Vikings Territory staffer Drew Mahowald was on hand for the Aug. 3 Minnesota Vikings training camp practice and delivers his takeaways.
August in Mankato. The visual image likely popping into your head is one that includes sweat, humidity and heat.
However, such image was a completely inaccurate description of what Thursday’s practice was for the Vikings. The temperature fluttered in the mid-50s and the wind was steady around 20 miles per hour. It was a wonderful retreat from the typical uncomfortableness that comes with Vikings training camp.
Below are major takeaways from Thursday’s practice.
David Morgan dominates
Second-year tight end David Morgan turned in a dominating performance on Thursday. He was an unstoppable force as a run blocker, particularly in red zone drills. During one play, he practically de-cleated linebacker Emmanuel Lamur and drove him across the field and opened a hole for Dalvin Cook.
Morgan also flashed his effective route running ability on several occasions. He gained separation on Edmond Robinson on a corner route during a 7-on-7 drill but the pass from Case Keenum was overthrown.
Morgan’s impressive fundamentals combined with some exciting flashes as a receiver have all but locked him up as the No. 2 tight end for the Vikings this season. Moving forward, the focus should move to his role. Will he move into the backfield and fulfill an H-back role? He hasn’t done much, if any, of it during camp so far, which is good news for CJ Ham supporters.
Sam Bradford thrives in wind; Heinicke, Keenum struggle
The windy conditions in Mankato on Thursday had a major impact on footballs that were flying through the air, whether it be by punt or by pass. An adjustment was necessary for each quarterback when throwing both into and with the wind. Bradford was able to adjust well, while Heinicke and Keenum struggled.
Bradford dropped a few dimes throughout the practice, but two of them stood out. During an 11-on-11 session, Stefon Diggs raced by Terence Newman on a fly route and Bradford hit him perfectly in stride while throwing downwind for what would have been a 40-yard touchdown.
The other dime took place during the 7-on-7 session. Harrison Smith covered Kyle Rudolph beautifully on a corner route, but Bradford was able to place the throw perfectly past Smith’s helmet and in the breadbasket.
Heinicke and Keenum, each rotating in with the second team and third team, struggled to adjust to the wind. Each saw several thrown balls sail far over their intended targets’ head. During one rep specifically, Michael Floyd gained a couple steps of separation on cornerback Sam Brown down the sideline. Keenum proceeded to throw the ball roughly 15 yards past where it should have been to be completed. And no, 15 yards is not really an exaggeration.
Rashod Hill continues to hold his own
The extended absence of newly-signed left tackle Riley Reiff due to a back “twinge” is certainly a concern. But if there is a silver lining, it’s that Rashod Hill has filled in admirably as the left tackle with the first team. Hill, who was almost unheard of prior to his impressive performance against Chicago in Week 17 of last season, has matched up with Everson Griffen for most of camp.
And on Thursday, Hill won most of his reps against Griffen. His technique is improving rapidly and his recovery after getting knocked backward was really eye-opening.
It’s important to keep in mind that Hill has literally played in two career games. He’s still young and still very inexperienced. But, he certainly has started to look the part of a seasoned veteran.
Terence Newman spends time at safety
Minnesota’s secondary is full of versatile playmakers. Harrison Smith will line up everywhere. Mackensie Alexander can play outside or slot cornerback. Antone Exum has sprouted into a safety-slot cornerback combo during camp.
And now, Terence Newman is playing safety in a single-high look.
Nothing spectacular, positive or negative, happened during Newman’s session at safety, but the shift is worth noting. Andrew Sendejo stepped off the field to allow Newman to take over the “centerfield” duties in what was presumably a Cover 1 look.
This brings about a personnel shift that would allow Mike Zimmer to get extra fast and quick in a nickel package. In this scenario, Anthony Barr would move into a pass-rushing role much like a 4-3 defensive end. Harrison Smith would move into a “moneybacker” role to replace Barr, and Terence Newman would slide to safety with Trae Waynes as the outside cornerback opposite Xavier Rhodes.
Has this look been showcased yet in Mankato? No. But, Minnesota has utilized Barr in the defensive end position and has now used Newman as a single high safety. And, of course, Smith definitely has the ability to play the “moneybacker” role that would allow for even more creativity for Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards.
Rapid Fire Notes
- Stacy Coley has edge over Rodney Adams thus far, both as a wide receiver and as a return man (Adams dropped two punts and nearly a third on Thursday, while Coley had virtually no problems in the wind).
- CJ Ham has shown some pop as a lead blocker and would make a solid fullback should the Vikings choose to keep one.
- Isaac Freuchte’s route running is a bit more rigid than the rest of the wide receivers.
- The weak linebacker spot appears to still be a wide open competition. Lamur has received most reps with the first team, but Edmond Robinson and now Ben Gedeon have mixed in as well.
- The weather will be better on Friday and Saturday.
Be sure to check out Episode 90 of the About the Labor podcast, where myself and BJ Reidell break down anything and everything from the Vikings’ August 3rd practice.
About the Labor LIVE podcast: Episode 90 https://t.co/cEcx4Ea1uF
— About the Labor (@VikingsATLPod) August 4, 2017