After nine practices in 11 days, the Vikings have a day off in Mankato on Thursday. The day off provides a perfect time to reflect on what's transpired at 2015 Verizon Vikings Training Camp through the team's first nine practices…
1. Defensive Line Looking DominantThe Vikings return all four starting defensive linemen plus a handful of reserves, and they added some talent over the offseason (BJ Dubose, Danielle Hunter). It's all come together well and through the first nine practices the defensive front looks downright dominant. DE Everson Griffen shows no signs of slowing down after a career-high 12.0 sacks a year ago, while DT Linval Joseph looks stout and has been disruptive in the middle.
2. All Good for AdrianFrom the warm and enthusiastic response he received on check-in day to the thunderous ovation he was given by 10,400 fans when the entire team was introduced at the conclusion of the Saturday night practice, it's been all good for Adrian Peterson in Mankato. He looks as fast as ever and has a rare combination of leanness and power. Peterson is catching the ball well and rarely has gaffes during pass protection drills. He stayed for over an hour in the RBs autograph session and truly looks to be at home with the Vikings, both from an on-the-field standpoint and in how he's interacting with fans.
3. Draft Class off to a Fast StartIt's far too early to author any sort of complete evaluation, but it's becoming clear that the Vikings 2015 draft class has the chance to be a special one. The two splashiest draft picks have been the two pass catchers – WR Stefon Diggs and TE MyCole Pruitt. Not a practice goes by where Diggs hasn't essentially been a human highlight reel, and Pruitt continues to find ways to get open and be productive in practice. CB Trae Waynes is training outside and in the slot as well as in multiple special teams phases, and it looks like he'll be able to contribute immediately. Vikings GM Rick Spielman was quite bullish on LB Eric Kendricks while speaking with Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen on his weekday radio show. Hunter and Dubose have been solid along the DL and the three offensive linemen selected in the draft (TJ Clemmings, Tyrus Thompson, Austin Shepherd) have been competing well. Rounding out the draft class was LB Edmund Robinson, and he's a guy Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has noted on multiple occasions during press conferences. Again, it's very early and none of them have even played in a game yet, but so far so good for the draft class.
4. Position Battles Haven't Changed MuchThe Vikings came into training camp expecting to hold competitive position battles at several starting positions. Robert Blanton came in as the starting safety opposite Harrison Smith, Audie Cole came in with a hold on the Mike LB position and Mike Harris was expected to get first crack at the RG spot. All three of the incumbents remain atop the depth chart at their respective spots, but that doesn't mean the competition isn't real. It will be interesting to see if Zimmer and his staff have any shakeups once the team returns to Mankato following its first preseason game on Sunday night.
5. Gerald Hodges New to the Mike LB MixSpeaking of that Mike LB competition, it looks like Gerald Hodges is a new name in the mix. The third-year LB has trained mostly outside during his Vikings tenure but he's taken a few turns in the middle over the last five days and it will be interesting to see if he receives any reps at that spot on Sunday night. Hodges has had a great camp so far and, regardless of how position battles and depth charts shake out, figures to be a contributor on Zimmer's defense in 2015.
6. Shaun Hill Must be Playing WellA team hopes it never has to rely on the position, but the backup QB spot is an important one to have figured out. In signing Shaun Hill over the offseason, the Vikings look to have done well in securing insurance at the most important position. That rookies Diggs and Pruitt are flashing so much is a good sign for Hill given that he's been throwing them most of their passes. Hill can still sling it, he knows where the bones are buried in Norv Turner's offense, and he's a great mentor for Teddy Bridgewater.
7. Teddy Bridgewater is StrongerFrom his physical build to his presence in the huddle and off the field, Teddy Bridgewater is stronger in Year 2. It's easy to forget given his prominent position on the team, but Bridgewater, who doesn't turn 23 until November, is still one of the youngest players on the roster. His body is still maturing from a physical standpoint, but it's clear he added strength over the offseason. Bridgewater has also done a good job of establishing himself as a leader within the locker room and in the huddle, and now he's operating as a confident returning member of the team rather than as just a first-year starter.
View images from the Tuesday, August 4 night practice at Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
8. The Depth Chart was ReleasedFinal cuts are still a month away, but the first depth chart was released earlier in the week and that provides the first barometer of where some players stand in their respective position battles. There were no major surprises on the first depth chart, but it's worth noting that Taylor Heinicke is listed above Mike Kafka at QB, 2015 draft picks Clemmings (RT) and Thompson (RG) are both backups, Cole remains atop the Mike LB list, and Terence Newman is listed as the starting CB opposite Xavier Rhodes.
9. Cordarrelle Patterson, Marcus Sherels Have a Hold on Return JobsThe Vikings have several players on both defense and offense who can double as returners, but as good as the competition is it looks like both Cordarrelle Patterson and Marcus Sherels have a firm grasp on their respective return roles.