The Vikings weren't in pads for Wednesday's practice, but there were still a few takeaways. Daniel House provides all of the observations in his latest notebook!
Wednesday’s session was one of the lightest practices of training camp. The team did not wear pads, but focused on team install, running periods and 1-on-1 DB/WR drills. It was a chance to see the wide receivers and secondary in live action.
The Cousins to Diggs connection
During the DB/WR drills, quarterback Kirk Cousins had two beautiful connections with wide receiver Stefon Diggs. The first was a deep fade up the seam to Diggs, who made the catch in stride against Mack Alexander. Cousins moved out of the pocket and placed the ball perfectly. A few moments earlier, Cousins threw a back shoulder strike to Diggs near the sideline. Diggs ran a deep out against cornerback Xavier Rhodes and managed to get just enough separation.
Jeff Badet making a charge?
In the same drill, wide receiver Jeff Badet ran a smooth comeback on cornerback Duke Thomas. He kept his shoulders vertical until the last second and exploded off his outside foot to come back for the ball. Badet also used his quick feet at the start of his route to earn extensive separation against cornerback Craig James. After missing the first couple practices, Badet has come on strong. Instead of just using pure speed, he is getting separation off a few different routes in the tree. With the coaches searching for young options on the depth chart, Badet is one player worth monitoring during preseason games.
Johnson makes a highlight play
Olabisi Johnson continues to be the main young receiver to separate himself from others. During Wednesday’s practice, he made one of the biggest plays of the afternoon. In team drills, quarterback Sean Mannion used play-action to stretch the defense. Bisi Johnson ran a deep fade up the seam and slowed up just enough to track the ball. Despite contact at the catch point, Johnson brought in the grab against cornerback Duke Thomas.
Craig James causes another pass breakup
Cornerback Craig James had one of the best plays of the day. In the team red zone drill, he beautifully covered a wheel route by De’Angelo Henderson. He timed his jump and made a leaping deflection in the back right corner of the end zone. Over the past two days, James has been making plays and standing out.
A look inside the tight end room
Tight end Cole Hikutini had two impressive grabs, including a full-extension leaping catch in-between safety Marcus Epps. He has flashed his pass-catching skills throughout camp and could make noise in preseason action. In the tight end room, I also noted a pressure allowed by tight end Tyler Conklin. He was attempting to block defensive end Everson Griffen and surrendered a touch sack. Griffen used a bull-rush and backed Conklin into quarterback Sean Mannion. Tight end Brandon Dillon was also mixing into the second-team rotation. He is player who has shown flashes of versatility as a pass catcher and run blocker.
Bailey misses a few field goals
The biggest takeaway from Wednesday’s practice was on special teams. The units continued to work in small groups, but there were two live field goal sessions. Kicker Dan Bailey went 3-for-6 with made attempts from 37 (middle), 45 (right hash) and 54 (right hash). One of his misses from 41 yards out was the result of a poor snap. I was unable to notice who the long-snapper was from my vantage point. I’m guessing it was Austin Cutting because Kevin McDermott took the second set of snaps. Throughout camp, they have been alternating sessions like this. Bailey also missed attempts from 44 yards (right hash) and 50 (left has). It's worth noting there was a strong 13 mph wind gusting across the field during these kicks.
Overall, it’s clear the issues in the kicking game are not solely the result of Bailey making mistakes. Occasionally, the entire timing of the operation is off and it’s causing misses. Everything from low/high snaps and bobbled holds have been contributing factors. In addition to those little timing issues, Bailey has made a few mistakes, too.
The biggest thing that needs to get figured out is the collective operation between the kicker, long-snapper and holder. Perhaps the Vikings will select a long-snapper soon and move forward with one specific specialist group. Special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf has indicated the importance of developing timing in training camp. They’ll need to start finding a rhythm and consistency before the regular season begins.
The punt return battle
During Wednesday’s practice, the punt returner group was thinned down a little. In the final punt return portion of practice, Chad Beebe, Ameer Abdullah, Holton Hill and Dillon Mitchell took reps. This competition will be a big one to monitor throughout preseason games. Right now, Beebe and Abdullah look most comfortable in this role.
In addition to Mike Hughes, David Morgan and Tashawn Bower, cornerback Kris Boyd and tackle Aviante Collins did not have a helmets. Brian O’Neill participated in team stretch, but didn’t do any additional work. Defensive end Ade Aruna wasn’t spotted. Also, after missing Tuesday’s session, offensive tackle Tyler Catalina returned.
Day 1 Notebook
Day 1 Notebook