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3 Observations: Vikings Defense Wins the Day in Red Zone

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings had a lighter day of work Tuesday, as they practiced in helmets and shorts for roughly 90 minutes at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Justin Jefferson was limited, as he did not participate in full team drills.

Kene Nwangwu, Patrick Jones II, Cam Smith and James Lynch were not spotted at practice. Tyler Conklin, Christian Darrisaw and Nate Stanley watched practice without pads. Anthony Barr remains sidelined.

The Vikings will practice again Wednesday and Thursday at the team facility. Minnesota hosts Indianapolis on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the second preseason game.

Here are three observations from Tuesday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud Ophthalmology Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:

1. All about the defense

Tuesday's practice went the way of the defense, especially for the first unit in the red zone.

Minnesota spent a solid amount of time in that crucial area, but the offense came away frustrated.

The sequence began when Eric Kendricks raced in for a likely sack on Kirk Cousins. Mackensie Alexander and Michael Pierce then stopped Dalvin Cook for short gains on run plays.

Cousins then tried to hit Adam Thielen in the end zone for a score, but Patrick Peterson was blanketing the receiver on a high throw.

Cameron Dantzler later had strong coverage on Thielen near the goal line.

View photos of the Vikings 53-man roster as of Jan. 5, 2022.

2. Mond steps up when called upon

Jake Browning has taken the second-team reps the past few weeks, leaving third-team reps to rookie Kellen Mond.

But Mond stepped up in the clutch Tuesday when put on the spot.

Browning was running the offense in the red zone when the unit was whistled for multiple pre-snap penalties. Seemingly everyone but the center moved on one play.

Mond jumped in and promptly threw a touchdown pass, recognizing a heavy blitz to find rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette on a fade route in the end zone.

Mond, who made his NFL debut Saturday in the preseason, has now shown progress in back-to-back practices.

3. Westbrook gets more involved

Dede Westbrook appears to be making a bit of progress in his return from an ACL injury.

Westbrook went through individual drills Tuesday, the same as he's done in the past week or so.

But he then stepped in as a punt returner in full-team drills, which included a rush coming at him from the kicking team. The drill was non-contact as players weren't in full pads, but Westbrook ran and cut with the ball in his hands a little more than we've seen so far.

He did not partake in offensive team drills. Instead, he watched on the sideline with Jefferson.

Ameer Abdullah, K.J. Osborn and Chad Beebe handled punt return duties off a machine later in practice.