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6 Observations: Griffen, Hunter Disrupt Offense in 2-Minute Drill

Posted Aug 8, 2017

MANKATO, Minn. — The Vikings went under the lights Saturday night as they held their lone evening practice of Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

Minnesota practiced in front a capacity crowd with more than 10,500 in attendance at Blakeslee Stadium on the campus on Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The Vikings are off on Sunday but will return to practice on Monday. They are scheduled to have a walk-through from 10:30-11:30 a.m., followed by practice from 2:45-5:10 p.m.

Here are six observations from Saturday’s night practice:

1. Griffen, Hunter meet at the quarterback

It was a preview of what opposing quarterbacks could see all season long.

When the Vikings offense practiced a 2-minute drill Saturday night, there was an added buzz in the air.

Vikings defensive ends Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter put an end to the excitement.

Minnesota’s offense had moved the ball near midfield and faced a third-and-10 with just under 30 seconds left. Griffen and Hunter then showed their stuff as they moved around blockers and essentially met at quarterback Sam Bradford for a would-be sack.

The duo did the exact same thing the next play, as Bradford would have been sacked by both players in a live game.

Griffen made his second straight Pro Bowl appearance in 2016 after racking up 8.0 sacks. Hunter led the Vikings with 12.5 sacks in his second season.

2. Bradford strikes twice

Bradford had more than a few strong moments Saturday, including a pair of deep passes on offense.

The quarterback got the crowd fired up when he tossed a 57-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs that barely eluded cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

Bradford threw another long touchdown earlier in practice as wide receiver Jarius Wright got behind the defense for a 65-yard score.

Vikings safety Anthony Harris made the defensive play of the night on a deep ball from quarterback Taylor Heinicke intended for wide receiver Rodney Adams.

Harris and Adams both appeared to come down with the ball in the back of the end zone, but Harris wrestled the ball away and was awarded possession.

“A good [battle] when you come out on the winning side,” Harris said. “I just tried not to give up on the play, keep running, play the hands and then compete for the ball.

“Any time you can go out here, compete and make each other better, it’s always a good time,” Harris added.

3. Setting the tone

The Vikings hadn’t done any full hitting in practice leading up to Saturday’s session, but that changed from the opening team drill.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer had his squad open team drills by lining up in third-and-1 situations with nearly full contact.

Running back Dalvin Cook appeared to be stuffed up the middle before Bradford found tight end David Morgan on a first-down pass. Running back Bishop Sankey then picked up a first down on a run.

Zimmer next had the Vikings in close quarters at the goal line.

Running back Jerick McKinnon squeezed into the end zone from a yard out before Hunter chased Bradford out of the pocket with strong pressure to force an incompletion. Sankey was stuffed at the goal line on the final play of the drill.

The Vikings also spent a good portion of practice working inside the 5-yard line, running a dozen plays within a few yards of the goal line.

A year after struggling in short-yard situations all over the field, Zimmer made the scenario a point of emphasis with his team by opening the night practice with it.

4. Offensive efficiency

In addition to the 2-minute drill, Bradford and the Vikings offense went through a 4-minute drill Saturday night.

The offense started with the ball at its own 35-yard line, down by four points.

Cook picked up a first down on a third-and-1 run before Bradford connected with tight end Kyle Rudolph to move the chains on third and 4.

Bradford found Cook and Diggs to get inside the 10-yard line with under a minute left.

The offense then took advantage after they were bailed out by a defensive pass interference penalty on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

Bradford fooled the defense with a play-action fake before finding Morgan all alone in the back of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds remaining.

The score was a double win for the offense, as it not only took the lead but also left little time on the clock for the opposing team to respond.

5. Ready at a moment’s notice

The Vikings had to shuffle their offensive line a bit Saturday as left tackle Rashod Hill left practice with an injury, and Jeremiah Sirles filled in the rest of practice with the first team. 

Hill, who has been filling in for Riley Reiff since July 27, was taken off the field on a cart but later returned to the sideline.

Nick Easton and Pat Elflein both spent time with the first-team offense, as they are battling for the starting job at that spot.

6. Other standouts

A few offensive players stood out Saturday night.

Sankey broke free for a pair of potential long runs and showed shiftiness and burst. The former second-round pick joined the Vikings in mid-November and was on the practice squad in 2016.

Wide receiver Isaac Fruechte was also noticeable Saturday as he moved chains on multiple occasions and showed strong hands.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd continued his strong camp by making an athletic leaping grab over the middle to convert a fourth down.