Vikings

Day 3 Training Camp Offensive Notebook: Struggles Don’t Presage Mediocre Production

The pads came on and the defense came alive. While it was probably to be expected that the defense would improve as soon as contact was allowed, it was still reassuring to see the other side of the ball reassert itself.

While that’s not necessarily great news for the offense, it’s also not a reason to assume the offense will continue down a path of relatively mediocre production it had last year. Bridgewater continues to be the focal point in camp as Peterson only nominally participates in drills, and the development of the younger receivers on the roster along with the offensive line remain as headlining questions.

  • Find the Day 1 Notebook here
  • Find the Day 2 Notebook here
  • Find the Day 3 Defensive Notebook here

I’m covering the offense in this notebook and should have some quick notes up on the defense by the time Day 4 practice begins.


Quarterbacks

Once again, we need to be careful of highlight reels overtaking comprehensive analysis. In this case, Bridgewater’s interception to Sendejo doesn’t mean his day was necessarily bad—though it should be said the interception itself was bad; a baffling throw with no clear intention that landed in the hands of the waiting safety, yards away from any eligible receiver.

There were at least a few other passes that were off-target, so Bridgewater didn’t have a good day—but his consistent efficiency in situational drills and ability to manipulate the defense gives him enough credit to avoid any problems.

Mechanically, people are asking whether or not Bridgewater has “improved” his throwing motion in one of two ways: whether or not his release has quickened and whether or not he’s eliminated the “elbow drop” Phil Simms identified on Monday Night Football.

As to the first question, it seems like his release is relatively quick and he’s not dragging the ball through a loop or taking significant time between loading the ball and releasing it.

As for his elbow, what little video I took evidences some inconsistency. For the most part, analysts want quarterbacks to keep their elbows at 0 degrees or higher in relation to the ground (keeping the arm parallel or angled higher). Bridgewater will occasionally lower his elbow through the motion but certainly not to the degree Simms identified last year. Very often, the motion is clean.

It’s a far better situation than Shaun Hill, who sometimes seems to have a hitch in his motion and finishes it by pushing the ball through, rather than flicking the wrist and letting his stored energy flow through the ball.

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And what does it mean when Joel Stave seems to be completely pristine mechanically? It’s phenomenal stuff.

From a results perspective, Shaun Hill and Joel Stave continued to disappoint. Hill’s passes are taking far too long to reach their receivers, and even though Hill and Stave continue to improve throughout camp, I don’t think they’ve been able to display anything near a level of replacement-level play, and I suspect that finding another quarterback off the street or after waivers—even after acknowledging that a change in system would set things back—would be an improvement.

In particular, Stave’s passes continued to fly out of his hands with fantastic speed and little accuracy. There are times (plural) each day when the intended receiver is not immediately clear, when receivers need to be a foot taller or a few yards faster, or when he takes too long to make a decision.


Receivers

There’s not much to report on or complain about with Stefon Diggs. It would have made sense to enter camp a little worried about his ability to match his rookie-year performance given how inconsistent it was, but in camp he seems to be the picture of consistency. He hasn’t seemed to have made a sight-adjustment mistake in route-running, finds ways to get open against every corner and catches almost every pass headed his way. He continues to look fluid in drills and is on-point with everything asked of him.

I was told that yesterday, Charles Johnson earned the ire of fans for having a poor day. I don’t really see why; he dropped one tough pass—a contested catch, something he needs to improve on—in practice and a lot of people wanted to focus on a catch in walkthroughs, which nobody should really care about. Johnson did well again, though without the gaudy plays of the first two days.

Laquon Treadwell impressed a few people, but I still think he’s working through some mixed days. There are situations where he doesn’t power through the catch and allows the pass deflection and he continues to drop passes throughout camp. He dominated some of the route-running drills, however, and his suddenness is exemplary.

I don’t know that Thielen stuck out in any way positive or negative. Given the fact that most of his play has been with the first team, I would argue that that’s largely a good sign, especially knowing that a few days ago, he had some real struggles.

Jarius Wright continues to be inconsistent. Like Treadwell, he seems to be dropping passes every day, and unlike Treadwell, seems to have a big play every day, but the stuff in between the highlights and lowlights is a little underwhelming. Despite looking smooth early in camp, some of the stiffness we saw him play with during the season seemed to reassert itself and Wright had issues getting open or winning drills.

Fruechte

At the bottom of the roster, there’s not much to add. Moritz Boehringer looks fine, though the video above notes that Isaac Fruechte is probably currently the better receiver to have play in a football game tomorrow. Troy Stoudermire had one of the worst days in camp I’ve ever seen from a player—multiple dropped passes, misalignments, dropped punts and so on. I know position switches are difficult, but Tre Roberson and Jerick McKinnon managed those fine.


Offensive Line and Tight Ends

I just grouped the tight ends in here just to acknowledge that they exist. I have no notes on them.

If you were worried about the disaster of having Matt Kalil play another season at left tackle, and were not reassured by Mike Zimmer’s confidence, you were right. Kalil had a terrible day. Everson Griffen blew him up in one-on-ones and in elevens, and it wasn’t always just because Griffen is talented. Kalil looked late in his kickstep and couldn’t establish position. Even against Trattou, he struggled.

Alex Boone looked fantastic (handsome mug aside). It’s difficult to say he did anything wrong, though he wasn’t perfect and saw both Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson blitz past him.

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John Sullivan didn’t impress Daniel House at Vikings Corner, but I thought he did well. In one-on-one contests against Linval Joseph, Joseph won more often than not, but Sullivan’s job will rarely include single-blocking, and he held up as well as he should for a player at his position.

I thought Brandon Fusco acquitted himself well. He handled Tom Johnson fine and did a pretty good job against Sharrif Floyd, especially in one-on-ones. In elevens, he had a little more trouble against the first-team defensive line, but nothing I would be too alarmed with.

It was a bit more up-and-down for Andre Smith. He locked down Brian Robison for most of the day and took some Ls to Danielle Hunter. Maybe that’s inherent inconsistency, maybe that has to do with the talent levels of the people he played against; it will be interesting to see Day Four for him because he’ll be working against second-team players for the day.

T.J. Clemmings looked surprisingly good, and this could perhaps be part of his development forward. He did a fine job against Hunter and Crichton and I only saw one major misstep all day from him. It will be interesting to see if this carries forward for him.

As for the other backups, I don’t have many notes. I thought Carter Bykowski looked pretty poor, that Austin Shepherd was adequate and that both Willie Beavers and Zac Kerin looked pretty good. Beavers of course is surprising to me given how many issues I had with him coming out of college, but if he proves me wrong, I think a lot of people will be happy.

I think out of all of the backups, Kerin looked the best, followed by Clemmings. Beavers had a positive showing, but it’s not quite up to the level of those two quite yet.

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