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3 Observations: Vikings Rookies Focus on Basics in 1st On-field Steps

EAGAN, Minn. – Vikings youngsters didn't let a little drizzle dampen the fun of being back on the football field.

Despite gray clouds and a strong breeze Friday afternoon, plenty of energy abounded as 31 players took the fields at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center for the first full practice of Vikings rookie minicamp.

A majority of the practice session was "back to the basics," per se, as position groups went through drills together with Vikings coaches.

Defensive backs worked on footwork drills and back-pedaling, and a trio of quarterbacks – 2021 third-round draft pick Kellen Mond, Jake Browning and Nate Stanley – got in lots of practice with pass catchers. Browning, an undrafted free agent in 2019, and Stanley, a seventh-rounder in 2020, were able to participate per NFL rules.

Here are three observations from Friday's rookie minicamp practice presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:

1. Early look at offensive line roles

Minnesota has just five offensive linemen participating in rookie minicamp: draft picks Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis, tryout players Evin Ksiezarczyk and Brandon Kennedy, and Blake Brandel, a 2020 sixth-round who spent last season on Minnesota's practice squad.

Coaches kept the same order on the line throughout Friday's practice, with Darrisaw lined up at left tackle as expected.

Kennedy, who played center at Tennessee, lined up at left guard, and Brandel stepped into the center role. Davis was at right guard, and former Buffalo tackle Ksiezarczyk held down the right tackle spot.

2. Elliss with a PBU

The team spent a few minutes on a 7-on-7 drill toward the end of the afternoon.

The limited reps didn't offer too many flashy plays, but linebacker Christian Elliss, who signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Idaho, flew in with a snazzy pass breakup on a Mond throw intended for Ihmir Smith-Marsette.

Mond, who also logged several on-target passes, reflected on his first NFL practice.

"I had a couple of misreads and mis-throws, and those are some of those things that I say, 'It's easy to draw them up and tell coaches your reads, but actually getting out there on the field and just being able to rep it out is definitely different,' " Mond told Twin Cities media members. "Also just getting back in football mode and training your eyes to read coverages, that's something that you just have to get back acclimated to.

"I thought it was a pretty good session," he added. "Obviously a lot more room to grow, but that's why I'm out in Minnesota, and I'm super excited to be here."

3. Special teams reps

It's never too early to work on special teams.

Position drills allowed kicker Riley Patterson (Memphis), punter Zach Von Rosenberg (LSU) and long snapper Turner Bernard (San Diego State) plenty of time to work into a rhythm together.

Patterson used a holding device to kick from a variety of distances and seemed to adapt well to windy conditions.

The final team period of practice also was dedicated to special teams but focused more on correct formations and alignment rather than full-field practicing. Friday's session did not feature any kickoff or punt returns.