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3 Observations: Vikings Focus on 3rd Downs

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings on Thursday returned to the practice fields after a day off.

The team held walk-through for the first time inside TCO Stadium on a crisp and cloudy morning in preparation of Saturday’s night scrimmage. The team then transitioned to the practice fields for an afternoon session under a sun-splashed sky.

Minnesota is scheduled to hold a walk-through from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Friday, followed by practice from 2:45-5 p.m. Click here to check on tickets available for remaining sessions.

Here are three observations from Thursday’s session:

1. Third-down Thursday

The Vikings did a considerable amount of work on third downs Thursday, fielding multiple snaps from near midfield.

A play after Everson Griffen and a host of others converged on Kirk Cousins for what would have been a sack, the quarterback connected with Kyle Rudolph for a nice conversion.

Cousins followed with a completion to Brandon Zylstra that would have moved the chains on third-and-10. The following play, however, he was forced to check down for Latavius Murray for a completion that was shy of the sticks.

Zylstra and Tavarres King also earned first downs on passes from Trevor Siemian when the drill continued with the second-team offense.

2. Sometimes, you’ve gotta punt

The Vikings offensive improved its third-down rate considerably from 2016 to 2017, going from a success rate of 38.0 percent to 43.5 percent.

It’s impossible to convert them all, and that’s where a solid punt and coverage can be important.

Ryan Quigley punted multiple times from just beyond midfield and in positive territory as gunners worked to down the football.

Jayron Kearse continued to show his skill at downing a punt inside the 5-yard line. Holton Hill got to a returner quickly for what would have been a tackle. Hill also was in good position when another punt took an awkward bounce from Mike Hughes.

Quigley implemented a point-down kick on three punts when the line of scrimmage was in the opponent’s territory.

3. RBs involved in the passing game

Whether it was a check-down like the one to Murray or a screen to Dalvin Cook (covered by Ben Gedeon), or lining up at a wide out and running routes, the Vikings running backs were busy out of the backfield.

It will be interesting to see how Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo implements running backs in the passing game.

When DeFilippo was Eagles coach in 2017, a committee of backs combined for 53 receptions.

Cousins, meanwhile, connected with running backs for 76 of his 347 completions in Washington last season.

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