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3 Observations: Drills Reinforce 'About the Ball' Mentality for Vikings 

EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings on Tuesday hit the fields for their second Organized Team Activity practice of 2022 and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell's tenure.

The session lasted about 90 minutes and was the first one open to Twin Cities media members. Beyond some position and special teams drills, the Vikings participated in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 periods using two fields (first-team offense vs. first-team defense on one).

1. All about the ball

Drills by multiple position groups focused on the football — either taking it away or protecting it.

Edge rushers went through the exercise of coming off the line and swiping at a football attached to a strap so they could knock it away from the quarterback.

In his introductory press conference in February, O'Connell had said the team's defensive philosophy, "first and foremost" is "all about the ball."

"I definitely have a vision of what I want the defense to look like and play like, the core characteristics of playing good defense, which is guys flying around, a great tackling group," O'Connell said. "We're going to force turnovers with how we play from a scheme standpoint, but that's an effort thing. That's playing with great effort, sustaining that, finishing plays, making it about the football."

Conversely, on offense, he added, "I think you lose games turning it over as an offense in this league before you ever give yourself a chance to win them."

Along those lines, quarterbacks dropped back and withstood pressure from poles with pads attached to simulate swiping arms of defenders.

Linebackers also were led through a drill during which they weaved through overturned trash cans with their hands behind their backs. Upon completing the gauntlet, they could free their arms to make plays on the football.

O'Connell's messaging from three months ago is being reinforced on the field with those drills.

2. Passing notes

Kirk Cousins' first pass of 7-on-7 drills went to … drumroll, please … Justin Jefferson. Who'd you expect?

Cousins made a couple of nice throws to Jefferson, who finished the plays smoothly, but one of the best connections by the QB went to K.J. Osborn, who impressively elevated to make the grab between the numbers and sideline. 

Troy Dye was filling in for Eric Kendricks at one of the inside linebacker spots next to Jordan Hicks. The Vikings utilized Camryn Bynum and Josh Metellus at safety. They helped fill in for Harrison Smith, who became a father this week.

Sean Mannion had a nice completion to Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and Kellen Mond adeptly placed a pass on a corner route to rookie Jalen Nailor. Mond also zipped a ball down the field to tight end Zach Davidson for another nifty play in 7-on-7.

Tight ends Irv Smith, Jr., and Johnny Mundt worked with receiver Blake Proehl and quarterback Nate Stanley for a bit on a third field. Smith later made his way in for some routes with the first team, a sign of his recovery from the meniscus injury that cost him all of last season.

3. A look up front

Pads won't go on for quite a while, but Tuesday also offered a look at combinations up front.

The Vikings offensive line consisted of Christian Darrisaw (left tackle), Ezra Cleveland (left guard), Garrett Bradbury (center) and Brian O'Neill (right tackle).

Minnesota rolled with veterans Jesse Davis and then Chris Reed at right guard with the first team.

The day also featured a look at defensive tackle Harrison Phillips working alongside Dalvin Tomlinson and the duo being flanked by edge rushers Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith. The Vikings defensive front used multiple looks.