but should be on the field when practice begins on Wednesday. The Vikings roster currently sits at 89 players.
Cordarrelle Patterson (shoulder), Taylor Heinicke (ankle/leg), and Rhett Ellison (patellar tendon recovery) all missed practice. No additional details have been provided regarding Patterson's injury or a timetable for his return. Adrian Peterson again did not practice as he recovers from a slight hamstring tweak. Jerick McKinnon left the field with an undisclosed injury, but Mike Zimmer wasn't worried about it when asked after practice.
The Vikings have an off day tomorrow, but will return to the field on Wednesday for a morning walkthrough from 10:30-11:30 a.m. and an afternoon session from 2:45-5:10 p.m.
Arif Hasan, Luke Inman, and I recap the first four days of camp in this video: