Wide Receivers Flash In Practice No. 1

Posted Jul 26, 2013

Photo Gallery: Practice No. 1 >>

Improving the passing game is a high priority for the Vikings in 2013. Practice No. 1 of 2013 Verizon Vikings Training Camp may be just one step in that process, but it also offered a glimpse of what Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterback Christian Ponder may have at their disposal.

Practicing under mostly cloudy skies, in cool temperatures and against a wicked wind, the Vikings went through their first full training camp practice on Friday afternoon. They didn’t work in pads – that will come on Monday. But the tempo of practice was clearly at an uptick even compared to what was a solid offseason program this spring.

And even with the increased pace of practice on Friday, the Vikings wide receivers were able to flash.

"Yeah, those guys stepped up and made some plays, especially the young guys," Vikings RB Adrian Petereson said. "That's what we need. We need our passing game to step up. To see those guys come out and start getting into a rhythm is exciting for us." 

The highlight-caliber plays from the receivers came in bunches on Friday. Jerome Simpson and Joe Webb both ran under deep throws down the left sideline in a drill versus defensive backs early in practice. TE Chase Ford leaped high to steal what would’ve been an INT by Harrison Smith in a RB/TE vs. LB/DB drill. Rookie Cordarrelle Patterson hauled in a 1-handed grab with his left hand deep down the right sideline despite blanket coverage from the defender and moments later made a leaping grab on an intermediate crossing route. Jarius Wright positioned himself to pull in a lofted Matt Cassel pass among triple coverage in the middle of practice. And Webb flashed again late in practice by securing a fade from Cassel and then tip-toeing in bounds before being pushed out.

Greg Jennings

As we mentioned on Thursday, continuing to develop rapport and rhythm is top of mind for Vikings quarterbacks and receivers during this year’s training camp, with both Christian Ponder and Greg Jennings saying as much moments after they arrived in Mankato. Friday’s action will go a long way toward that end, as the performance the team’s wide receivers put together will only build trust with Ponder and the rest of the Vikings passers.

Other notes from Friday’s practice…
-- There was a great back-and-forth between the Vikings offense and defense in the 7-on-7 drill. The defense opened the drill by forcing an incompletion or stopping a reception short of the first down on the first 5 snaps. But the offense responded, converting 9 of the next 11 tries thanks in large part to a 3-for-3 performance from Ponder.

-- Speaking of Ponder, he had a solid effort in practice. He completed 5 of 6 passes to open the first team period and was exceptional at spreading his passes around to different receivers. It’d be easy for Ponder to funnel a bunch of check-downs to Kyle Rudolph and a running back in the flat, but Ponder was persistent on Friday in trying to drive the ball down the field toward receivers, and he was rewarded in that effort because his receivers made a bunch of good plays throughout practice.

-- I counted 10 players in the punt return rotation on Friday. As the practices progress and that number is narrowed, we’ll begin to detail the competition a bit. For now, though, just know that Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer is being thorough and inclusive in whom he allows into the mix for that position battle.

-- Rookie punter Jeff Locke was a standout early in practice. The Vikings typically begin practice with a special teams period because Head Coach Leslie Frazier likes the up-tempo nature of specials teams periods and he believes it sets the right tone for the rest of practice. Locke was a big part of that on Friday, booming punt-after-punt in the opening period as an encouraged group of fans seemed amused by the results. In total, I would guess that Priefer was pleased with the effort during that special teams period.

-- The cool moment of the day came when Jennings dropped to the ground to recover a fumble. He beat all defenders to the ball, but as defenders will do during training camp, they continued to rake and pull at the ball Jennings had secured in his arms. Linebacker Chad Greenway came in at the end and put both of his hands around the ball and pulled up, lifting Jennings from the ground as he maintained possession and tried to jog back to the offensive huddle. Fun to see two former foes who battled twice a season as division rivals now playfully battling during a training camp practice and patting each other on the helmet when the play was over.