The Vikings held their ninth and penultimate practice of OTAs on Wednesday, with one more to go before three days of mandatory minicamp next week. On another brutally hot June day in Minnesota, the offense put together its most impressive day of the three that reporters have seen so far. Let's dive into the notebook for more on that and plenty of other observations I made at TCO Performance Center.
These OTA practices are technically voluntary, but I don't think the coaching staff exactly views it that way. The Vikings have only had a handful of absences at each of the sessions we've seen, with Danielle Hunter (contract situation) and Jeff Gladney (legal investigation) being the only players who haven't shown up at all.
On Wednesday, in addition to those two, four players were absent for unknown reasons: Alexander Mattison, Mackensie Alexander, Chazz Surratt, and Riley Patterson.. Christian Darrisaw, Cameron Dantzler, and newcomer Bashaud Breeland were all on hand but not participating due to various minor injuries. The Vikings are being cautious with Darrisaw and Dantzler, while Breeland is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
Offense bounces back
In last week's practice that was open to the media, defense ruled the day. The first-team offense looked sloppy and there were four interceptions during the 11-on-11 period, including a couple thrown by Kirk Cousins.
This time, the opposite was the case. Cousins and company looked sharp throughout 7-on-7s, red zone work, and a 2-minute drill to end the day, scoring touchdowns with much more frequency than we saw last week. Tight ends Irv Smith Jr. and Tyler Conklin were a big part of that, as was Adam Thielen. Conklin caught a touchdown in the back corner of the end zone on the first play in red zone drills, while the highlight of the day was Cousins bombing one 50 yards to Thielen, who beat solid coverage by Kris Boyd.
Cousins didn't throw any picks during the practice and was dropping balls into tight coverage with fantastic accuracy all day long.
We obviously don't know what the offensive line is going to look like until the pads come on, but there are plenty of reasons to be confident in Cousins, Thielen, the TEs, Dalvin Cook, and Justin Jefferson putting up plenty of points this fall.
Mond progressing slowly but surely
It's been less than a month, but you can see some slight improvements from rookie QB Kellen Mond already, compared to how he looked in rookie minicamp in mid-May. Mond's footwork and release look a bit more fluid, and his confidence is starting to grow as he becomes more and more familiar with the playbook and his teammates.
Mond is mixing in with the second and third-team offenses, although he's still seemingly behind Jake Browning and Nate Stanley on the depth chart for now. On Tuesday's the team posted a video of Mond making a nice throw over the middle to Shane Zylstra that shows off some of what he's been working on mechanically. And on Wednesday, we saw him make an excellent throw to Blake Proehl on an intermediate in-breaking route, putting the ball right on Proehl as he came out of his break.
- Rookie running back Kene Nwangwu stood out to me today. It's difficult to judge running backs in padless practices, but the Iowa State product showed off his elite speed several times. On one handoff in the low red zone, he darted to the outside and there was no chance for any defender to stop him from getting to the end zone. His acceleration is incredible. Nwangwu has a chance to be the team's No. 3 running back and a key returner on special teams.
- Another rookie who caught my eye was UDFA receiver Whop Philyor. He made arguably the best play of 7-on-7 drills when he went up and Mossed a defensive back for an impressive contested catch. Philyor is someone to keep an eye on in training camp as he fights for a roster spot in an intriguing WR room.
- Vikings tight ends have been very involved and effective throughout OTAs. Not just Smith and Conklin, but Brandon Dillon made some plays today as well and both Shane Zylstra and Zach Davidson have put together some highlights over the past couple weeks.
- Adam Thielen and Patrick Peterson have had some fun battles, including a play today in 7-on-7s where P2 deflected a deep ball for Thielen. However, there was a lot of contact throughout the route, and I think Peterson would've been flagged for holding or PI in a game.
- To end the practice, the Vikings were in a two-minute drill down by two points with no timeouts. Cousins found Conklin twice in a row, then Jefferson, and finally Ameer Abdullah on a screen pass. That got them into field goal territory with 20 seconds left on the clock, so it counted as a win for the offense.
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