The Vikings gave their fans a show in the final night scrimmage. Along with the usual fireworks in the sky, the Vikings attempted to create some explosions of their own on the field — and largely succeeded.

After an offseason pledge to open up the offense and create more big plays, they’ve followed up with a bevy of plays deep downfield in front of the fans at Blakeslee Stadium.

Some of the attempts were more sizzle than substance — Rodney Adams took a slant to the house after the refs whistled the play dead 30 yards ahead of the end zone, for example. Some good plays were artificially made great, too. Jarius Wright made waves with a 70-yard touchdown on a pass that in a game would probably be a good 30 yards before the tackle by Anthony Barr.

Defensive players let up the tackling after an injury to Rashod Hill early in the session forced Jeremiah Sirles to fill in at left tackle, so big plays were easy to come by. Hill’s ankle sprain is likely not serious and would have served as a damper on the evening were it not for his return to the field to watch the rest of practice.

He was in for a show, as the best play of the night occurred shortly after his reappearance. Stefon Diggs reeled in a 40-yard bucket catch, perfectly placed by Sam Bradford in the end zone with Xavier Rhodes trailing behind.

It wasn’t just the first-team offense that scored on big plays. Bucky Hodges ran up the seam to catch a Case Keenum pass over Eric Wilson for a big score, while Stacy Coley brought in a Taylor Heinicke pass over Tre Roberson in the red zone.

Heinicke’s best moment, however, didn’t come from a touchdown, but an effective response to a nine-man blitz by throwing to Bucky Hodges in the open field on a slant.

The running game looked much improved as well; Dalvin Cook was able to take advantage of bigger running room, Jerick McKinnon finally looked like his old self and Bishop Sankey made waves with a good chunk of the available carries going to him.

It wasn’t all offensive success or defensive failure, however. Vikings fans who were concerned about the offensive line might see the performance and feel vindicated with those worries, as the defensive ends collapsed down pretty quickly on each of the offensive lines put out there in the first, second and third units.

Photo Credit: Thad Chesley

Despite giving up the touchdown, Rhodes played well for the most part and could keep targets away from Adam Thielen or Diggs and Anthony Harris intercepted a pass intended for Adams in the end zone. Though Adams made up for it on the next play with a well-placed pass from Heinicke on a drive route to the end zone, Harris’ play stands out, as does Trae Waynes’ pass deflection over Diggs in zone coverage.

All three candidates for the weakside linebacker spot played first team snaps, and though all three found ways to contribute, it seemed like rookie Ben Gedeon was the one to make the most plays on defense with tackles near the line of scrimmage in the run game.

While both starting defensive ends found ways to make plays and Tom Johnson made a splash as well, it was Shamar Stephen on the second-team defensive line that stood out.

There are some other key takeaways from the night:

  • Waynes may have had a good moment, but he was exploited in the four-minute drill for multiple receptions, including plays where he seemed confused about the coverage they were in. Waynes has improved substantially in camp, but he still has work to do
  • Hodges is a better blocker than his draft report suggested, but still is behind, especially when asked to cover for the line in pass protection
  • The offensive line has a penalty problem. There were at least three false starts and one holding call in just one practice session. Two of those penalties came from an otherwise surprisingly solid Willie Beavers
  • Bishop Sankey is going to be an inevitable, but tough, cut for the Vikings — he looks much like the player the Titans thought he was when they made him the first running back to come off the board. He won’t make the Vikings roster, but he deserves to make some roster
  • Wright may be due for a larger role with how he’s been playing in camp thus far
  • The Vikings run blocking should be substantially better across the board — Remmers looks more than capable as a run blocker and Alex Boone looks better than ever. Pat Elflein, should he win, can lay some nasty blocks and if Riley Reiff comes back healthy, the Vikings can take advantage of his skill set
  • The Vikings have a glut of defensive ends. After Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen and Brian Robison is someone that they’re high on, Stephen Weatherly. While he’s had standout moments, seventh-round pick Ifeadi Odenigbo and Tashawn Bower have looked phenomenal. It will be difficult to let some of them go
Photo Credit: Thad Chesley

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