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5 Observations From OTA No. 1

Posted May 28, 2014

The Vikings kicked off their Organized Team Activity (OTA) schedule on Wednesday afternoon, practicing outside at Winter Park under ideal conditions. OTAs will continue on Thursday and Friday of this week, then the team will hold three more from June 3-5 and four more from June 9-12 to conclude the OTA sessions.

Here are five observations from OTA No. 1. 

Jennings Leads the Way
Change and youth have defined the Vikings offseason, with new Head Coach Mike Zimmer in charge of the operation and a bit of a youth movement underway at several positions. But on Day 1 of OTAs, it was a returning veteran who led the way. Receiver Greg Jennings was catching everything in sight, from Teddy Bridgewater bombs to precision sideline lasers from Matt Cassel.

It was Jennings who was on the receiving end of the day’s most impressive throw – an on-the-run 50-yard heave from Bridgewater as he escaped the pocket. The pass landed softly in the veteran receiver’s hands for what looked to be a near-touchdown; the play happened across and on the opposite end of the field from where I stood. It was the type of throw you don’t see every day from every quarterback, and it was the type of catch that happens when a veteran receiver sticks with a play all the way through the whistle to give his quarterback every opportunity to make a play.

The Defense Struck Back
It wasn’t all offense, though. Later in the practice during a team drills, Jennings once again got behind the defense and Cassel eyed him up with an impressive throw of his own. But Captain Munnerlyn, signed as a free agent this offseason, displayed impressive recovery quickness and high-pointed the football to make an interception in front of Jennings.

Cassel atoned for the interception just moments later, and did so by getting on a roll. He rifled an intermediate out-breaking route along the right sideline to Jennings and then on the next snap hit Jennings once again, this time with the receiver breaking across the middle from the left sideline. Cassel found speedy Jerome Simpson a few moments later on another crossing route, as well.

Rookie cornerback Jabari Price got in on the action, too. He was matched up with Cordarrelle Patterson on a deep route down the right sideline and, similarly to Munnerlyn, high-pointed the pass to grab an interception in the end zone before Patterson could get his hands on the pass.

Bridgewater Displays Discipline
After connecting with Jennings earlier in practice on such a long pass, it’d be easy to understand a little over-ambition from Bridgewater. But the rookie displayed some veteran decision making a few moments later. He had a receiver running an out-and-up route who had beaten his defender and flashed open, but a safety was lurking over the top and would’ve been in position for a play on the ball. Rather than risking that outcome, Bridgewater held back and found Adrian Peterson in the flat for a check down and what would’ve been a first down gain.

Loud Noises!
Zimmer has the reputation for being a vocal coach on the field, and many times he is just that. But standing around the practice fields, you can hear Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner and defensive backs coach Jerry Gray just as much, if not more. The new Vikings coaching staff is off to a great start working with the roster and is never afraid to coach a guy up – veteran or youngster – when they see an opportunity to teach.

Ponder’s Best Moment
All three Vikings quarterbacks got an opportunity to run with the first group, and Christian Ponder’s best moment of the day came during one of those reps. He diagnosed the defensive look pre-snap and adjusted his protection before taking a snap from the gun formation. After taking the snap, Ponder manipulated the safeties and identified single coverage on Simpson. Seeing an opportunity to let Simpson make a play, Ponder lofted a perfectly-placed pass in a spot over the top of the cornerback and underneath the safety, allowing Simpson to make a leaping catch for what would’ve been a 30-yard completion down the right sideline.

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