Minnesota Vikings Practice Report Day 4: Offense Airs It Out

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel (USA Today Sports)

For three training camp practices, observers were waiting to see something from the Minnesota Vikings offense. Things opened up a bit Tuesday as the Vikings ran several long periods of play-action drills and aired the ball out the most we’d seen in camp.

Justin Jefferson snagged a long pass from Kirk Cousins on a crossing route, Alexander Hollins beat Cam Dantzler down the sideline for another long reception, and Tyler Conklin made an intermediate grab over the middle. The defense, though, was still representative as Dantzler intercepted a crossing route thrown by Cousins and intended for Bisi Johnson, while Nevelle Clarke and Holton Hill had numerous pass breakups each. The passing periods offered the best glimpse we’d seen yet at which corners could cover downfield and adjust to 50/50 balls.

The picture seems to be coming into clearer focus at receiver and corner — the two positions that may be easiest to evaluate with the naked eye in a training camp with no games. Holton Hill and Mike Hughes appear solidified for now as the top two corners, and neither have done anything to indicate they’ll be demoted. The battle seems to be between Dantzler and Gladney for that third spot, which may come down to how quickly Gladney takes to the slot. Tuesday we saw Gladney blitz from his inside position, another element that Mike Zimmer expects from his slot corners.

At receiver, Jefferson has put together a strong start to camp and has seemingly gotten a longer look with the first team as days have gone by. While he’s still behind Johnson on the depth chart, he may be neck and neck with Chad Beebe for WR3 status at the moment.

“He’s really good in and out of his breaks,” Zimmer said Monday. “He seems to have a knack for knowing where the open areas are – sometimes we continue to run across the formation, sometimes we have to stop. But you can just tell in his route running that some things come really natural to him.”

Here’s the rest of Tuesday’s camp rundown:

  • Danielle Hunter (undisclosed) missed his third straight practice, while G Dru Samia and TE Nakia Griffin-Stewart were added to the non-participant list.
  • The Vikings signed LB Hardy Nickerson Jr. after losing Quentin Poling to injury. Nickerson started seven games with the Bengals in 2018 but ranked 84th out of 95 qualified linebackers, per Pro Football Focus. He saw his role decrease in 2019 and was not retained as a restricted free agent. Nickerson, wearing No. 47, debuted with the third-team linebackers. Nickerson was recruited by co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson when Patterson coached at UTEP.
  • The merry-go-round at defensive end continued. Rookie Kenny Willekes got second-team reps Tuesday, making him the fifth player to take reps with that group. Interestingly, fourth-round pick D.J. Wonnum is not among them. Eddie Yarbrough, however, has consistently been in the second-team mix.
  • Josh Metellus looks more and more entrenched as the No. 3 safety, while Brian Cole II, Nate Meadors and newly-acquired Steven Parker have rotated in next to him.
  • The offensive line depth chart has been surprisingly unchanged. Aviante Collins and Dakota Dozier continued their battle for the left guard spot. With Samia out Tuesday, whoever wasn’t with the 1s out of Collins and Dozier fit in with the 2s.

The Vikings practice again Wednesday at 1:45 p.m.

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