The Vikings held their second padded practice of training camp on Wednesday, ramping up the intensity again before a day off. Luckily for everyone in attendance, it wasn’t quite as hot or humid as the day before.
Tight end Irv Smith Jr. was obviously absent after undergoing thumb surgery on Tuesday that ended his training camp. The Vikings remain hopeful that they’ll have him available for Week 1, and Kevin O’Connell gave a positive update on Smith prior to practice.
“All updates coming out of Irv’s surgery were phenomenal,” O’Connell said. “Everything went as we hoped, and his program and his process has already begun to get him back on the grass for us as soon as possible.”
Kene Nwangwu remains out with a leg injury, but fellow running backs Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison were back after dealing with minor hand issues on Tuesday. Cook was slightly limited. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw left practice early, but that doesn’t appear to be anything serious.
Let’s get to some key observations.
Zach Davidson’s busy day
With no Smith, the top tight ends on the Vikings’ depth chart are former LA Ram Johnny Mundt and 2021 fifth-round pick Zach Davidson, who spent all of the last year on the practice squad. Mundt had a few opportunities on Wednesday, but it was Davidson who benefited most from Smith’s absence. The Central Missouri product was all over the place, catching a ton of passes with both the first and second-team offense.
It was a good day for Davidson, though not a perfect one. In red zone 7-on-7 action, he ran a beautiful route against Harrison Smith and caught a touchdown pass from Kellen Mond. A couple plays later, though, he had a Mond pass deflect off of his hands and into the arms of Patrick Peterson for an interception.
Davidson stayed involved during full-team action. Kirk Cousins looked his way often, hitting him on a number of short throws. After one third-down conversion, Cousins yelled “That’s a first down! Hell yeah Zach!”
Davidson was also targeted a couple times on the second team’s 1-minute drill, catching the first one but failing to come up with a contested grab on fourth down.
“I think with Zach, it’s really exciting because I see a lot of ability in him, so you see a high ceiling and a desire to work and get better,” Cousins said. “So it’s exciting to work with a guy like that, where you see all this potential down the road, similar to how I felt about Tyler Conklin three or four years ago. You want to see that development happen, and it’s going to.”
Patrick Peterson struts his stuff
Entering his 12th season, Patrick Peterson is the most experienced player on the Vikings’ roster. The potential future Hall of Famer is no longer in his prime at 32 years old, but he’s still capable of playing at a high level thanks to his athleticism and intelligence. Wednesday was one of those days where Peterson reminded everyone why he’s the No. 1 cornerback on the Vikings’ roster.
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It started early. In WR/CB drills, Peterson stayed perfectly in phase with Justin Jefferson and picked off Mond’s pass. Shortly after that, he closed quickly on WR Dan Chisena for a pass breakup. Then, in red zone 7s, he picked off Mond again on the pass that deflected off Davidson’s hands.
Peterson has had a strong training camp to kick off year 12 in the league. He’s going to be a huge part of the Vikings’ defense this season, provided he can stay healthy.
1-minute drills put quarterbacks in the spotlight
Towards the end of practice, the Vikings got into some situational work. In this hypothetical scenario, the offense trailed 24-21 with 45 seconds left and had to drive from its own territory into field goal range without any timeouts.
Kirk Cousins and the first-team offense were up first, facing the first-team defense. They went to work with precision. Cousins hit Justin Jefferson at the sideline with Cameron Dantzler in coverage for a solid gain on first down. Then he hit Adam Thielen for a decent gain, with Thielen running back to the middle of the field so Cousins could spike the ball. After a completion to KJ Osborn and a throwaway to kill some clock, Greg Joseph drilled a 39-yard field goal to tie the score.
Kellen Mond and the second-team offense weren’t as successful. Mond his first pass, hitting an open Davidson for a short gain. But his second attempt, looking for Ihmir Smith-Marsette, fell incomplete with Andrew Booth Jr. covering. “Keep running, Ihmir!” yelled receivers coach Keenan McCardell. Mond had Smith-Marsette open deep on third down but underthrew him for another incompletion. And on fourth down, he wasn’t able to connect with Davidson against the coverage of outside linebacker Andre Mintze, resulting in a turnover on downs and a hypothetical loss.
Greg Joseph impresses
In addition to the game-tying field goal with the first-team offense, Joseph got the opportunity to take a bunch of kicks at full speed at the end of practice.
He didn’t miss a single one.
Joseph went 7 for 7, bringing his total to 8 for 8 on the day. Each kick got progressively longer, culminating in a make from 58 yards out that was drilled with room to spare. That got his teammates fired up. Vikings special teams coordinator Matt Daniels believes Joseph is going to have a great yearand he might just be right.
- I’ve been fairly critical of Mond so far during camp, but I want to highlight a couple great throws he made on Wednesday. He hit Adam Thielen with a pretty deep ball during WR/CB drills, then made a perfect 20-yard throw to Trishton Jackson on third down against the first-team defense later in practice. The flashes continue to be there for Mond, it’s just about finding.
- Rookie safety Lewis Cine made a heck of play to break up a pass while covering Mundt in drills.
- The Vikings’ offensive line mostly held up in O-line/D-line drills. Christian Darrisaw was solid against Za’Darius Smith, as was Jesse Davis against Dalvin Tomlinson. Harrison Phillips still seemed to get the better of Garrett Bradbury, but Bradbury held his own better than he did during the first padded practice on Monday.
- There were several fumbled snaps on Wednesday, a few of which involved second-team center Chris Reed. Reed has been a guard for most of his career, but the Vikings are using him at center in camp. Those issues should be correctable with more reps.
- KJ Osborn continues to have a strong camp. He caught a deep ball from Sean Mannion in drills and made several catches during 7s and 11s.
- On one red zone play, though, Osborn got locked up by rookie cornerback Andrew Booth Jr., who forced an incompletion. Booth then stared down the crowd for a couple seconds before celebrating with his defensive teammates.
- Cook and Mattison both had a few nice runs. Mattison is a powerful and decisive runner, while Cook’s elusiveness on jump cuts is crazy. Ty Chandler had a nice couple runs too and looks really speedy.
- Justin Jefferson, like every other day, was really good.
- A few names on the defensive line to keep an eye on: Jaylen Twyman, Jonathan Bullard, and Patrick Jones II.
That’s all for today. The Vikings are off on Thursday, then they’ll be back to work all weekend before a night practice on Monday.
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