The Vikings conducted Practice No. 4 on Monday and they did it under the lights at Minnesota State University, Mankato’s Blakeslee Stadium. The lights were turned on and the intensity cranked up as the team worked for about two hours under the lights.
Here are a few highlights…
LB-RB-TE pass protection/rush drill
Fans seem to enjoy the one-on-one period of practice as much as any other period, and Monday night’s practice didn’t disappoint. Quarterbacks and receivers worked against defensive backs in one end zone and the defensive line went against the offensive line in the other. In the middle of the field, though, it was a pass protection/rush drill between the linebackers and the running backs tight ends.
There was a good mix of wins between the defense and offense. The first matchup was Chad Greenway versus Jerome Felton, and the veteran linebacker got to the quarterback with a quick inside move. Other notable wins for the defense included a crafty inside spin move by youngster Gerald Hodges to beat Joe Banyard and then a sudden bull rush move by Jasper Brinkley to overwhelm Zach Line.
The offense had their moments, too. Kyle Rudolph stonewalled rookie Brandon Watts and fellow tight end AC Leonard took down Anthony Barr.
Rookie McKinnon stands out in goal line period
There’s nothing like a short-yardage period to get the adrenaline and blood flowing in a night practice. Head coach Mike Zimmer held not just a short-yardage drill, but a goal line drill in front of the crowd. It was rookie running back Jerick McKinnon who stood out in the drill, too. Hyped more for his ability in the passing game and as a “wild card” of sorts for Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner, McKinnon displayed some gritty inside running ability on the goal line.
McKinnon and Teddy Bridgewater led the second team offense to three touchdowns in the drill. Bridgewater connected with Line after a play action pass on the first snap. Then McKinnon scored on runs on each of the next two snaps, with the first of those two scoring runs heavily (and entertainingly) disputed by Everson Griffen and a few other defensive teammates watching from the sidelines.
The first team defense and offense squared off to open the period, and it was the defense who struck first as they held Matt Asiata out of the end zone on an inside run. On the next play, Matt Cassel executed a play action fake and found Rhett Ellison wide open for a touchdown and then Asiata got his revenge when he plunged in from the 2 on the third play.
Linebacker Zac Kerin spearheaded a stop for the third team defense on their first snap of the goal line drill. Christian Ponder found Leonard on a play action fake after sitting in the pocket and looking off a safety, and then the defense bowed up on their third snap for another stop.
Cassel-to-Jennings TD highlights blitz period
As was the case with the goal line period, the blitz period had its share of back and forth, as well. The highlight of the period, though, was a pass from Cassel to receiver Greg Jennings that would have been good for a touchdown. On the play, Cassel’s protection held up perfectly as he progressed through his reads. Eventually, the quarterback saw Jennings get an edge on his defender, and Cassel’s pass was lofted perfectly over Jennings’ left shoulder as he was running down the right sideline. Jennings made the catch, got past Josh Robinson and would have outrun the angles of Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith.
The defense got home several times for would-be sacks during the period, but the quarterbacks are off-limits of course and the play went on each time anyway.
Bridgewater showed tremendous poise on a couple of instances, stepping up to find Adam Thielen early in the period and then later finding Rodney Smith in the middle of the field for a completion of 20 yards.
The Vikings will have Tuesday off at 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and then they will get back on the practice field for a morning walk-thru and afternoon practice on Wednesday.