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How's Vikings rookie Jordan Addison looking? Well...

Vikings' rookie receiver has something that's hard to describe but he's making noise in camp

EAGAN — We didn’t know much about how Jordan Addison would look against NFL competition when he arrived at TCO Performance Center for Minnesota Vikings training camp.

An injury suffered in rookie minicamp kept him out of OTAs and mandatory minicamp, keeping us from getting a sneak peak at what was to come in the summer months. Over the first few weeks of camp, he has introduced himself to Vikings land with a daily routine of making route running look like a Sunday stroll and difficult catches look easy.

There are lots of football words to describe what Addison possesses. The Vikings’ first-round pick and former Biletnikoff Award winner has tremendous body control and quickness in and out of his routes. Strong hands, acceleration — all that sorta stuff. But draft-profile type descriptions don’t quite capture it.

On an episode of the Purple Insider podcast Star Tribune beat reporter Ben Goessling described it as “efficiency of movement.”

When the Vikings drafted Addison, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said that he plays like he was born to be a wide receiver.

There is a smoothness to his game that everyone knows when they see but nobody can truly say why it’s there. On Monday, he made a toe-tapping catch in the back of the end zone that looked like a tough angle to reach up for the ball and bring the feet together in bounds yet the catch looked pretty effortless.

It reminds you of a basketball player who has a nasty crossover or a silky jumper. And these things tend to transcend size. Addison is 170 pounds and he looks like it on the practice field, yet it doesn’t often seem like anyone can stay in front of him long enough to make it matter. Like a smooth-fielding shortstop, balls that seem out of reach are somehow vacuumed up without having to make wild flails or dives. It looks so much harder for others.

Kirk Cousins has appeared to click immediately with Addison. One play on a scramble drill in particular stuck out to head coach Kevin O’Connell.

“He’s done some things instinctively, just playing football within the confines of our scheme,” O’Connell said. “People probably saw that catch in the corner of the end zone. That’s him improving with a 12-year NFL quarterback to be in the right place at the right time.”

Having worked with the likes of DeSean Jackson, Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Justin Jefferson, Cousins knows exactly what he’s looking for when it comes to excellence in wide receivers.

“I want to see greatness at the catch point,” the Vikings’ quarterback said. “In this league you’re going to make contested catches, coverage is going to be tight, I’m going to have to throw it in tight windows and you got to show me with somebody draped over you or someone about to come hit you, that you will have strong hands and make that catch.”

“Jordan (Addison), he’s pretty natural at the catch point which is exciting.”

Greatness might be a little much. Cris Carter was at camp one day. That’s greatness at the catch point. But there are flashes — Carterian catches, if you will.

On Monday, O’Connell announced that the rookie receiver will play in the Vikings’ preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday night. How much he’s going to play is not clear but it is a reminder that nothing has yet been accomplished. O’Connell has taken the approach of sitting veteran players in preseason games rather than risk their health. A rookie should play.

And there are rookie moments for Addison at camp. Some are probably only noticeable to those who designed the scheme but it’s not uncommon to see Cousins pointing at him to line up on the other side of the formation. It isn’t an easy offense for receivers to grasp, no matter how impressive their skills.

“I think he takes pride in himself as a player to make sure when he goes out here for walk-throughs and practice that he hears it the first time and knows what to do. We’re all going to have those occasional mistakes,” Cousins said. “You just have to believe you’re going to continually get it to where it's more and more natural. We just need him in the huddle hearing plays, getting lined up, and stacking up those opportunities.”

O’Connell has been keeping his eye on the details that go beyond his Iverson crossover at the line of scrimmage or Jamal Crawford shake-and-bake at the top of a route. The Rams’ system, which influenced O’Connell’s scheme, has always been known for receivers’ roles in blocking. In recent days, that’s what the head coach has noticed about Addison, despite his slender build.

“That has really been one of the highlights knowing he didn’t really get to take part in a lot of things in the spring,” O’Connell said. “Not seeing only his ownership but how about his willingness versus this defense where sometimes you might be running at different angles. You’re going to have to have receivers willing to dig out Harrison Smith and Josh Metellus and Cam Bynum and Lewis (Cine) and all these guys. So to see him not only willing to do that, but then physically and fundamentally do it has been a real positive.”

Addison’s strong start and DNA for the position have created excitement around camp but veteran KJ Osborn has made sure that he won’t be forgotten amidst the rookie buzz. On Monday, Osborn caught a bomb from Cousins, which is one of a number of big plays they have connected on in the last few practices.

Maybe it’ll be more three-deep-ish than a WR2 competition between Addison and Osborn. Or maybe we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. It’s still only early August. Even if the signs are there of something potentially special the rookie is still a few days from playing in his first preseason game.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him out there,” O’Connell said.