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7 Topics as Vikings Minicamp Approaches

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings have wrapped up the voluntary portion of their offseason workout program and are starting a mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday.

The minicamp provides coaches with three more sessions to evaluate some of the experimentation they've done with schemes and personnel groupings and to review film before the Vikings report to training camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato in late July. Players and coaches are scheduled to report on July 28 and have their first practice July 29.

1) QBs cutting it loose

The Vikings used the organized team activity practices to work on a variety of different throws for Teddy Bridgewater. The offense was the clear-cut winner on some days, and the defense prevailed on others. Some practices were a mixed bag of results, which is a testament to the level of competition.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked last Tuesday about Bridgewater, the undisputed starter, and his progression through his third offseason program.

"You know yesterday he had a really good day. He threw the ball really, really well, and I thought he threw the ball well today, too," Zimmer said. "You know, he just seems to be cutting it loose a little bit more. You know, he sees it, and he lets it go."

Bridgewater has worked with the first team, veteran Shaun Hill with the second team, followed by second-year pro Taylor Heinicke and undrafted rookie Joel Stave through OTAs.

2) WRs boosting confidence

One of the things Bridgewater did before the offseason program was organize throwing sessions with multiple pass-catching teammates in Florida. The sessions were a supplement to building camaraderie and chemistry, and several of the connections made between quarterbacks and receivers or tight ends during OTAs were on confident throws. The offensive players don't have to worry about big hits from defenders until games, but many throughout the roster made difficult grabs in traffic.

3) RBs running after catches

It's a little difficult to gauge the running game in non-contact practices with players in helmets and shorts, but Adrian Peterson has looked ready to pursue his fourth NFL rushing title and second in a row. Peterson also has looked smooth when catching the ball out of the backfield, quickly and seamlessly transitioning from securing the ball to striding. Jerick McKinnon also has looked speedy, smooth and able to offer a running style in contrast to Peterson.

4) O-line competing

The Vikings added to the competition on the offensive line multiple ways this offseason. They have returned veterans John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt after injuries cost the center and tackle all of 2015. Minnesota also brought in Alex Boone and Andre Smith via free agency and drafted Willie Beavers in the fourth round. Boone is expected to be a fixture at left guard. The Vikings have alternated snaps and rotated reps for all other positions. Matt Kalil, who hasn't missed a game in four seasons, is at left tackle, but Minnesota has used the offseason as an opportunity for younger players to get more reps at the spot as well. Sullivan and Joe Berger have rotated with the first- and second-team at center. Brandon Fusco is returning to right guard after playing 2015 at left guard.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman spoke with "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen during a broadcast of the 9 to Noon show from Winter Park last Tuesday.

"I believe all those guys are pushing each other," Spielman said. "The offensive line has worked extremely hard. I know [offensive line coach] Tony Sparano has brought in the type of attitude that Coach Zimmer wants to see from those guys. It's hard to see because we're in OTAs and not in pads and they can only go so hard, but it will be very exciting once we get down to training camp and get in pads and see which guys rise to the top. They're all competing very hard."

5) D-line surging

There are multiple ways the Vikings defensive line likes to get after opposing quarterbacks. The likes of Everson Griffen, Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter, who combined for 21.5 sacks in 2015, haven't used their full repertoire during the contact-limited offseason program, but they have implemented speed rushes and other moves effectively.

6) Linebackers repping

Anthony Barr was one of a few players who did not participate in the practice last week that was open to the media, but Zimmer and the Vikings have a pretty good idea of the ways he can make an impact for this team. The reps allowed other linebackers like second-year pro Edmond Robinson to gain more experience. The Vikings also likely have a few things in mind for free agent Emmanuel Lamur in a position group that returned six players from the 2015 roster.

7) Secondary setting an attitude

Whether it's 37-year-old Terence Newman diving for a pass breakup in June, Harrison Smith maintaining his stoic demeanor after re-signing a big, multiyear deal or Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes demonstrating growth in their games, the Vikings have a talented secondary filled with aptitude and attitude. Ideally, the players on the back end give the Vikings offense one of the toughest looks they'll see all of 2016 during the next three days, at training camp and beyond.

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