EAGAN, Minn. — Reunions abounded around Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center on Wednesday as the Vikings hosted the Cardinals for the first day of a pair of joint practices.
The Vikings signed former Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., this offseason a year after signing linebacker Jordan Hicks, who teamed with Murphy for three seasons in Arizona.
Murphy recorded an interception in 1-on-1s at the start of practice and a pass breakup (on a third-and-16 in the end-of-game situational) during team drills. He was mic'd up for the session by Vikings Entertainment Network, so keep an eye out for that special video later this week, and be sure to check out this feature on Murphy.
View photos of players during 2023 Vikings Training Camp joint practice with the Arizona Cardinals on Aug. 23 at the TCO Performance Center.
Hicks added a nice pass breakup in 7-on-7 drills.
Murphy and Hicks were the final two Vikings to leave the field after catching up with multiple folks on a hot and humid day.
Seven Arizona coaches, including Head Coach Jonathan Gannon, are former Minnesota assistants.
Gannon was the assistant defensive backs coach/quality control for Minnesota from 2014-17.
Arizona Offensive Coordinator Drew Petzing overlapped here with Gannon as assistant receivers coach from 2014-17 before switching to assistant quarterbacks in 2018 and becoming the receivers coach in 2019.
Cardinals Defensive Coordinator Nick Rallis was Minnesota's defensive quality control coach from 2018-19 and added helping with linebackers in 2020.
Arizona OLB coach Rob Rodriguez (assistant defensive line, 2015-19), LB coach Sam Siefkes (quality control/assistant linebackers, 2021-22), TE coach Ben Steele (assistant offensive line in 2021) and head strength and conditioning coach Evan Marcus (same role, 2014-15) round out the group.
The reconnections went beyond coaching staffs, as multiple members of the Vikings business side made their way down to the fields to welcome friendly faces back to the Twin Cities.
Former Vikings ballboy and Cardinals 11-time Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald, whose countdown to Canton began when retired after the 2020 season, also attended.
Action resumes Thursday when the Vikings are scheduled to host the Cardinals in another joint practice ahead of Saturday's preseason game between the squads. Click here for tickets for Thursday's session.
Not participating: Lewis Cine, Kene Nwangwu, Tay Gowan, NaJee Thompson and N'Keal Harry did not participate. T.J. Hockenson participated in a workout and ran routes on a side field. Esezi Otomewo participated in position drills while wearing a red no-contact jersey.
Returned to practice: Brian Asamoah II and Jalen Nailor were back in action. Jordan Addison was a full-go after participating in Monday's hybrid practice/walk-through in a red no-contact jersey.
O'Neill a full-go: Brian O'Neill participated at right tackle with the first team in 11-on-11 action, continuing to make progress in his recovery from offseason surgery. O'Neill was opposite Christian Darrisaw with the first group, and the Vikings opted to have Olisaemeka Udoh played left tackle and Vederian Lowe play right tackle with the second group.
Here are three observations from Wednesday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Wide receiver battle continues
Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and Gannon emphasized a volume of reps in Wednesday's session to allow for the best evaluation of players.
The Vikings already know what they have in Justin Jefferson, but just for good measure, the superstar caught a beautiful deep pass from Kirk Cousins against double coverage by Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson.
K.J. Osborn also reeled in a long pass, but officials ruled he committed offensive pass interference before the catch.
Addison, who missed last week's joint practices with the Titans, looked the part on his reps in move-the-ball periods and plays in the red zone.
Beyond that trio, however, the strong competition between Jalen Reagor, Brandon Powell and Trishton Jackson continued, with each making plays after being elevated to take reps with the first-team offense.
Reagor showed great concentration on a deep pass down the middle from Cousins on third-and-16 in the end-of-game situational. Officials ruled Reagor down at the 1-yard line, and time expired, but it was an impressive grab.
Powell pulled in a nice catch on third-and-5 to beat a blitz, and he made another grab on a play that probably would have stopped with a sack by Kyzir White.
Jackson took reps with the first and second team, catching a touchdown from Nick Mullens in the red zone and a pass that gained 18 in the end-of-game drill while working with the second group.
2. Field goal for the tie
The end-of-game situation gave the offense the ball at its own 40-yard line, down 23-20 with 1:10 remaining.
The Vikings first-team offense moved the chains initially before a play was ruled a sack by Cameron Thomas. After a short gain, Cousins took the deep shot to Reagor.
Even though time was up, Minnesota opted to have Greg Joseph kick a 43-yard field goal.
The second-team offense moved the ball to the Arizona 42 with the pass to Jackson and added a 4-yard gain on a completion to Blake Proehl.
After an incompletion on third down, the Vikings opted to have Joseph kick from 56 yards. It was good for the tie.
In the special teams period that followed, Joseph was good from 33, 38, 43 and 43 but was wide right from 45.
3. Defensive check-in
Most of my time Wednesday was watching the Vikings offense going against the Cardinals defense, but I could see the end-of-game situation by Minnesota's first-team defense and Arizona's first-team offense from afar.
A pass to tight end Zach Ertz on second-and-10 moved the ball from the 40-yard line across midfield, but that drive's progress halted at the Minnesota 46 with an incompletion, what looked to be a sack, Murphy's pass breakup and another incompletion.
At one point all four practice fields were in use, so I spent a little time watching 1-on-1 pass-rush drills.
Danielle Hunter used a swift and nifty move to get by 2023 first-round pick Paris Johnson, Jr., and Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum turned in impressive reps during the drill.
Interior defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga showed his strength in the drill.