Monday, July 31, 2017

Day 8 Training Camp Notebook: Vikings shuffle the offensive line


The Vikings took the field for a high-spirited practice before an off day on Tuesday. Daniel House takes you inside his training camp notebook!

Updated: July 31, 2017, 7:10 p.m.

By: Daniel House

The Vikings took the field for a high-spirited practice before an off day on Tuesday. The intensity picked up in the defensive backfield and the physicality reached an all-time high during the third padded practice of training camp.

Find out what you missed by taking a dive inside my day eight training camp notebook:

Bradford drops dimes, Keenum struggles
Quarterback Sam Bradford put together another strong practice on Monday. He delivered a strike on an out to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who was blanketed by cornerback Trae Waynes. Waynes had great coverage, but Bradford placed the throw into a tight window and Diggs smoothly tracked the ball into his frame. He also delivered a perfect throw to the back right corner of the end zone to Adam Thielen. Cornerback Terence Newman was draped all over Thielen, who made a physically difficult grab at the catch point. Bradford delivered the pass with zip and accuracy to fit it into a small window.

Quarterback Case Keenum worked with the second-team unit and struggled during portions of practice. He missed wide receiver Cayleb Jones, who had a step on linebacker Elijah Lee up the seam. On the next play, he overshot tight end Nick Truesdell on a comeback. In addition, he threw a lazy pass across the middle intended for Jarius Wright and it was intercepted by safety Jayron Kearse. Keenum has been very inconsistent, while his counterpart Taylor Heinicke has been rather solid.

In a red zone DB/WR drill, Heinicke delivered a beautiful touch pass to the back right corner of the end zone. Isaac Fruechte made a great contested grab with cornerback Terence Newman in position to make a play. Heinicke fired the pass into a tight window and flashed his arm strength/accuracy. He threw the ball very well in the red zone drills and continues to show the growth he has made this offseason.

Running backs and tight ends tested in pass protection
The running backs and tight ends were tested in pass protection during a 1-on-1 drill with the linebackers. Running back Dalvin Cook lost a rep to linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, but bounced back to split his battles. Running back Bishop Sankey struggled the most during the pass protection drill. He was barreled over by linebacker Ben Gedeon in the 1-on-1 drill and lost to him during team drills, too. In the same drill, fullback C.J. Ham was knocked to the ground by Gedeon, who dominated his reps. Ham did have two positive reps as a run blocker, including a great block to set the edge on linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.

Running back Terrell Newby struggled as well, losing multiple reps, including one against linebacker Eric Kendricks. The running backs clearly need more work in pass protection and it will lkely be a point of emphasis moving forward.

Tight end Bucky Hodges won most of his reps and laid a great block on defensive end Tashawn Bower to spark a Bishop Sankey run in team drills. In addition, tight end David Morgan opened a huge hole for running back Dalvin Cook who burst into the second level. I also was impressed with the technique of tight end Josiah Price, who dominated linebacker Noor Davis in a 1-on-1 drill.

Treadwell gets fired up
Wide receiver Laquon Treadwell won a contested catch battle on cornerback Antone Exum Jr. in the back right corner of the end zone. Treadwell used his body to shield Exum Jr. and won at the catch point. After the grab, a small fight ensued as Treadwell took Exum Jr. to the ground. The practice stopped and they were separated. Treadwell didn’t see many reps after the incident.  

Former Gopher Isaac Fruechte took advantage of additional reps, putting together his best practice of training camp. He won on a back shoulder fade with cornerback Terence Newman blanketing him through the catch point. In the same red zone drill, Fruechte won a contested catch battle against Waynes in the back right corner of the end zone. He added another grab in the drill and really stood out in the red zone. Fruechte has been effective on fades to the back corner of the end zone and quick slants across the middle. He put some positive tape on display as he battles for one of the final wide receiver spots on the roster.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd continued to look impressive in practice. It is almost unfair he is forced to line up against second-team cornerbacks. Floyd beautifully adjusted to an overthrown Case Keenum pass to make a contested grab over Jabari Price. Earlier in practice, safety Jack Tocho had no chance to stop Floyd's post route as he made a physical grab through the catch point. In addition, Floyd’s wide catch radius and strong hands really stood out when he was targeted in the red zone.

Isidora moves up the depth chart
The offensive line fared better during Monday’s afternoon session. Quarterback Sam Bradford had great time to step into the pocket as he fired a deep shot to wide receiver Stefon Diggs up the seam. Bradford just missed Diggs between excellent coverage by cornerback Trae Waynes.

Left tackle Rashod Hill would put together a few quality reps and struggle on the third one. After a few quality snaps, there was one instance where defensive end Everson Griffen won off the edge with pure speed. Hill has small lapses in his footwork and it allows talented players like Griffen and Danielle Hunter to take advantage. Right tackle Mike Remmers had a decent first day, a poor second day, and a decent third day in pads. During team drills, he won a few reps, but lost to Danielle Hunter off an inside power move. Both Hill and Remmers are up-and-down, but they have each been strong in the running game, opening holes for running back Dalvin Cook to be successful.

Rookie Danny Isidora moved up the depth chart to take a few reps with the first-team offensive line. It is unclear if this was planned or if it was purely a veteran rest day for guard Joe Berger. Nonetheless, Isidora continued to show how fundamentally sound he is as a player. He has a very strong base and delivers a quick punch to get inside hand position. He got to the second level and laid a great block in the screen game, too. Isidora moves very well for a player with his frame and is quietly developing into a future starting guard in this league. The main rep I saw him lose was in a team drill versus defensive tackle Shamar Stephen. He lost off a quick first step and fantastic footwork by Stephen. After battling injuries last year, Stephen is having a strong camp and has been consistently disruptive against the run.

In addition to Isidora taking a few reps at right guard, T.J. Clemmings was awarded a few snaps with the first-team. He entered during a team situation where the Vikings had the ball at the opposing 30-yard-line with 1:54 on the clock. On the second play, Clemmings was destroyed with speed by Tom Johnson, who literally almost stopped the play. The next snap had a similar result. Clemmings was turned around by Johnson and Bradford was forced to throw the ball away. The coaches brought the kicking team on the field and kicker Marshall Koehn drilled a 47-yard field goal with plenty of distance. However, it wasn’t before Clemmings was destroyed twice.

Defensive end Tashawn Bower continues to show potential during portions of practice. He made a nice play against the run and beat Jeremiah Sirles with a power move to notch a touch sack. Bower is starting to refine the technique out of his stance, along with developing more pass rushing moves under the instruction of defensive line coach Andre Patterson. As for Sirles, he has been rather inconsistent in pass protection throughout camp.

This was the strongest day I’ve seen from defensive tackle Will Sutton thus far. He had several positive snaps in the running game and chased down a screen pass on the other side of the field. Sutton is extremely athletic and explosive as a pass rusher. He could make some noise during the preseason.

Center Pat Elflein also saw more snaps with the first-team at center and continued to show how effective he will be in the running game. He opened a huge lane for running back Dalvin Cook during one of the team drills. 

Linebacker job up for grabs 
Linebacker Ben Gedeon has been showing off his above average instincts and reaction skills at the positon. He sniffed out a screen pass and delivered strong pressure on a downhill blitz against fullback C.J. Ham. Gedeon flies all over the field, but remains disciplined when doing so. He fights through blocks and will be a huge asset against the run for the Vikings.

Linebacker Elijah Lee saw several snaps with the second-team nickel defense, along with Gedeon. Lee had another tackle for loss against the run and continues to show his range as a player. His tape showed concerns about how he would handle fighting through blocks, but it hasn’t been a problem so far. His lone blemish came on a coverage play where he lost to wide receiver Cayleb Jones.

Neither Emmanuel Lamur or Edmond Robinson are making a strong charge for the starting weakside linebacker job. However, Robinson sniffed out a Dalvin Cook pass in the flat and made a stop. In addition, he delivered a nice pop across the middle after wide receiver Rodney Adams hauled in a crosser.

Linebacker Anthony Barr was moving well and reacting to stop running back passes in the flat. He stone walled a reception to Dalvin Cook and has been actively involved against the run, too.

Waynes stands out at cornerback 
In the defensive backfield, it was easier to evaluate some of the players during extended red zone work. Cornerback Trae Waynes is showing more growth in his technique. He isn’t relying on grabbing or speed to win against wide receivers. He covered Stefon Diggs up the seam to force an incompletion and notched a pass breakup on an Adam Thielen out. When Waynes loses, it’s usually the result of a good throw into a tight window.

Cornerback Mackensie Alexander has been improving every day with more snaps. The highlight of his day was a pass breakup on a Jarius Wright quick slant in the red zone. He didn’t allow Jarius to re-direct his route and stuck his hand in the passing lane to knock it away. Alexander is becoming more fundamentally sound and hasn't been grabbing in camp. 

Cornerback Marcus Sherels saw more playing with Tre Roberson missing practice. Sherels notched a pass breakup on a Michael Floyd comeback. He held up well during Monday’s afternoon session.

I’ve seen flashes of developmental potential with cornerback Horace Richardson. He does a great job of sinking his hips and rotating to keep the receiver on his side. He executed all of the above tasks as he shut down a Cayleb Jones fade up the sideline. Richardson has a tendency to grab, but his footwork has been developing. He might be a developmental practice squad candidate.

Safety Harrison Smith had a strong sequence during the red zone session. He knocked away two passes intended for tight end Kyle Rudolph in the back of the end zone. On the second one, Smith played physical at the top of Rudolph’s route and reached across him to knock the pass away.

Miscellaneous Notes:

1 comment:

  1. Another excellent break down! Keep it up! I love the content!!