Saturday, July 29, 2017

Day 6 Training Camp Notebook: The pads are popping in Mankato


The fans packed the stands for the first full-padded practice of Vikings training camp. Daniel House takes you inside his training camp notebook. 

Updated: July 29, 2017, 7:30 p.m.

By: Daniel House

The fans packed the stands for the first full-padded practice of Vikings training camp. The battle in the trenches intensified and all eyes were on the offensive line.

Find out how they stacked up by taking a dive inside my training camp notebook:

Bradford off target deep, but redeems himself
Quarterback Sam Bradford struggled to throw the ball up the field during certain portions of practice. He missed Laquon Treadwell deep up the seam after having a few steps on Terence Newman. Bradford also overshot Stefon Diggs on a corner-post as Diggs had a step on Trae Waynes. He also missed Laquon Treadwell, who ran a beautiful fade on Antone Exum Jr. However, he ended the session strong with his most beautiful throw of camp. Off of play-action, Bradford stepped into a clean pocket and found Kyle Rudolph up the seam. Rudolph ran a beautiful seam route to get open on Anthony Barr. It was a 3-and-1 situation and the defense bit very hard on the play-action as Bradford delivered the strike.

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke continues throw the ball well up the field. He dropped a dime to RJ Shelton, who won with a nice double move. Heinicke placed the pass over the top with excellent anticipation. Heinicke ran with the second-team offense for the afternoon session and continued to deliver passes with zip and accuracy to the sideline. His lone blemish came on a crosser he forced to Jarius Wright out of a play-action look. Safety Anthony Harris read his eyes and made the interception.

Case Keenum still has trouble throwing the ball accurately down the field, but managed to deliver a deep strike to Stacy Coley. He also fired a quick slant across the middle to Coley, who used his body to shield cornerback Tre Roberson. Keenum has been rather inconsistent in practice, but Saturday was by far his best performance.

Cook is a fluid runner
In the first padded practice, running back Dalvin Cook showed his burst and vision during several runs between the tackles. He burst through an open hole between Alex Boone and Joe Berger and delivered a nice cutback on Anthony Barr in the second level. When Cook gets a small crease or the edge, he’s so fluid and smooth. In the passing game, he can create a dynamic play when he gets out in space.

Running back Terrell Newby continues to show nice wiggle when he gets between the tackles. He can bounce a run outside and cutback in the second level to pick up more yards. He also has great hands and can create out of the backfield via the receiving game. Newby has caught my eye in two practices thus far.

Fullback C.J. Ham was tested by Ben Gedeon as he came downhill hard through the gap. Ham was knocked off balance and driven backward. It was the only time I was able to see a negative rep from Ham, but my eyes were fixed heavily on the offensive line.
Morgan has reliable hands
Tight end Bucky Hodges had one drop in a tight end drill, but popped off a nice seam route to make a difficult catch. He also held up well in the running game, sealing off the edge twice on running plays. Hodges wasn’t targeted frequently, but has been making strides with his ball tracking skills.

Tight end David Morgan has been flashing his above average hands. He made a difficult grab in positional work, high-pointing the throw with one-hand. He can win contested catch battles because of his size and strong hands. Morgan continued to perform well as a run blocker, which is a strength. Morgan not only can block effectively, but might be a threat in the red zone passing game. 

Diggs' route running is hot
The fluidity of Stefon Diggs’ routes are mind-boggling. His movement skills are tough to comprehend when he’s moving at the stem of his route. He spun cornerback Trae Waynes around as he faked outside and snapped off a post. Diggs gets defensive backs off balance because of his fluid movements and crisp footwork. He and Adam Thielen are dominant route runners and cause headaches for defensive backs.

Laquon Treadwell put together another strong performance Saturday. He ran a beautiful double move up the seam to get a step on Terence Newman. Later in practice, he used a sharp cut out of his break to get space for a quick slant on Newman. Treadwell is moving well in and out of his routes and looks more comfortable with his route running. In team drills, he beat Antone Exum Jr. with a quick first step and Bradford just missed him on a touch fade.

Michael Floyd kept cornerback Terence Newman on his hip and won a contested catch battle by using his physicality. Floyd has such a wide frame and plays very strong through the catch point.

Wide receiver RJ Shelton got some love from the crowd as he put a double move on Jabari Price. Shelton wins with a combination of speed and leverage, but runs methodical routes. He has been putting together a strong camp and is active on special teams units, as well.

German sensation Mortiz Böhringer had a great day. He ran a sharp comeback on cornerback Sam Brown, keeping the cornerback on his hip. He tracked the pass outside his frame and hauled in the pass. Earlier in practice, he also won a contested catch battle against Brown, high-pointing the pass over his shoulder. Böhringer has been inconsistent throughout camp, but there’s no doubting his route running has improved.

Pads start popping
Saturday was the first day we got a strong look at both offensive and defensive line units. For the most part, the offensive line performed positive. The starters won about 60% of their reps, which is a great step forward. Outside of the top-five, there was more of a drop-off, but the main offensive line unit made a strong first impression. 

Guard Alex Boone has been putting together a strong camp. In 1-on-1 drills, he handled Datone Jones and Tom Johnson with a strong base and punch. Boone is performing fundamentally sound and has been making minimal mistakes thus far. He has been the anchor up front because of his solid performance.

Rashod Hill was between once with speed by Danielle Hunter, but held up well on other reps. Hill is very athletic and looks more comfortable with his footwork and punch placement. He is winning a few reps and losing others, but the latter occurs less often. 

After an unimpressive Friday, Mike Remmers won reps against Danielle Hunter and Brian Robison during the 1-on-1 portion of practice. Remmers performed more positively during the 11-on-11 work, but still has lapses at certain portions of practice. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised with how the offensive line stacked up. 

Outside of the top five, there is less stability. 

Willie Beavers lost with a strong push-pull against Stephen Weatherly and had lapses during the team action. Weatherly has more pass rushing moves to garner his length and athleticism. It's clear he spent this offseason refining the details of his footwork. In addition, T.J. Clemmings lost badly on a rep versus Chunky Clements, who used a blend of speed and power to knock Clemmings off balance.

Center Pat Elflein worked with the starters during a portion of practice and opened up a wide hole for Dalvin Cook on the left side. In 1-on-1's, he lost one rep against Linval Joseph, but bounced back in the next sequence with a win over Shamar Stephen. Elflein is getting better every day with more eps in practice. 

Linval Joseph was absolutely dominant during certain portions of practice, knocking Nick Easton off his feet during a running play in team drills and winning every 1-on-1 drill. 

Danny Isidora got to the second level and knocked defensive Stephen Weatherly over as he got down the field for a running play. He also won against Jaleel Johnson with a strong base and sound technique. Isidora is going to be an active contributor if injuries strike the intetior of the offfensie line.

Jeremiah Sirles lost twice in the 1-on-1 drills, including off a speed rush where Tashawn Bower totally dominated with a last second burst of strength. Bower had another strong day, showing more explosion and refined footwork. He is really starting to reap the benefits of being more technically sound as an athlete. Jaleel Johnson also showed a blend of quickness and power to win a matchup in 11-on-11 drills. He is starting to develop more pass rushing moves and it’s showing with pads on.

Defensive tackle Datone Jones hasn’t been causing many disruptions and has lacked strength to get off of blocks. He has great quickness, but hasn’t made any noise during team drills or 1-on-1 action. It’s early, but I was underwhelmed after seeing him during the first day in pads. On the other hand, Will Sutton had a fantastic rep in 1-on-1 drills. He showed impressive athleticism and explosion to win against left guard Austin Shepherd. Sutton set his move up with a quick first step and it ended it with power to knock Shepherd to his knees. Later in the drill, veteran Tom Johnson won against Danny Isidora with a strong long arm jab. He had an excellent showing during 1-on-1 drills and is off to a quick start in camp. 

Gedeon and Wilson are playmakers
At linebacker, Ben Gedeon was all over the field. He forced an incompletion on a pass in the flat to Bucky Hodges and destroyed C.J. Ham on a downhill blitz. He had two tackles for loss in the running game and was fighting through blocks to get in the backfield. Gedeon is super instinctive and it showed when he reacted to plays in pads. His coverage skills were much improved Saturday, which is the biggest key for the rookie.

Linebacker Eric Wilson was all over the field, making plays on ball carriers in the second level. He has good speed sideline-to-sideline and runs down ball carriers with his above average instincts. Wilson was a steal in undrafted free agency and his active playing style has transferred well to special teams.

Keeping tabs on the defensive backs
Cornerback Trae Waynes had a great pass breakup on an Adam Thielen comeback to the sideline. During team drills, Waynes was executing and didn’t give up significant yardage. He isn’t relying solely on speed, but he uses it as an asset when he needs to. His footwork and physicality are starting to become something he uses more in his skill-set. 

During a red zone drill, cornerback Mackensie Alexander had a nice pass breakup. He rotated his hips and kept the receiver on his hip. Alexander wasn’t consistently tested Saturday, but has been benefiting from more extended reps.

Cornerback Terence Newman lost twice to Laquon Treadwell and once to Adam Thielen. Newman is in the position to make plays, but has particularly struggled to cover comebacks. This has been the case in each of the first few practices of training camp.

Cornerbacks Tre Roberson and Jabari Price both lost on double moves and have continually struggled to cover vertically up the field. The double move has haunted both of them.

Safety Anthony Harris intercepted Taylor Heinicke and made a great read off a play-action look to haul in an interception. The defense bit hard on the play action, but Harris read Heinicke’s eyes as he tried to force a crosser to Jarius Wright. It was a very smart play and supports the idea that Harris' awareness is one of his strengths. 

More Notes: 
  • Left tackle Riley Reiff, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, and running back Jerick McKinnon were held out of practice with their respective injuries. Mike Zimmer isn’t concerned.
  • Punter Taylor Symmank boomed several punts 55-60+ yards, while Ryan Quigley had one punt go off the side of his foot. Symmank kicks with more leg strength and is extremely directional. Quigley kicks with more hang time and is less directional. 
  • Kai Forbath and Marshall Koehn each made three of their four field goal tries. Forbath missed wide left from 42 yards out, while Koehn was off the mark on a 40-yarder.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the info Daniel. I plan on attending family night in Mankato, so these articles are a nice substitute for me in the meantime