Sunday, July 30, 2017

Day 7 Training Camp Notebook: Bucky Hodges makes a splash

Photo: Vikings.com
The Vikings took the field for their second full-padded practice in front of a packed crowd. Daniel House recaps the day with his training camp notebook.

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

By: Daniel House


The Vikings took the field for their second full-padded practice in front of a packed crowd. The quarterbacks, a free agent wide receiver, and rookie tight end flashed during the afternoon session. 

For more, take a dive into my day seven training camp notebook:

Quarterbacks star in practice
All of the quarterbacks were sharp during the Vikings’ second full-padded practice of training camp. Quarterback Sam Bradford had the highlight throw of the day as he dropped a dime into a tight window between cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Andrew Sendejo. Bradford stepped into the pocket and placed the pass right into Diggs’ bread basket for a 45-yard gain. He also dropped a perfect deep pass to Jarius Wright up the seam, who beat cornerback Xavier Rhodes deep. Bradford was accurate with all of his throws and started to get more timing down with wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, too. Treadwell ran a great inside slant on cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Bradford found him for an easy pitch and catch. When Bradford has the opportunity to step into a clean pocket, he is even more accurate down the field.

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke fired a pass up the seam to tight end Bucky Hodges, who high-pointed the pass over cornerback Jabari Price. Heinicke delivered the pass with zip and fit it into a tight window. Later in practice, wide receiver Michael Floyd ran a beautiful dig route and Heincike delivered a bullet in traffic. Cornerback Sam Brown intercepted a Taylor Heinicke pass intended for wide receiver Mortiz Böhringer. Böhringer ran a lazy route to the sideline and Brown jumped it for an interception.

Quarterback Case Keenum had his strongest day of training camp thus far. He threw three touchdowns during the red zone period. Keenum delivered an outstanding throw to wide receiver Michael Floyd, who made a one-handed grab in back right corner of the end zone. Later in practice, he made a strong throw on a corner-post to Bucky Hodges. Keenum is starting develop more timing and chemistry with his receivers as training camp progresses. He and Heinicke alternated reps with the second and third team and will likely continue doing so.

Cook hurdles, Newby shows off his hands
During goal-line work, running back Dalvin Cook hurdled over left tackle Rashod Hill who was hunched over on the ground. Cook was impressive when he had an open lane and ran decisively with excellent vision to find cutback lanes. Besides a touchdown run fueled by great blocking from left tackle Rashod Hill and tight end David Morgan, Cook didn’t have many rushing lanes in the red zone. He was stopped by linebackers Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks on two occasions. However, when the young running back gets a crease or finds the edge, he has another gear.

In the red zone drill, running back Terrell Newby caught two touchdowns, one of which came off a Case Keenum bootleg. Newby has continually displayed his above average hands and ability to create after the catch.

Fullback C.J. Ham helped spark a run to the edge with a strong base and punch against linebacker Emmanuel Lamur in team drills.

Floyd makes an acrobatic catch 
Wide receiver Michael Floyd continues to show his impressive route running and ability to win at the catch point. His wide catch radius and physicality at the catch point allow him to haul in difficult grabs across the middle. Not to mention, he rarely drops passes and has great hands. On Sunday, Floyd shined in the two-minute drill at the end of practice. He ran a beautiful dig route for a 15-yard reception, and two plays later, Floyd made an acrobatic catch while laying in the end zone. Earlier in practice, Floyd also hauled in an incredible one-handed grab in the back right corner of the end zone against Tre Roberson. The Vikings have a receiver who can get open with a variety of different routes and finish them off with a contested catch. 

Wide receiver Stacy Coley flashed during certain portions of practice. He ran a nice crossing route to score a touchdown on cornerback Jabari Price. He also got open off an out route to the sideline and kept the defensive back on his hip. His route running is becoming more consistent every practice and he’s been winning a few tight battles because of his footwork.

Hodges makes a splash 
Tight end Bucky Hodges was sensational during Sunday’s practice. He made a diving, tip-toe grab with safety Harrison Smith all over him in a 4-on-4 drill. Hodges displayed great body control and was strong through the catch point to fend off Smith. He also added a 5-yard touchdown off a play-action look in the red zone. Later in practice, he ran a beautiful route in the seam to win at the catch point against cornerback Jabari Price. In addition, Hodges delivered a great block on the edge to open a rushing lane for running back Dalvin Cook. He had a strong base and delivered a punch to get linebacker Ben Gedeon off balance. This was the first day Hodges was actively involved and he made a strong impression.

Tight end David Morgan opened up a huge hole during the goal line drill to spark a Dalvin Cook touchdown run. There are many portions of practice where Morgan is winning at the leverage point and opening up big holes in the running game. In addition, he has sufficient hands to get open off a play action look in the flat.

Less impressive day for the O-Line
The battle up front was definitely won by the defensive line during the second goal-line/red zone portion of practice. Defensive tackles Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph were dominating the interior of the offensive line. During one play, Joseph blew Nick Easton off the snap and forced inside pressure. Take it for what it’s worth, but Joseph won every matchup in the 1-on-1 drills during practice. In addition, Tom Johnson was getting a consistent push inside with a blend of quickness and power, destroying Aviante Collins on a 1-on-1 rep. However, Johnson had less success when he was lined up against guard Alex Boone. Boone won the majority of his reps and continues to be the top performer on the Vikings’ offensive line. Another star was defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, who was plugging up rushing lanes and taking on double teams during the goal-line session. He has quietly put together a strong camp by winning with his above average fundamentals. Sunday’s session was by far his best performance of training camp and Stephen showed the impact he can make against the run.

Offensive tackle Mike Remmers really struggled during portions of practice. Defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter were dominating as they used power and speed moves to win on a consistent basis. Remmers lost once against Hunter and twice against Griffen, who put a nasty spin move on display for the fans. Griffen was simply sensational. At one point, he won battles on four consecutive occasions. His pass rushing moves froze both Rashod Hill and Remmers. Hill was up-and-down, but fared better than most. He really shined as a run blocker, opening lanes on three occasions for runs between the tackles.

Defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson burst in the backfield to make a stop and batted down a Case Keenum pass at the line of scrimmage. He handled T.J. Clemmings with quick feet and a burst of power. In 1-on-1 drills, Clemmings actually had two positive reps, including one against Johnson. Clemmings has been very inconsistent thus far in practice. 

Center Pat Elflein has been taking more reps with the first-team units and is flashing his potential. Elflein got an excellent push during a Dalvin Cook run, washing defensive tackle Datone Jones out of the play. He lost a 1-on-1 snap to defensive tackle Linval Joseph, but that wasn’t a rare occurrence Sunday. However, Elflein bounced back to win against defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, who had a very strong day against other lineman. Elflein is making an impact in the running game when he is on the field, which is an area of emphasis right now. 

Lee sees a few second-team snaps
After a strong start to camp, linebacker Elijah Lee saw work with the second-team unit. He had one downhill run stop and covered running back Terrell Newby well across the middle. Lee will continue to see reps as the Vikings evaluate the second-tier of their linebacker room.

Anthony Barr was strong against the run Saturday and it continued Sunday. He had a run stop in a goal-line drill and forced Dalvin Cook to cut his run back inside. Fellow UCLA Bruin Eric Kendricks also had a tackle for loss and would have destroyed wide receiver Laquon Treadwell on a crosser if the team was in live contact.

Linebacker Eric Wilson had a less impressive day, losing badly in coverage to tight end Josiah Price. Wilson had his eyes in the backfield and Price snapped off his route for a big gain. Wilson sometimes plays too aggressive and it gets him into trouble. Oftentimes, he gets out of alignment and it leads to a big play. However, his aggressiveness can be an asset when he uses it properly.

Rhodes, “the money man”
In the defensive backfield, the “money man,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes, had a strong practice. He knocked away a quick slant intended for wide receiver Laquon Treadwell in the red zone drill. Later in the session, Rhodes made a tackle for loss in run support on a Dalvin Cook run.

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander was beaten by wide receiver Adam Thielen on a quick out in the red zone drill. However, during team drills, he recovered and shut the door on Kyle Rudolph, who was running a route up the seam. Alexander is receiving more experience, but hasn’t been tested on a consistent basis thus far.

Cornerback Trae Waynes covered a pass beautifully up the seam to Stefon Diggs, but quarterback Sam Bradford fit the pass into a very tight window. Waynes was running step-for-step with Diggs, but was unable to turn his head and make a play on the ball. However, it was literally a perfect throw by Bradford. For the most part, Waynes was doing well in coverage and didn’t allow any substantial gains.

Newly signed cornerback Sam Brown intercepted a Taylor Heinicke pass and perfectly covered a fade to wide receiver Cayleb Jones. Brown ran with Jones and used physicality to keep him on his hip. Brown has intriguing length and ball skills that could be developed.

As a whole, the Vikings’ defensive backs are contesting plays and aren’t getting toasted. If they do, it’s off a masterful route by Diggs or Thielen, where the player gets turned around and loses balance.

Miscellaneous Notes:
  • The Vikings inked cornerback Xaiver Rhodes to a six-year extension, worth $78 million.
  • Running back Jerick McKinnon practiced, but participated in a limited role as he battles an injury from earlier in the week.
  • Left tackle Riley Reiff, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, and defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo all missed practice. Mike Zimmer said he has “no idea” when Reiff will return.
  • Wide receiver Rodney Adams showed a nice open field burst/vision when finding lanes on kickoff returns. Adams, Marcus Sherels, and Isaac Fruechte all took return reps. 
  • Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Marcus Sherels could handle both punt and kick return duties, but that the competition is wide open. Priefer noted he would like to see running back Jerick McKinnon handle kickoffs, too. 
  • Taylor Symmank shanked a punt during a drill, but the punters didn't receive many reps Sunday.

3 comments:

  1. Great job Daniel, as usual!
    Since the start of camp, I haven't heard any comments about cornerbacks holding and grabbing the receivers. Have you seen a difference compared to last year so far? ... or the real test will come in preseason games ?
    - Mike from Montreal, Canada

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  2. I know there will be many difficulties and challenges but I am determined to do it. If it does not succeed then it will be a lesson for me as well
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