View photos of Vikings players at the joint training camp practice with the Broncos on August 11 at the TCO Performance Center.
EAGAN, Minn. — The intensity was up a few notches Wednesday afternoon at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.
With the Broncos in town for joint practices, the energy was noticeable as the teams took the field for practice.
The team practiced for two-plus hours in full pads and in stifling heat but got good work in on both sides.
Christian Darrisaw was not at practice. Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter and Nate Stanley were in attendance but not in pads. Dede Westbrook did not participate in full-team drills, and Anthony Barr was not heavily involved during team periods.
The teams will hold a joint practice again Thursday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, the final session of U.S. Bank Training Camp before opening their preseason slate at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Here are five observations from Wednesday's joint session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Defense struggles early but picks it up
Minnesota's defense didn't start well, as the combination of Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater looked sharp in 1-on-1 drills and in the 7-on-7 portion to open practice.
But the unit turned it around over time, with Michael Pierce leading the way. The mammoth nose tackle won both of his 1-on-1 reps and later batted down a Bridgewater pass at the line of scrimmage. Pierce later muscled his way through the interior for a likely sack.
Sheldon Richardson looked stout in the run game, and Stephen Weatherly likely would have had a strip-sack of Lock in a real game. Eric Kendricks also had a nice pass breakup in a passing drill.
2. Vikings up and down in situational drills
The teams went through multiple situational drills Wednesday, beginning with an end-of-half situation in the second quarter.
Both starting offenses trailed 7-3, and had the ball at the opponent's 39-yard line with roughly 45 seconds left.
The Vikings defense made a stand and forced a potential 57-yard field goal, but the kick was not attempted.
On offense, Kirk Cousins moved Minnesota into the red zone but settled for a 33-yard field goal from Greg Joseph.
The team worked on a 2-minute situation at the end of end of practice with the score tied at 21. Denver's defense won that period as the Vikings offense was stagnant.
The Broncos offense got two cracks at it, since Lock and Bridgewater are competing for the starting QB job.
Bridgewater tossed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy on a play that Bashaud Breelend dove for an interception but missed. Minnesota soon responded, however, as Xavier Woods picked off Lock on a ball that was initially tipped by Mackensie Alexander.
3. Joseph perfect on FG attempts
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said earlier Wednesday that Joseph is likely to get all of the kicking reps in Saturday's preseason game.
Joseph then went out and had a perfect day as he battles Riley Patterson for the kicking job.
Besides the field goal in the situational drill, Joseph also made all five of his field goals attempt in another team period. His long in that session was 53 yards.
Joseph was a perfect 6-for-6 on the day and is now 30 of 36 (83.3 percent) in camp.
Britton Colquitt also had a notable punt in a team drill from near midfield, rolling his kick out of bounds at the 2-yard line.
4. Browning shines in 7-on-7 drills
Jake Browning appears to have a solid hold on the backup QB job behind Cousins, and he continued his strong camp Wednesday.
Browning looked good in 7-on-7 drills in the red zone, tossing a pair of scores to other youngsters on the team.
He hit tight end Brandon Dillon on a post route down the middle for a score, and later connected with Ihmir Smith-Marsette on an out route for six points.
Browning could get ample playing time in Saturday's preseason game against the Broncos.
5. An introduction to the refs
Wednesday was the Vikings first practice of camp with referees in attendance, and Zimmer is likely going to use that as a teaching method for his squad.
Breeland and Patrick Peterson were both whistled for penalties early on during passing drills, while Armon Watts and Hercules Mata'afa each jumped offsides at different points in practice.
The calls went both ways, too, as Denver's offense was whistled for both a false start and a taunting penalty throughout practice.
It's worth noting that Week 1 of the 2021 season is still one month and one day away (Sept. 12), so there is plenty of time to clean up the sloppiness.
But Zimmer will likely want to see a cleaner performance from his defense in Thursday's joint practice.