Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from www.purplePTSD writer and editor of purplePTSD and VikingsTerritory, Joe Oberle.
Week three of OTAs for the Vikings is taking place at TCO performance Center, and where week one was lowlighted by the people missing (Anthony Barr, and Dalvin Cook with no helmet) it was highlighted by sightings of both players on the field. Barr contributed to a defense that seemed to mostly muck up things up for the first team offense, and Cook was an active member of that offense—for a limited number of plays anyway.
“I was excited to get back in the action, get out there, just to get some live reps, get some bullets and see myself and analyze myself,” Cook said. “I was excited when [head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman] came and broke the news to me.”
Cook, participating in full team practice for the first time since tearing his ACL last season, did not run the ball (that this observer witnessed, anyway) nor catch any passes. The practices were non-contact, to be sure (even though Jaleel Johnson stood up rookie RB Mike Boone on an off-tackle run) and players were in no pads, only helmets. But it was good for Cook to get out on the field and run plays rather than rehab.
“It’s more about him getting comfortable with 11 or 22 bodies around him,” head coach Mike Zimmer said.
For Cook, the smile on his face was evident as he stood barefoot before the media talking about returning to live plays. And his attitude seems to have him in a good place as he looks forward to the season.
“I’m still that same guy,” Cook said. “It’s just you’ve got to pick up from where I left off at. I’m just going out there and playing football. I’m still Dalvin Cook. I have the love; the motivation is still here. My talent is still here. I’m just a little older. That’s it.”
Meanwhile, it was good to see Barr on the field, but for completely different reasons. He had returned before this day, but it was the first time this observer set eyes on him. He was part of first team defense that caused problems for Kirk Cousins and the first team offense. After the first week of practice I was able to observe, where I sang the praises of said quarterback, who looked like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders, today, he didn’t look so spry, as the defense made things difficult for him.
(Or it could it have been the offensive line, which is still a work in progress with Mike Remmers at right guard and Nick Easton at center.)
Nonetheless, the Cousins who looked sharp on out patterns a couple weeks ago and threw a beautiful long ball to Stefon Diggs that got everyone talking about it, today threw an outlet pass behind his target, was sacked once (I think by Linval Joseph), looked jittery as another pocket closed around him, was uneven in red zone practice and clearly was not bopping around like the Cousins of two weeks ago.
It is not to say that he didn’t have good moments; he did. But they weren’t as prevalent. The offense is working through a lot right now with a new QB, OC and offense, and at this point in time, it is just about reacting for the defense, so they could be a step ahead. Then again, they are seeing the third new offense in three offseasons of practice, so maybe that should be challenging for them?
“The offense has some wrinkles that they’ve been doing, so in the spring, it’s always a little bit of the cat and mouse game with the offense and defense,” Zimmer. “The offense will run a couple plays that will hurt the defense and the defense will come back run something that will hurt them. For the most part it’s really about trying to get guys better at doing their job, being on the same page and getting off on the snap count. All those things. What we’re really trying to do with the team is teach them a lot of situation football, how games play out, how we win games at the end, things like that.”
Which may explain the running of the red zone offense ran on Tuesday and the kicking contest between incumbent Kai Forbath and rookie draft pick Daniel Carlson. This contest which will become a huge camp battle (if it isn’t decided sooner) has already begun and will be worth watching all summer long.
In today’s contest in which each kicker attempted four kicks from mid-range distances against a one-club wind (if you are a golfer), Forbath made three and Carlson made four. Carlson hit the last with plenty of leg while Forbath’s attempt was wide right and short. It was a weak kick that made Carlson’s look even better. (Perhaps it was from 31 yards and that gave Forbath trouble—just kidding—but it was very makeable.) I am afraid the incumbent is certainly up against it in this offseason-long battle.
Jumping back to the offensive line, we will say again that it is a work in progress, and no one knows that better than Zimmer (and possibly Cousins, now). Remmers has been filling in at right guard and Rashod Hill has been the first team right tackle (Danny Isadora at left guard and Reilly Reiff at left tackle). Remmers played the position a bit last season and the team intends to give him a long look there this year, at least until the line is healthy again.
“He’s done good,” Zimmer said of Remmers. “Mike’s very instinctive player in there. He sees a lot of things. He’s got good quickness, got good power. He’s been able to get the three-technique reach a couple times, been able to sit down on some guys rushing. I think he’s been good. We’re still trying to figure it out with [Pat] Elflein hurt. Trying to figure out where we’re going to go with the rest. It’s good to have a guy that can move around.”
Elflein was spotted on the sidelines doing some rehab work (and he was joined by other players not participating that included Andrew Sendejo, Mack Brown and Everson Griffen, to name a few). Kyle Rudolph, however, was back on the field practicing, which was good news following another offseason surgery.
“Not really,” Rudolph said when asked if there was more anxiety for a veteran wondering how they will come out of surgery. “I’ve had five surgeries in the last ten years. It’s funny when you sit there. The nurses are getting ready for pre-op, and the doctors are talking to you, I honestly feel like I’m in the dentist office getting my teeth cleaned. It’s so routine at this point that I think, at times, your family and friends are more worried about it than you are. At least for me, I’m pretty relaxed and thankful that I have the best foot and ankle guy in the world right here to take care of me and make sure everything will be good.”
Piece of cake. No worries. Unless you are the quarterback hoping that o-line in progress becomes and a complete offensive line very soon—particularly when you’re running a new offense against the best defense in football from last season.