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3 Observations: Pads Make 2023 Debut, Defensive Pressure Increases

EAGAN, Minn. — Players donned full pads for the first time at 2023 Vikings Training Camp on Monday.

While they did increase contact and physicality, they also continued to try to take care of each other.

They'll be back in pads Tuesday, before using Wednesday's time for a walk-through.

Tickets remain available for Thursday Night Football presented by Vizzy, a practice that will be held inside TCO Stadium.

Not participating: Jalen Nailor, Sam Schlueter and Brian O'Neill did not participate in team drills; O'Neill continued his rehab work. Olisaemeka Udoh took reps at right tackle in place of O'Neill. Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum took reps with the first team at outside linebacker while Danielle Hunter began his acclimation period. Hunter participated in position drills and delivered multiple hits to the giant blocking bag suspended near the Vikings weight room.

Excused absence: Nick Mullens was excused from practicing because of a family matter.

Returned to practice: Second-year tackle Vederian Lowe returned to practice after leaving last Saturday's early.

Here are three observations from Monday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:

1. Pressure looks

The Vikings ramped up their pressure looks and turned their blitzes up a degree during multiple sessions.

Harrison Smith streaked in hot on one look in the red zone near the end of practice and likely would have recorded a sack on Jaren Hall.

There also seemed to be instances of the defense getting near Kirk Cousins on multiple plays, including another likely sack on third down. Cousins didn't seem as crisp as he had through the first week of training camp. His day included a pass too high for T.J. Hockenson that was nearly nabbed by Smith.

2. 1-on-1s

Vikings receivers and cornerbacks challenged each other during 1-on-1s while the rest of the offense challenged the defense during a 9-on-7 period.

Highlights from the 1-on-1 session included the following:

Trishton Jackson pulled in a one-handed catch against Joejuan Williams.

Justin Jefferson showed impressive footwork on a comeback route against Byron Murphy, Jr.

Former USC teammates and 2023 draft classmates Jordan Addison and Mekhi Blackmon split a couple of reps, with Blackmon recording a pass breakup on one and Addison winning an out route.

Addison also showed up later in the practice in the lower red zone. Cousins worked the right side of the field but didn't see anyone open, so he turned and lofted the ball to his left. Addison smoothly jumped up and hauled in the catch for a touchdown.

3. Backs and backers

Vikings running backs and fullbacks were able to get in some 1-on-1s against linebackers, first in a blitz pickup drill and then as receiving targets.

Ty Chandler was able to win routes against Troy Dye and Ivan Pace, Jr., and DeWayne McBride succeeded against William Kwenkeu and Wilson Huber.

Chandler caught between 13 and 19 passes in four of his five college seasons but was not targeted as a rookie last season.

McBride caught just five total passes in three college seasons at UAB, but he looked comfortable running the short routes.