Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD writer and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.
The Vikings started minicamp out at TCO Performance Center in Eagan on Tuesday, and there was plenty of action to take in. Here are few of the notable happenings on Day 1.
WR Highlights: Stefon Diggs stole the show again when he layed out for a Kirk Cousins pass down the right sideline. The ball was thrown over the opposite shoulder that Diggs was looking for it and he somehow adjusted and then stretched for it (looking as though he had no chance) and somehow made the catch. Sign the kid.
The other memorable connection was Cousins to Laquon Treadwell on a slightly deep crossing route. It was well-timed and thrown pass. The more chances No. 11 gets, the more he shines.
“He’s done a nice job, he’s caught the ball well this spring,” head coach Mike Zimmer said of Treadwell. “He’s still got some areas where he’s got to continue to improve. He had a false start out there today, and he had one wrong route, but he’s learning the offense as well.”
Kicker battle watch: Rookie kicker Daniel Carlson and veteran Kai Forbath resumed their kicker battle at minicamp. Danielson got first shot (which was the first time that was the case since I have been observing) and the pressure may have gotten to him, as he missed the kick from 35 yards. He missed his first and last kick (the last from 55 yards) while Forbath bested him and made three of four kicks (missing the third kick from 46 yards away). So, while the rookie may have had the slight edge during OTAs, the vet isn’t dead yet, and the smile he was seen wearing later in practice seemed to validate that notion.
RB-3: Right now that spot appears to go to Alex Boone, as he is getting a lot of run with the second and third team offenses—and making the most of his opportunity. He is quick and strong and has wiggle through the line. With Roc Thomas not yet getting into the action much, Boone is trying resurrect his surname on the Vikings squad, catching eyes with every chance he is afforded.
RB-2 . . . and 1: Dalvin Cook got his first real action on Tuesday by actually running the ball and catching some passes out of the backfield. Last week at OTAs, he got on the field, but this week he got the ball. He looked very good, and to this observer’s eyes, confident when toting the rock (although he also knew he wasn’t going to get hit). Cook looked good making his moves through the line and when he caught the ball out in space, didn’t hesitate to turn on the after burners. I did notice that none of the passes going to him out in the flat went to the left. They all went to the right, ostensibly because when he plants and cuts to run up field he isn’t putting all that torque on his surgically repaired left knee. When we see him making grabs out in the left flat, we may then know his confidence (and the confidence of his coaches) is fully restored in the left knee.
Cook was alternating on both first and second team offense with Latavius Murray, who became RB-1 (or 1-A) last season after Cook went down with injury. Zimmer had the following to say about Murray thus far this season:
“Latavius had a great spring,” Zimmer said. “He looks way better than he did at this time [last season]. Obviously, [that was] at the beginning of training camp last year when he was hurt, but he was out there today, and I said, ‘You’re running the ball really good.’ He’s seeing things well, he’s making good cuts, and I think there will be good competition.”
Wounded Warriors: The list of players without helmets and watching or just working on rehab drills away from the action was much the same as last week. It included Everson Griffen, Andrew Sendejo, Jalyn Homes, Jeff Badet, Trevon Mathis, Tyler Conklin and Tray Matthews. We still don’t know what is happening with Sendejo, as we have not seen him on the field yet this offseason.
Some interesting formations: On one play, the Vikings offense sent four receivers out to the left side of the line, as though a Hail Mary play was imminent. Instead, it was a screen pass right to Alex Boone.
Another play saw backup quarterback Kyle Sloter running a naked bootleg to the left that fooled a few defenders. Sloter was able to show off some nice speed on the play.
Finally, another play that was run often was a fake forward handoff to Cook running left behind the line and a quick toss right to Adam Thielen on some sort of bubble screen. When Cook is full go heading left, he will like take a few defenders with him.
Some interesting position work: Anthony Barr split off from the linebackers during individual drills and did some dummy work with the defensive linemen. It is interesting to think what this might be about, if for nothing else, a new wrinkle for opposing offensive linemen to worry about. Regardless, when the team is working him at two positions and the player is in a contract year, it just appears to say (IMO) the Vikings certainly have plans for Barr going forward and will want to get a contract done.
Red Zone Action: The players seem to get pretty fired up whenever they are lining up against each other in the red zone. On one play, Kyle Rudolph, who looks like he is running well after his offseason foot surgery, ran across the middle and was guarded from behind by Trae Waynes, who was tight on him and may have put his hands on his back, pushing a little along with Rudolph’s momentum. The pass was over Rudy’s hands, and he complained for a quite a while after the play to the referees about, perhaps, not being able to jump up for the pass. After taking his case to two refs (neither of which who threw a flag), Rudolph walked away exasperated and said something to the effect that “at least we have some good ones out here.”
In another red zone play, the offense lined up as the defense did some shifting and suddenly Zimmer called a time out, much to the chagrin of new Vikings defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Richardson threw his hands up in the air toward Zimmer, seeming to ask, ‘why did you call a timeout/’ Clearly frustrated, he didn’t get Zimmer’s attention, who didn’t learn it had happened after practice.
“He got upset?” Zimmer said. “He’s probably not going to get upset at me. It’s just one of the situations we try to cover.”
Asked about the exchange after practice, Richardson smiled and said:
“He changed the play on us, and we had to constrict our rush a little bit, so we couldn’t cut loose. We had a lot of stuff planned for the offense on that play.”
Plenty of passion on the field already in the just first day of minicamp.