Updated: August 8, 2018, 6:30 p.m.
By: Daniel House
It was a hot day in Eagan as the Vikings continued training camp practices at TCO Performance Center. The team practiced with shoulder pads and shorts, but some players like Riley Reiff chose to compete in full pads. It was a day filled with running periods, red zone work and situational components. At this point in camp, there are very few observations to report other than a few I have discussed in the past. Here are few of the key takeaways from Wednesday’s afternoon session:
Wright makes plays with Diggs out
Kendall Wright had a great red zone grab on a corner route against Trae Waynes during DB/WR drills. He also grabbed a quick slant in another red zone period against Mackensie Alexander. Wright and Cayleb Jones were substituting into the first-team unit during team drills with Stefon Diggs missing practice. Both Diggs and Xavier Rhodes were held out of the afternoon session. According to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune, Mike Zimmer said, “they did not make me happy” and added, “just undisciplined stuff.” It was also confirmed their absence was not injury related.
Kendall Wright has been rather quiet in camp, but managed to get open on a few occasions during practice. He is more exclusively a slot receiver, which might make him expendable if others step up. Brandon Zylstra may have received more reps in this role, but left practice early after grabbing an out in the end zone against cornerback Marcus Sherels. Zylstra is putting together a great camp, so it will be interesting to find out more information regarding why he left. Tavarres King also returned to practice after missing time with a hamstring injury. He is another player in the conversation to claim one of the final receiver spots. As offensive coordinator John DeFilippo said earlier on Wednesday, the preseason will provide a clearer picture of the battle.
Stacy Coley also made a splash play during the afternoon practice, completing a diving catch up the left sideline over Marcus Sherels for a big gain. It was one of the first big plays Coley has created after missing the early stages of camp with an injury.
Sherels continues to fight, Hill is getting better
In the 1-on-1 drills, Marcus Sherels won all of his reps, aside from the above loss to Zysltra. He had a great pass breakup intended for Jake Wieneke in the end zone. Sherels has been solid for a large portion of training camp and is hanging around just like he always does. It’s going to be a numbers game, especially considering the performance of cornerback Holton Hill. Hill had a great pass breakup on a fade in the back corner of the end zone intended for Kendall Wright. He was in perfect positon, turned his hips and stuck his hand in the passing lane to knock the throw away. Hill is growing every day with additional instruction and will be another player to monitor closely in the preseason.
Edison taking advantage of the reps, Collins working at guard and tackle
Up front, there was an extensive 1-on-1 session between the offensive and defensive lines. Danny Isidora won a pair of reps against Sheldon Richardson, but still has inconsistent moments in team action. Cornelius Edision has been surprisingly solid in many ways, too. He is winning the 1-on-1 matchups and made a great play to get into the second level for a Dalvin Cook swing pass. He is going to be asked to step up in a major way if Nick Easton’s injury is significant. When asked about Edison during Wednesday’s press conference, offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was complimentary of him, as well.
“I tell you, he has stepped in and done really, really well, I’m proud of him. He plays with great leverage, he has strong hands, he stays low to the ground, he’s smart,” DeFilippo said. “He hasn’t messed up a snap yet in terms of the cadence. So he’s done a fantastic job of stepping in there and we’re happy where he’s at.”
In multiple drills, Aviante Collins has been extremely solid. In fact, he might be the most improved young player among the offensive linemen. His hand technique is more consistent and it’s showing up in drills. He mauled Ifeadi Odenigbo in a rushing period and won reps against, Jalyn Holmes, Everson Griffen and Jaleel Johnson in 1-on-1 drills. He was working at both tackle and guard during the 1-on-1 sessions and stood out in both roles. Perhaps the team will choose to start him at guard if he continues the momentum into the preseason. Again, it’s so hard to evaluate offensive line play in camp, but Collins’ technical growth, combined with his performance should leave people encouraged.
Jalyn Holmes has been impressive in the 1-on-1 reps, but is still learning how to put everything together. There are moments in certain practice sessions where he gets washed out of plays, but he also flashes potential from time-to-time, too. Danielle Hunter was extremely dominant on his reps against Rashod Hill, destroying him with speed-to-power. He has looked very impressive in camp as he shows off more of his developed pass rushing moves.
In the final situational drill, the offense was tested in the red zone. Kirk Cousins beautifully placed a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph in the back corner of the end zone. He slid the throw in-between Trae Waynes and Andrew Sendejo to complete the touchdown reception. There were numerous portions of practice where Cousins was very vocal about making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He also was getting guys in the right position and commanding the team throughout various situations.
There was a small portion of practice where Antwione Williams took snaps in the base defense with Anthony Barr being held out of the session. He has made his presence known as a rusher and downhill defender and is starting to gain a few more reps with the main core. He’s another player to monitor throughout the four preseason games.
Safety Harrison Smith also picked off a Kirk Cousins throw in the end zone during a red zone drill, drawing one of the biggest cheers of the day.
As discussed above, Xavier Rhodes and Stefon Diggs were held out of practice for a non-injury related situation. Mike Remmers was out on the field for a portion of the session, but was not participating. Nick Easton remained sidelined and Pat Elflein is on the physically unable to perform list. Colby Gossett was a new addition to the non-participant list. Tavarres King returned after battling a hamstring injury for the past four practices.
In case you missed it, here's a story about how the offense is progressing.