The Vikings have held training camp in Mankato for 49 consecutive years. For many members of the organization, this is all old hat. But for 10 players in particular, 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp is an entirely new experience. Those 10 players are the team's 2014 draft class.
Many other Vikings are making their NFL training camp debuts, as well, such as offensive tackle Antonio Richardson and receivers Kain Coulter and Erik Lora. But today's practice recap focuses on the draft picks and how they look so far during their first NFL training camp.
Anthony BarrBarr has come to Mankato and hit the ground running. He's played defense for just two seasons and he was drafted by a team that employs a complex scheme, but Barr stands out regularly anyway and is being used in a variety of roles by the defensive staff.
Teddy BridgewaterBuzz has been building for Bridgewater of late, stemming largely from an impressive performance in Monday night's practice. Every step of the way, from the moment he was drafted to Practice No. 6, the moment has never seemed too big for Bridgewater. No one is declaring him the winner of anything at this point – Cassel appears to be taking most of the first team reps – but Bridgewater is clearly game to compete for the prize.
Scott CrichtonWhile running largely with the second team at right defensive end, Crichton flashes as a pass rusher regularly. He is strong at the point of attack and doesn't seem to rely too heavily on either an inside move or outside move.
Jerick McKinnonBilled largely as a scat back-type who could help on special teams, as well, McKinnon has demonstrated inside running ability during camp. He scored two touchdowns during the goal line period of Monday night's practice, with both of those runs coming between the tackles. Yes, McKinnon looks to be an effective receiver and potential 3rd down back, but he may also contribute as a between the tackles runner, too.
David YankeyThe starting five offensive linemen from last season all return this season, and at this juncture it doesn't look as if Yankey is poised to crack the starting lineup. But he has looked solid, and had one of his best moments of camp on Wednesday when he pulled on consecutive plays and opened up huge holes for the running backs to hit.
View images from practice No. 5 of 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp which took place on Wednesday, July 30.
Antone ExumThe Vikings continue to train Exum, a college cornerback, at safety. On Thursday, he even worked with the first team defense for a period with Robert Blanton sidelined because of a hamstring injury. Mistral Raymond and Jamarca Sanford figure to take most of the first team reps going forward, but that Exum was in there for a period suggests the defensive staff is interested in giving him every chance to make the team.
Kendall JamesIt's easy to see James has a nose for the ball when watching him in practice. He hasn't made a bunch of splashy plays at training camp, but it also wouldn't be a surprise if they started coming in bunches. For now, James is buried in a deep position battle for roster spots, but there's a long way to go and it's not time to rule this rookie out.
Shamar StephenThe Vikings defensive line was rebuilt this offseason, and where exactly Stephen fits into that rebuilding project remains to be seen. More time is needed to author a complete evaluation of the big defensive tackle, but he did see some action with second team defense on Thursday.
Brandon WattsIt's easy to overlook a late-round linebacker from Georgia Tech who plays the same position as the ninth overall pick (Barr) and a nine-year veteran (Chad Greenway). But don't overlook Watts. He's playing all over on special teams and his reps on defense continue to increase, even playing some middle linebacker in sub groups. There's a long way to go for Watts, but he has a chance.
Jabari PriceHead coach Mike Zimmer named Price as one of his "under the radar" standouts so far in camp. Enough said right there. But it should be noted that Price has trained both inside and outside at cornerback and he's on multiple special teams phases. Those are all good signs for the seventh-rounder out of North Carolina.
A few notes from Practice No. 6-- Jamarca Sanford was inserted into the lineup with the first team at safety. It was Mistral Raymond who took those reps on Wednesday, but the defensive staff decided they wanted a look at Sanford on Thursday.
-- Audie Cole and Derek Cox each had interceptions on Thursday. Cole's would've gone for a touchdown and Cox's ended a two-minute drill period against the second team defense.
-- Matt Cassel looked good during the seven-on-seven (red zone) drill, throwing touchdowns to Cordarrelle Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Jerome Simpson.