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3 Observations: Waynes, Keenum Excel in Red Zone Drill

MANKATO, Minn. — The Vikings switched things up a bit Friday, going without full pads in a roughly 2-hour practice.

Minnesota instead practiced in helmets and shoulder pads in front of a packed crowd on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The Vikings are scheduled to have a walk-through Saturday from 10:30-11:30 a.m. before turning their attention to the night practice under the lights at Blakeslee Stadium.

Here are three observations from Friday's session:

1. Defense dominates; Keenum strikes twice

The Vikings spent one of the final portions of Friday's practice working on red zone drills.

Minnesota's first-team defense rose to the challenge, preventing the first-team offense from getting a first down or touchdown on seven straight plays inside the 15-yard line.

Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes had a strong pass breakup in the session.

The Vikings second-team defense then forced three straight incompletions by Taylor Heinicke and the next unit. But the quarterback connected with tight end Bucky Hodges on a 3-yard score to cap the second team's session.

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum took a trio of reps with the third-team unit but was in fine form as he tossed a pair of touchdowns.

Keenum found tight end Kyle Carter in the middle of the end zone on a well-placed ball before he threw a strike to wide receiver RJ Shelton. Keenum's final pass was knocked away by safety Antone Exum.

2. Focus on first downs

Although the Vikings didn't suit up in full pads Friday, they didn't exactly shy away from contact, especially on first down.

Minnesota used most of its 11-on-11 situations to focus on a variety of down and distances on first down, which included a bevy of run plays.

Jerick McKinnon showed strong speed on a run, and fellow running back Terrell Newby shot through a hole following a strong lead block by C.J. Ham.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the change in attire was needed.

"They'd been hitting pretty good … they think it's different, but it's really not," Zimmer said with a smile. "They were dragging a little bit, it's just the mentality of it."

3. Working together

One of Friday's most entertaining drills pitted the offensive and defensive lines against each other. 

The session saw three offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage against a pair of defensive linemen.

Only two offensive linemen were tasked with blocking, but they had to work together in a drill that called for stunts from the defensive linemen, meaning they switched their rush routes midway through the play.

Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph had the highlight as he cruised into the backfield on one play.

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