The Vikings have hit the ground running in Mankato for 2013 Verizon Vikings Training Camp, and on Wednesday they conducted their 5th practice and 3rd padded practice since reporting to Mankato last Thursday. Morning showers gave way around lunch time to mostly sunny skies and sticky conditions, proving the coaches and players with a more challenging environment than they’ve faced previously in this camp.
Monday and Tuesday were good days for the Vikings defense, but the offense bounced back well on Wednesday thanks in large part to a good showing from quarterback
With 5 practices now in the books, we can start to get a sense of who’s on the way to having a great camp. Granted, there’s a long way to go and things can change, but here are 3 early standouts from my observations…
Defense – CB
Given how much we’ve complimented the Vikings wide receivers in this space over the past 6 days, it’s notable that Rhodes is the defensive standout. He was impressive during the offseason program, but the other side to that story was that we had to wait until the real thing in training camp before we could get a true gauge of where Rhodes would begin his career. A week into training camp, and things are looking good on Rhodes. He can be physical in press coverage, he has recovery speed in case a receiver gets past him, he reads and reacts well in the run game and in space while dropping into a zone, and he makes plays on the ball with good closing speed and soft hands. Again, there’s a long way to go here at training camp and before games are played, but so far, so good on the 1st-round rookie CB.
Honorable Mention: LB
Offense – WR
Wright came on strong at the end of last season, playing well for the Vikings when Percy Harvin went down and the team surged to the playoffs in the second half of the season. Now, Wright is continuing that in training camp and looks poised to play that well – or even better – for the entire 2013 season. Wright is diminutive, but he’s also fast enough and physical enough to play on the outside if needed. The Vikings can also get Wright the ball quickly while in space, similar to what they did with Harvin many times. Rarely does Wright drop the ball, and frequently he’s making catches that should be batted down as incomplete. Wright has also been one of the better looking players taking reps at punt return.
Honorable Mention: Greg Jennings
Special Teams –
Punter is a position in transition for the Vikings, but Locke is looking to make it as successful a transition as Walsh had a year ago. Early in camp Locke impressed most onlookers with the distance of his punts, but special teams snobs watched the same reps and noted the hang time. Even teams with the best coverage units prefer a punt with great hang time to a punt with great distance. Locke seems to understand this. Locke has also been solid in times when Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer asks him to pin the ball inside the 20 or even inside the 10. Finally, Locke is also the holder on FGs and PATs, and he seems to be doing well in that area, too.