Night Practice Roundup—Teddy Bridgewater Impresses, but the Defense Gets Their Hits

Teddy whips it during the night practice at training camp. Photo Credit: Luke Inman

We’ll post more thorough notebooks throughout the day with rundowns of all the position battles over the last three days, but we can do a quick recap of what happened at the night practice—the most popular event at training camp—where last night Teddy Bridgewater shined, but still demonstrated some areas of improvement.

Some big points of emphasis for the offense over training camp were touched on in that specific practice, with work on Bridgewater’s deep ball, red zone efficiency and two-minute command.

All offseason, we heard talk about Teddy’s deep ball, whether it was criticism of his game or praise from head coach Mike Zimmer. Largely, the beat was skeptical if only because these deep throws weren’t materializing in the five practices or so they were allowed to attend before training camp started.

When the Vikings did set up in Mankato, Bridgewater impressed over the first few days with a number of incisive deep strikes. As the pads came on, however, the offense dialed back and Bridgewater’s aggressiveness and precision downfield didn’t seem to sustain itself.

Over the most recent days however, and especially during the night practice, Teddy put on a show. While not all of the deep balls were accurate or on-time, most of them were, and the good luck he got away with one ball arriving late to Stefon Diggs on Terence Newman was paid for earlier by Diggs’ drop of a perfect pass from Teddy to begin the session.

Teddy to Diggs on Waynes

So, while it’s possible that Bridgewater was the beneficiary of bad luck, he also benefited from poor positioning by Newman on a ball that might have been an interception candidate more than a touchdown candidate.

Teddy to Diggs vs NewmanIt all came together with a throw to Adam Thielen, who had Xavier Rhodes beaten outright.

Teddy to Thielen over Rhodes

In a sense, only one of his deeper throws—one to receiver Laquon Treadwell—didn’t hit its mark and this is the overall sense one gets over the course of training camp about Bridgewater’s ability to make those downfield throws; most of them have been doing well, but it isn’t exactly hard to find some misses. I would call this a big improvement.

Aiding his effort was an unusually helpful offensive line. It may have been the result of a small sample, but it only seemed like a third of Bridgewater’s throws (at any level) came under any serious pressure. In most cases, the pressure that did appear was from either edge instead of up the middle. With guard Brandon Fusco out, that meant that John Sullivan at center, Joe Berger at right guard, and Alex Boone at left guard seemed to hold the fort together. Andre Smith at right tackle and Matt Kalil at left tackle struggled a bit more.

OL-DL Lineup Night Game
Photo Credit: Luke Inman

Still, Bridgewater didn’t produce as much as people might have hoped in the red zone. If we allow him the leeway of risky throws on free plays, he really only threw one interception to three touchdowns in goal-line and red zone play.

That seems encouraging, but the number of passes batted down by defenders or lost by receivers on contested catches really does a better job of highlighting his performance in the red zone that night and throughout camp overall—it’s not always a receiver’s fault if they lose a contested catch if the quarterback didn’t need to place it within a defender’s grasp or if the QB had a better receiving option available.

Speaking of contested catches, Treadwell made up for a bad drop against air in receiver drills by coming down with two tough catches against Xavier Rhodes as well as Antone Exum and Jabari Price—both from Bridgewater.

Tight ends Kyle Rudolph and David Morgan both looked good, while Pruitt had some issues blocking that he seemingly made up for with some excellent passing work early on. Kyle Carter and Brian Leonhardt struggled quite a bit more.

Defensively, we saw what rookie Mackensie Alexander could do with a little bit of time in the system, as he logged two passes defensed in team drills and did a decent—but not perfect—job locking down players in one-on-one drills.

Potential starter Trae Waynes had a good night as well, excepting that gifted Diggs drop. Even then, he deserves some credit for squeezing Diggs so close to the sideline. Had he turned the right way to the ball, things would have looked even better for him.

Brian Robison dropped into coverage a few times and didn’t look bad doing it, but more importantly he and Griffen continued to terrorize the line when possible. While Hunter flashed, it seemed like the night was Robison’s—which continues a pretty good stretch of play that started a few nights ago with consecutive turnover plays that Robison was involved in.

Everson Griffen Bust
Photo Credit: Luke Inman

Safeties Anthony Harris and Jayron Kearse should be proud of how well they did, especially against the run. Both found opportunities to create “tackles for loss” against the run defense, and balanced aggression with discipline. Kearse demonstrated that he can move in a hurry for a guy his size, and Harris demonstrated fantastic savvy.

Harrison Smith was caught in a bit more of an even battle, with a win against Kyle Rudolph in the red zone in the two-minute drill, but a loss against him earlier that day near the beginning of the session. He closed well on receivers threatening deep territory and established his run fits a bit better than in previous days.

Andrew Sendejo didn’t seem to showcase his abilities, with a few occasions where either he and the defensive back miscommunicated, or he simply couldn’t close deep.

Generally speaking, I think the Vikings should be happy that on offense they’ve done a decent job hitting their marks on at least two of the three areas of improvement they’ve isolated thus far in camp.

At the same time, the defense seems better than ever, and their red-zone defense over the past few days has led to interceptions from notoriously interception-averse cornerbacks like Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander—with Rhodes making good on another one in front of the fans. While the defense doesn’t seem as sound against the run as Zimmer would like them to be, especially if the practice was an indication, they still had some moments.

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Teddy whips it during the night practice at training camp. Photo Credit: Luke Inman

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