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3 Observations from Minicamp No. 1: Vikings Playmakers Step Up for Short-Handed Offense

EAGAN, Minn. — Welcome to minicamp.

The Vikings kicked off three days of mandatory minicamp practices on Tuesday, the last of three sessions before a month-plus break that precedes the start of training camp in late July.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer’s team wore helmets, shells and shorts as they practiced in the indoor practice facility at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

The Vikings will hold their second minicamp practice on Wednesday, with the final one scheduled for Thursday.

Here are three observations from Tuesday morning’s session:

1. The stars shine

The Vikings offense was shorthanded Tuesday, as wide receivers Jordan Taylor and Jeff Badet and tight ends David Morgan, Irv Smith, Jr., and Tyler Conklin didn’t practice.

No matter though, as Minnesota’s top playmakers produced plenty of plays, the highlight of which was a 65-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Stefon Diggs.

The wide receiver got past Mackensie Alexander on a post route before outracing Anthony Harris to the end zone. Diggs also caught a long pass from Cousins earlier in practice.

Adam Thielen later caught a touchdown in the red zone, while Brandon Zylstra had the catch of the day with a one-handed snag down the right sideline.

Rookie Bisi Johnson also caught a touchdown in the red zone while falling down.

2. Defense rules on 3rd down

The Vikings defense has established itself as the premier unit in the league on third down, as Zimmer’s crew finished first in third-down percentage in two consecutive seasons.

Minnesota, who allowed offenses to convert on 25.3 percent of the time in 2017 and 30.5 percent of the time in 2018, was up to the usual standard Tuesday.

The Vikings held a team period for third-down plays, and the Vikings defense produced a win on seven of 10 tries.

Trae Waynes started the drill with a breakup of a pass for Thielen, and Anthony Barr later snuffed out a run by Ameer Abdullah. Eric Kendricks and Derron Smith would have had sacks in a game, but held up on touching the quarterbacks.

3. Focusing on the third phase

The Vikings spent a considerable amount of time working on special teams Tuesday.

Minnesota focused on kickoff coverage, as Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Marwan Maalouf had his players work on getting a good start from the kick. At one point, starters such as Xavier Rhodes, Waynes, Kendricks and Thielen were on the coverage team.

Vikings kicker Dan Bailey was good on five of six field goal tries, but his most impressive one was his final kick when he nailed a 54-yard attempt.

Maalouf also had the Vikings spent the first portion of practice working on punts and punt returns. Diggs was back returning punts at one point during the session.

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