Sunday’s Training Camp Notes

Vikings Offensive Linemen
Image courtesy of vikings.com

Today is notably the last Sunday without football as teams began to report to training camp across the league. The Vikings, however, are a full week into their 2015 season.

Playing Pittsburgh a week from today, the Vikings held a crisp practice the day after hosting 10,300 people for their evening practice/scrimmage. The Vikings worked so efficiently, that head coach Mike Zimmer called practice roughly 30 minutes early.

In his time with reporters after practice, Zimmer showed appreciation for the fanfare last night and noted the team had practiced well for the second consecutive day. Always the perfectionist, Zimmer did later say that everyone still needed to get better.

A Balanced Team

It has been so much fun to attend camp this year, mostly because this team seems so balanced and primed to improve off of their 2014 season.

Teddy Bridgewater made some nice throws, Adrian Peterson made some nice runs. All in all, the offense looked solid.

For the past year, we have said time and time again that the offensive line needed to get better in order for this team to succeed. Although it might not be perfect, I think it will be improved over last year. I mean, it’s hard not to improve.

I believe I mentioned in my post on Friday, that Brandon Fusco transitioning to left guard seems to be a great move that will help left tackle Matt Kalil. Today, I noted a run play where Matt Kalil came over the top of Brandon Fusco and attacked linebacker Gerald Hodges at the line of scrimmage. Fusco, in return, swung around Kalil to take on Everson Griffen rushing from the edge.

Kalil has struggled with speed rushers, but does play well when he can maul a smaller linebacker in run blocking. Especially in the open field.

On the defensive side of the ball, Xavier Rhodes continued to look fantastic in coverage. Trae Waynes got more time with the first team and Linval Joseph looks like an absolute monster on the defensive line.

Shifting Around At Linebacker

Zimmer commented that Gerald Hodges would get some time with the first team and today and he did. There wasn’t a formal announcement or anything, but I think the Vikings gave Anthony Barr the day off. I didn’t see him in any of the individual or combined drills.

Mostly precautionary, I am sure, with Barr coming off injuries that ended his 2014 season. Hodges continues to look good to me and better in coverage than last year. Hodges blew up a pass to Jerick McKinnon in the flats, Zimmer called him out loudly for making a nice play.

Eric Kendricks and Audie Cole continue to play with the first team, Cole getting the first reps in 11 on 11.

I think the inconsistency at linebacker would concern me if it wasn’t for the depth we’re seeing within the position. Each player makes a play or two per practice where you can tell it will be a strong position for the team. No matter who gets the start, I think we’ll see a lot of contributors at the position.

What To Do At Tight End

Norv Turner has said they’ll carry six wide receivers. Given Stefon Diggs’ impressive camp, I think we can already pencil those players names in.

That leaves you with four tight ends you probably want to keep, but I can’t see them carrying 10 total WR and TE. You would make the assumption that Chase Ford is the odd man out, but I’m hesitant to admit that because I don’t like the thought of losing Ford.

Still, because of Rhett Ellison’s blocking and versatility, the Vikings will be convinced they have enough pass catching abilities split between Kyle Rudolph and MyCole Pruitt. As for Pruitt, he’s not the type of player you draft and then try to sneak through waivers to the practice squad.

Other Tidbits

– Marcus Sherels looked good when returning punts. That man has really quick feet.

– Adam Thielen doesn’t get enough credit with his work as a gunner in punt defense.

– Adrian Peterson made a cut today that made my jaw drop. Looks like he still has great lateral movement.

– Stefon Diggs continues to make plays.

– Danielle Hunter ran circles around Babatunde Aiyegbusi, who continues to look stiff and mechanical.

– Catch of the day goes to Charles Johnson on a nice fade ball from Bridgewater. Johnson adjusted nicely to the back corner and managed to keep his feet in bounds.

– Throw of the day goes to Bridgewater (of course), who threw an absolute beauty to Adam Thielen along the sideline.

– Vikings legend Alan Page visited Mankato and spoke with the team after practice.

*****

Keep close the Vikings Territory team as the Vikings continue to prepare for their game next weekend. We’ll continue to have updates as this team evolves.