EAGAN, Minn. — Vikings 11-on-11 football finally returned to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Friday.
The two-hour, non-padded practice was the first full-team session of 2020, providing media members with their initial up-close look at Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's 2020 squad.
Saturday is a scheduled off day, but players are expected to be in helmets and shorts again Sunday before full pads go on for Monday's practice.
The Vikings roster currently stands at 80 players. Rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen did not practice. Neither did linebacker Ben Gedeon, who is currently on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List.
Here are five observations from Friday's session:
1. A new-look line
After much chatter and speculation in recent weeks, here is how the Vikings lined up to start Friday's practice along the first-team offensive line.
Riley Reiff was at left tackle, while the combination of Dakota Dozier and Aviante Collins split time at left guard. Garrett Bradbury was at center while the right side of the line was made up of guard Pat Elflein and tackle Brian O'Neill.
This would be another position switch for Elflein, who started 15 games at left guard in 2019 and started at center from 2017-18. Rashod Hill also received a handful of first-team snaps at both tackle spots throughout practice.
The second-team line, from left to right, consisted of: Hill, rookie Ezra Cleveland, Brett Jones, Dru Samia and Oli Udoh. The third-team was Blake Brandel, Collins, Jake Lacina, Kyle Hinton and Brady Aiello. All but Collins out of that lineup are rookies.
Dozier was the star in 1-on-1 pass rush drills, holding his own twice against Hercules Mata'afa. Jones also stood out twice against David Moa.
2. Hill, Dantzler shine in the secondary
Minnesota endured some roster turnover in the secondary and could have three new starters at cornerback in Week 1 against Green Bay.
Here's how that group looked on Friday afternoon with Gladney, a 2020 first-rounder, not practicing:
Mike Hughes and Holton Hill were on the outside to start, with Hughes moving into the slot in nickel situations. Kris Boyd and Cameron Dantzler both took reps at other outside spot opposite Hill.
Hill had a nice afternoon as he picked off a pass for Bisi Johnson on the first rep of 1-on-1 drills. He later had a pass breakup while covering Tajaè Sharpe and was noticeable in run support.
Dantzler also stood out late in practice as he denied a pair of deep passes to Adam Thielen in a game-like situation.
Mark Fields II was also in the slot at times, while also manning the outside along with rookie Harrison Hand.
3. Danielle Hunter is a star
The best player on the field Friday was Danielle Hunter.
The two-time Pro Bowl defensive end would have likely recorded a sack on Kirk Cousins on the first play on team drills. A few plays later, the Vikings lined up three tight ends on the right side and Hunter still applied pressure on Cousins.
He looked in mid-season form in 1-on-1 drills, beating O'Neill twice as he bested one of the league's top young right tackles.
Anthony Zettel also looked good in 1-on-1 drills, beating Udoh twice and Lacina another time in the 1-on-1 session. Armon Watts bested Bradbury on two separate occasions in the same drill.
4. Special teams update
The battery of Dan Bailey, Britton Colquitt and Austin Cutting didn't get any work in team drills Friday, instead working off to the side on the windy day.
But the Vikings spent plenty of time on special teams, including trotting out a handful of players at punt returner.
Chad Beebe took reps there, as did rookie K.J. Osborn, Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Quartney Davis, Hughes and Hill.
Minnesota also spent the final portion of practice working on a punt block circuit, using three stations to try and get to the punter. At least half the roster worked in those drills, which included laying out to block punts and working on rushes off the line of scrimmage.
5. Move(s) of the day
A pair of Vikings had two spectacular moves on Friday.
First, undrafted rookie wide receiver Dan Chisena pulled a double move on Dantzler and left him behind in a 1-on-1 drill.
Chisena, who would have scored a 20-plus yard touchdown on the play, was a track star at Penn State who was clocked at a blazing 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash by a handful of draft websites.
C.J. Ham later got the best of teammate Ifeadi Odenigbo, as the Pro Bowl fullback took a shotgun handoff to the left and juked around the defensive end. Ham's move drew plenty of cheers from his offensive teammates.