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3 Observations: Defense Steps Up After Zimmer's Challenge

EAGAN, Minn. — Welcome to August.

The Vikings hit the practice field again Thursday on a warm summer afternoon, practicing in full pads for almost two hours at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Of the 86 players who do not have a physically unable to perform (PUP) or non-football injury (NFI) designation, only defensive tackle Curtis Cothran and defensive end Stephen Weatherly did not practice, although tackle Aviante Collins left the session early.

The Vikings will practice again Friday afternoon before the annual night practice on Saturday evening.

Here are three observations from Thursday's session:

1. Answering the call

Consider the challenge answered.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer **publicly criticized his starting defense** Thursday morning when he said "the offense has got a lot of grit and fight, and I haven't seen it much out of the defense, yet. That's where my major concern is at this point."

Zimmer's group responded on the field in the afternoon when they stymied the offense from scoring during a 2-minute drill. Kirk Cousins led the offense down inside the 40-yard line, but the defense held strong to prevent any points from being scored.

Defensive end Everson Griffen was especially chatty on the drive, imploring his teammates to rise to the challenge. Griffen was credited with a sack on the series but he did not make contact with Cousins.

Minnesota's second and third-team defenses also did not allow points in the late-half situation, thwarting drives led by Sean Mannion and Kyle Sloter.

2. Up close and personal

The Vikings spent a considerable amount of time working on situations inside the 5-yard line Thursday, giving players a chance to get physical in close quarters near the goal line.

Dalvin Cook had a 5-yard touchdown run. Griffen would have likely had another sack on Cousins on a different play.

Adam Thielen scored from the 3-yard line on a rushing play, with guard Pat Elflein leading the way by summersaulting into the end zone after a block.

Brandon Dillon, whom Zimmer praised Thursday morning, caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jake Browning as the undrafted rookie tight end was uncovered in the end zone after a play fake.

A somber moment also occurred during the goal-line drills when Aviante Collins was injured and had to leave the field on a cart. Collins has been repping at left tackle mostly with the second team.

View images from Vikings Training Camp practice on August 1 at the TCO Performance Center.

3. Shuffling the lines

After Collins injury, the Vikings mixed up their bottom two offensive lines.

The starting unit remained the same, with Riley Reiff, Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Josh Kline and Brian O'Neill lining up from left to right.

Storm Norton practiced in place of Collins on the left side for the second-team offense, and was joined by Dakota Dozier, Brett Jones, Danny Isidora and Rashod Hill. John Keenoy filled in for Dozier for a play when he had to fix his shoe.

Norton also manned the left tackle spot for the third-team offense, while Keenoy and Tiano Pupungatoa both saw time at left guard. Cornelius Edison was in the middle with rookies Dru Samia and Olisaemeka Udoh on the right side.

The Vikings announced after practice that they **claimed Tyler Catalina** off waivers and waived Pupungatoa.