The Vikings' first practice of Week 2 of training camp wasn't quite good enough for Mike Zimmer's liking.
"They didn't practice very good today," Zimmer said on TV after the session was over. "They gotta do a lot better than they did today. Pretty much all of it. We had a lot of mistakes today. In the first part of practice the offense had the ball on the ground a bunch of times, incomplete passes, giving up sacks, things like that, and milling around from drill to drill. And the defense, two nights in a row they've got a chance to win the game at the end of the fourth quarter and give up big plays to lose the game."
I noticed some sloppiness as well while watching practice. Quarterbacks Jake Browning and Case Cookus weren't particularly sharp, although Browning ended up making some nice throws. There were also some communication issues on both sides of the ball and the offensive line struggled at times, which is a big question mark heading into this season.
Still, plenty of players stood out in positive ways. Let's run through my observations and takeaways from the final padless practice of camp (pads were originally going to come on today before Rick Spielman was informed of a policy that required them to go padless after the first off day of camp).
First, some housekeeping and injury notes: Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond, Nate Stanley, and Myron Mitchell were put on the Reserve/COVID list, while Bisi Johnson was placed on IR. Also not practicing on Monday were four offensive linemen (Christian Darrisaw, Rashod Hill, Wyatt Davis, and Cohl Cabral), Tyler Conklin, Dede Westbrook, and Riley Patterson.
The skill position weapons look as good as advertised
Is it a particularly notable observation for me to say that Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and Irv Smith Jr. appear to be very good at football? Not really, no. But it's worth discussing anyways.
Jefferson, in particular, just seems to move at a different speed than everyone else on the field. I recently wrote about how the rookie sensation is confident in his ability to continue playing at a very high level in his second season, and he's done nothing to dispel that notion with his performance in camp. Jefferson had an impressive touchdown over the middle of the field early in practice and made a nice adjustment to a deep ball on the first play of a situational drill, although it was called back because a coach ruled that Browning would've been sacked before getting rid of the ball.
Thielen is consistently impressive too. He shined on Saturday night and added to a growing list of highlight-reel training camp catches with a diving grab for a touchdown on Monday.
Thielen clearly holds himself to a very high standard. At one point, when he couldn't make a spectacular catch on a slightly overthrown Browning pass, he tossed his helmet to the ground in frustration.
Not much needs to be said about Cook either. It's hard to evaluate running backs in padless practices, but his burst and vision are obvious every time he gets the ball. The energy he brings to practice is infectious as well.
Lastly, Smith continues to have a very strong training camp ahead of what could be a big season for him. I don't think there's been a single practice where he hasn't made his presence known with several catches, often with a high degree of difficulty. He's also been involved in the screen game, which tells you the Vikings want to find ways to get the ball in his hands.
Oli Udoh fills in at left tackle, O-line struggles
The Vikings were without four offensive linemen on Monday, including both of their left tackles. Rookie first-rounder Christian Darrisaw has yet to practice in camp, although he could return this week. Veteran Rashod Hill was out there during walkthroughs but didn't take any live reps, so Oli Udoh moved from right guard over to LT with the starting offense. Dakota Dozier took all the reps at RG.
Rookie Wyatt Davis might end up as the team's RG eventually, but he missed his second straight practice with an ankle injury. Third-string center Cohl Cabral was also out. The 11 available offensive linemen had to do a lot of double duty.
Udoh looked a bit shaky at LT, which is understandable, particularly when facing Danielle Hunter (who continues to look excellent). The O-line as a whole didn't have a great day, causing coach Phil Rauscher to yell plenty of obscenities throughout the afternoon, as he is wont to do. This rep from second-team LG Dru Samia kind of sums it up.
Browning throws a couple picks
It wasn't a bad day for Browning by any means, but he wasn't as sharp as he was during his fantastic performance on Saturday night. He threw a pick right to Troy Dye on a ball intended for Smith in a one-on-one drill, and then threw a pass a bit behind Adam Thielen for a pick that was tipped by Cameron Dantzler and caught by Harrison Smith.
Browning looked confident in his command of the offense for the most part, taking the majority of the reps while Cookus tried to get acclimated. He just wasn't quite as accurate as he was on Saturday, overall. It's worth acknowledging that Browning has been thrown into the fire by this COVID situation and was also missing some offensive linemen.
Ihmir Smith-Marsette is fun to watch
Among Vikings wide receivers not named Jefferson or Thielen, much of the attention during training camp has gone to breakout performer K.J. Osborn. On Monday, Ihmir Smith-Marsette — the Vikings' fifth-round pick from Iowa — made a few plays that really caught my eye.
First was a double-move on Tye Smith in a one-on-one drill. Just look at how quickly he accelerates after making his move.
Smith-Marsette also got wide open for a touchdown during an 11-on-11 period. It looked like someone on defense messed up their assignment, but ISM's speed absolutely contributed to that. His athleticism gives him a lot of upside in this offense as he develops. Osborn and Smith-Marsette could legitimately push veterans Dede Westbrook and Chad Beebe for playing time this year.
- I believe I've mentioned in previous recaps that Cameron Dantzler has had a very up-and-down camp, ending up on the wrong end of highlights at times. Well, it's worth noting that he had a nice day on Monday. His deflection led to the Smith interception in the clip I embedded above, and he also covered Jefferson pretty well on at least one 1-on-1 rep.
- Speaking of the Vikings' secondary, I continue to be impressed by Mackensie Alexander. He always seems to be in the right position. The secondary is full of talent, it'll just be a question of how all the pieces come together.
- Undrafted rookie receivers Blake Proehl and Whop Philyor had some nice moments.
- Just from what I've seen on the sidelines, the vocal leaders on this team appear to be Dalvin Cook on offense and Patrick Peterson on defense. Both guys are always fired up, playing loose, and hyping up their teammates.
Pads (actually) come on tomorrow. That should add a little bit of physicality and intensity to practice for the rest of camp.
Thanks for reading. Make sure to bookmark this site and check back daily for the latest Vikings news and analysis all season long. Also, follow me on Twitter and feel free to ask me any questions on there.