Photos From Wednesday's Practice >>
The Vikings on Wednesday held their final padded practice before their preseason opener, which will be played against the Houston Texans at Mall of America Field on Friday night. After a slow-to-go outing on Monday and some ups and downs on Tuesday, the Vikings offense was crisp on Wednesday and looks tuned up for Friday evening.
It started at the top with Christian Ponder, who guided the first team offense through a smooth practice. By my count Ponder was 12 of 15 in the competitive periods, including 4 of 4 in the blitz period, 2 of 2 with a TD in team red zone and 4 of 6 in 7-on-7, including TDs to John Carlson deep down the left seam and Rhett Ellison in the right alley. Ponder’s most impressive throw of the day may have actually come in the special category period (3rd and 5) when he escaped the pocket to the right to avoid pressure and perfectly led Jarius Wright on an out-breaking route for the 1st down.
Wright shook off an early drop in the individual period to go on and have a productive day. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave had positive things to say about Wright earlier in the day when he met with reporters following the morning walk-through.
"Well, Jarius is so sharp, and is such a leader in that room," Musgrave commented. "He’s done a fantastic job outside the numbers as well as in the slot. He looks quick, his weight is exactly where it needs to be and the bottom line with Jarius is he knows what to do all of the time. He can help the other guys in that room with all of the new faces in the receiving room, he helps them in the meeting room, during the drills and also of course when they break the huddle."
Fellow receiver Joe Webb also flashed a bit, hauling in a bad shoulder fade from James Vandenberg during special category and then catching a slant from Matt Cassel for a TD in 7-on-7. Webb continues to look more and more like a professional receiver, which is saying a lot considering how raw he looked in those first days the team moved him to the position back in April.
It wasn’t all offense, though. The Vikings defensive backs got in on the mix, too. Marcus Sherels exploded out of a back pedal to register a pass breakup (PBU) from Cassel to Chris Summers during the blitz period. Others with PBUs on the day included Larry Dean, Gerald Hodges, Greg McCoy and Jamarca Sanford in 7-on-7s and then Chris Cook (twice) and Bobby Felder during special category. Brandon Burton also got his mitts on a pass during the team red zone drill.
Speaking of the team red zone drill, that was another impressive area for Ponder. The third-year signal caller hit Greg Jennings for 12 yards on the first play of the period and then connected with Simpson for a TD on the next play, leading Simpson perfectly to sideline so he could secure the pass and tip-toe inbounds before barreling over the pylon.
A few other quick notes from practice…
-- The Vikings defense got some unexpected practice in something that every team invariably faces during a season – the communications system not working in a helmet. Before the first snap of the first competitive team period of the day, middle linebacker Erin Henderson didn’t receive the defensive playcall from the sideline. He motioned to the sideline, and Joe Woods responded with hand signals. The playcall got in on time and the defense was set up in time for the snap.
-- In that first team period (blitz), Ponder took his second snap and looked to Adrian Peterson on a check down. He had to float the pass to arch it over a rushing defender who had his hands raised, and that allowed cornerback Josh Robinson time to close on the play. There was no tackling at practice on Wednesday, so Robinson did not hit Peterson and simply tagged him instead and ran past, but the almost-collision stirred up a reaction from the defensive sideline. When Robinson jogged back to the sideline after the play, fellow cornerback AJ Jefferson said, "I don’t know, Josh," insinuating that Robinson would’ve lost the confrontation with Peterson had that been a tackle-to-the-ground period. Robinson barked back: "I would’ve stuck him! Especially with a player like AP, those plays are on SportsCenter!"