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3 Observations: Hand, Vikings Defense Thrive in Red Zone During OTAs

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings put in a solid day of work Wednesday morning at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Minnesota practiced for roughly two hours, with 83 of 87 players on the roster in attendance for the voluntary session.

A quartet of Vikings (defensive ends Danielle Hunter, cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Jeff Gladney and linebacker Chazz Surratt) were not seen around the practice field.

Christian Darrisaw, a rookie first-round pick, watched in shorts and a sweatshirt. Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Wednesday that he was dealing with a groin issue.

Eric Kendricks and Cameron Dantzler were present and went through individual drills, but did not take part in team sessions.

Wednesday's session was Minnesota's fifth voluntary Organized Team Activity practice of Phase III of the offseason program and the second session open to the media. The OTA session scheduled for June 9 is also open to media members, as well as all three mandatory minicamp practices (June 15-17).

There are 13 total offseason practices, with 10 voluntary OTAs and three mandatory minicamp sessions.

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

1. Lots of red zone work

The Vikings spent roughly half of Wednesday's practice focusing on a crucial area of the field — the red zone.

And it was Minnesota's defense that had the better showing, as Harrison Hand, Ryan Connelly and Mackensie Alexander all recorded interceptions.

Hand and Alexander picked off Kirk Cousins inside the 20-yard line, with Hand's big play coming in coverage on Justin Jefferson near the goal line.

Connelly's interception occurred on a Jake Browning pass intended for Tyler Conklin. Nick Vigil appeared to deflect the pass before Connelly — an Eden Prairie native — made a sliding catch in the end zone.

Another defensive play of note was Anthony Barr providing strong coverage against Irv Smith, Jr., on a pass attempt from Cousins that fell incomplete.

Josh Metellus also had an interception Wednesday, but it came on a team drill not in the red zone. Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Luther Kirk battled for a deep ball from Kellen Mond, only to see Metellus swoop in and corral the bobbled pigskin.

Offensively, Nate Stanley threw a pair of scores to Smith and K.J. Osborn in the red zone. Osborn later caught another score from Browning.

2. Joseph, Patterson get their kicks

The pair of kickers competing for the starting job each had a chance to make a solid impression Wednesday, as Greg Joseph and Riley Patterson each attempted three field goals in team periods.

Joseph was successful on all three of his kicks, hitting from 33, 44 and 51 yards. Andrew DePaola (long snapper) and Britton Colquitt (holder) teamed with Joseph on the kicks.

Patterson missed his 51-yard try wide right, but rebounded to hit from 44 and 33 yards. Turner Bernard was the long snapper and Zach Von Rosenberg was the holder for Patterson, a rookie from Memphis.

Both kickers later practiced kickoffs on a side field, with each showing plenty of power by routinely reaching the end zone.

3. Shuffling up the O-line

Minnesota's first-team offensive line remained the same as a week ago, with Rashod Hill, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Dakota Dozier and Brian O'Neill lining up from left to right.

But with Darrisaw watching, the second and third units were shuffled up from a week ago.

Olisaemeka Udoh took Darrisaw's place at left tackle next to Dru Samia. Mason Cole was the center while third-round rookie Wyatt Davis was at right guard. Blake Brandel was at right tackle after being the third-team center last week.

As for the third team, it consisted of, left tackle Evin Ksiezarczyk, left guard Kyle Hinton, center Cohl Cabral and right tackle Zack Bailey. Davis pulled double duty and was the right guard for both the second and third teams.