Updated: August 9, 2018, 7:45 p.m.
By: Daniel House
The Vikings finished the week of training camp practice before traveling to Denver for their first preseason game on Saturday. There wasn’t much to report outside of the 1-on-1 drills and a few highlight plays in the 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 sessions. The team practiced in shoulder pads and shorts for the afternoon session. Here are a few of the key takeaways:
Kendall Wright gets involved
Kendall Wright had a few notable grabs during the 7-on-7 and team drills. One was a quick slant in a goal line drill where he got excellent separation on cornerback Mackensie Alexander. He also had a similar grab out of the slot in the final team drill against Mike Hughes. Wright was blending between the first and second units throughout the afternoon. It was especially noticeable considering Brandon Zylstra did not participate after leaving Wednesday’s session.
It’s clear to see wide receiver Stacy Coley is trying to shake off the rust. He had two drops in various sessions, including one which led to interception. He had several yards of separation across the middle, but the pass tipped off his hands and into the arms of safety Harrison Smith. Coley will need to continue improving quickly because the wide receiver depth chart has talent. The preseason will clearly be very important for everyone in that position group.
Cousins finds Thielen
One of the highlights of the day came in 7-on-7 red zone work when Kirk Cousins zipped a pass into the back corner of the end zone to Adam Thielen with Xavier Rhodes in tight coverage. The Vikings ran through quite a few plays this afternoon, but it was clear to see the level of intensity was scaled back in preparation for a preseason game on Saturday.
Defensive line wins the day
The defensive line dominated the 1-on-1 drills during this practice. Brian O’Neill was one of the best performers, winning both of his reps against Brian Robison. He has continually improved from the first practice to now, which is definitely encouraging. In the same drill, Linval Joseph had the most eye-popping play when he tossed Cornelius Edison aside like a rag doll. It was one of the best 1-on-1 reps I’ve witnessed in my seven years covering training camp. When you watch Joseph in these types of situations, it’s almost unfair because he is simply so dominant. The defensive line was really dialed in during the practice session and brought more intensity than the offensive unit during the drill.
Sheldon Richardson also showed off his quick first step and hands to win both of his reps against Danny Isidora. Isidora has been rather inconsistent throughout camp and Mike Zimmer said this morning that his stance and second level blocking are areas he must improve. On the other hand, Richardson has been very sound in those drills and is winning the majority of his reps. Danielle Hunter has also looked more refined during the training camp sessions. He is winning with a variety of moves and looks less robotic overall. The main core of starting defensive linemen will be really tough to block this year. That’s why judging the performance of the offensive line is practice is extremely challenging.
Kickers are tested
During the one session of kicking, both Daniel Carlson and Kai Forbath finished 4-for-4 on a range from 33 to 54 yards. Forbath’s 33-yard try bounced in off the left upright, while Carlson’s 43-yard try took a similar path. The kicking battle has been tighter than I’ve anticipated so far because Forbath has been more accurate from deeper distances, while Carlson has been slightly inconsistent from intermediate distances. This is a battle that will start to take shape during the preseason.
Wide receiver Brandon Zylstra, linebacker Anthony Barr, guard Colby Gossett and guard Mike Remmers all did not participate. Mike Zimmer also announced Nick Easton will be placed on injured reserve soon with a bulging disk in his neck. The team will likely make a roster move soon to fill the spot. Zimmer said the team is exploring all options when it comes to adding offensive line depth.
For a feature on a potential candidate to replace Easton, here’s my story with Aviante Collins.