Vikings Territory staffer Drew Mahowald presents his key takeaways from Saturday night’s Vikings training camp practice.
For 52 years, Minnesota Vikings Training Camp has been highlighted by the annual Saturday evening practice under the lights at Blakeslee Stadium.
The team’s final training camp is no different, as over 10,500 people filled the stands to watch the Vikings under the lights. It was truly a tremendous slue of humanity.
Best Fans in the NFL pic.twitter.com/jlsaZZKE4y
— BJ Reidell (@RobertReidell) August 5, 2017
And man, did the Vikings put on a show for their final night scrimmage in Mankato.
The intensity was clearly taken to another level. Pads clashed louder and the trash talk was more colorful. The Vikings spent most of practice in 11-on-11 situational drills, and it was clear that neither side wanted to look bad.
See the major takeaways below.
Bradford’s accuracy shines again
It’s not really a secret that Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford is one of the most accurate throwers in all of football. He just broke the NFL completion percentage record in 2016 — which, by the way, is spun into a negative accomplishment far too often — and it doesn’t look like he’s regressing.
When Bradford gets a clean pocket and time to go through his progressions, it’s almost a certainty that his throw will be placed exactly where he wants it.
One play during Saturday night’s practice encapsulated just how jaw-droppingly accurate Bradford is on seemingly impossible throws.
The play call included a play-action fake and several long-developing route — including a mid-range crossing route by Jarius Wright. After the fake, Wright was able to get a step on Mackensie Alexander. Linebacker Anthony Barr, who was playing mid-zone coverage, recognized Wright’s route over the middle and picked it up almost flawlessly. This left an infinitely tiny window for Bradford to throw into.
Bradford made it happen.
Sam Bradford continues to shred up the intermediate stuff… drops a dime to Wright over Waynes and Barr for 70 Yard TD pic.twitter.com/NA9t3yYyPP
— Luke Inman (@Luke_Spinman) August 6, 2017
Bradford is still checking the ball down at a higher frequency than necessary, especially given that it is training camp and that there isn’t really a better time to take more shots downfield. But, his pocket maneuverability looks a lot better from 2016, which is certainly a positive development.
The Trae-ning wheels are coming off
Somewhat of a forgotten man in the Minnesota defense, Trae Waynes is being counted on to take the next step in his cornerback development in his third season.
He’s had a bit of a quiet camp so far (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing by any means), but he made a couple of splash plays during Saturday night’s practice.
The first play came early in the practice during red zone situational drills. The offense ran a play-action bootleg with Kyle Rudolph in the flat acting as a primary defender. Waynes stayed home in his assignment and earned a pass breakup on the flat route, although to be fair a pass interference call could have been called.
His second splash play further displayed signs of development. In zone defense, Waynes read Bradford’s eyes and got a great jump on the ball when it was launched. Waynes left his zone and made a play on the ball, which was intended for Diggs on an underneath out route.
Trae Waynes gaining more confidence.. uses great quickness to get hands on pass to Diggs pic.twitter.com/g06T948g8c
— Luke Inman (@Luke_Spinman) August 6, 2017
With Terence Newman receiving several reps at safety, it looks like Waynes is in line to start the season as the starting cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes. His time is coming very soon.
Weak Linebacker job is wide open
Heading into training camp, one of the most intriguing storylines was the starting weak linebacker position. Emmanuel Lamur and Edmond Robinson appeared to be the favorites and it was expected that one of them would emerge in camp eventually.
Instead, another candidate has placed himself squarely in the race.
Fourth-round rookie Ben Gedeon has received high praise from the coaching staff and is suddenly rotating in with Lamur and Robinson at weak linebacker with the first team.
Gedeon’s nose for the ball and highly instinctual play could be beneficial to the Barr-Kendricks tandem that occupies the other two starting spots. Whether Gedeon wins the job or not, it does look like he has earned some type of role in the linebacker rotation this season.
Remmers the run mauler
Minnesota’s offensive line hasn’t provided a whole lot for fans to be optimistic about throughout training camp. Injuries to Riley Reiff and now Rashod Hill during the night practice have clouded any optimism along the offensive line.
Newly-signed right tackle Mike Remmers showed glimpses of something Vikings fans should get excited about. As the intensity picked up, it appears as if Remmers’ mean streak also did.
He consistently gained great leverage on Danielle Hunter in the run game and finished his blocks really well. He was part of the reason Dalvin Cook and Bishop Sankey were so effective on the ground.
- Bishop Sankey boasted impressive agility and burst on a few long runs during the scrimmage. He is a strong candidate to get picked up by another NFL team, assuming he does not make the Vikings 53-man roster.
- CJ Ham continues to lead block like a seasoned veteran at the fullback position. He’ll be an extremely tough cut if that’s what the Vikings decide to do.
- Stefon Diggs is still phenomenal. He’s due for a full 16-game season.
- In the highly-anticipated punter battle, Ryan Quigley has proven more effective as a directional punter. But Taylor Symmank possesses significantly more power behind his punts. Which style does Mike Priefer like more?
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