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3 Observations: Irv Smith, Jr., Showcases as Receiver & Blocker


EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings had their most energetic and lively practice of camp Friday afternoon in front of a packed house.

Minnesota practiced in helmets and shorts for roughly two hours, putting on a show for those in attendance at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Kicker Riley Patterson and offensive linemen Christian Darrisaw and Cole Cabral did not participate for the third straight day. Patterson is on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform List and cannot practice until taken off that list. Jeff Gladney was not in attendance.

Bisi Johnson left in an early portion of practice after going down in a 1-on-1 drill. He stayed on the ground for a few minutes, and was attended to by trainers, but eventually walked into TCO Performance Center under his own power.

Michael Pierce and Dede Westbrook didn't partake in full team drills for the third straight day.

The Vikings will host their annual Night Practice at TCO Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Saturday before players have an off day on Sunday. Tickets are available here. The team will go to full pads on Monday.

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

1. Smith, Jr., has a monster day

There has been plenty of chatter about how third-year tight end Irv Smith, Jr., could be in line for a big season in 2021.

If Friday's practice was an indication, he might turn more than a few heads in the coming months. Smith had a monster day, showing off his versatility in both receiving and blocking.

His best play came on a leaping, bobbling, 1-handed catch on a corner route with tight coverage from Mackensie Alexander in a 7-on-7 drill. Smith jumped up and essentially tipped the ball to himself before bringing it down with his right hand.

Smith later had big gains on a pass down the middle from Kirk Cousins and on a screen pass that picked up 20-plus yards.

The former second-round pick also showed off his blocking skills in a 1-on-1 pass rush drill against Anthony Barr, getting the better of the linebacker on a pair of reps.

2. Spirited sessions of 1-on-1 drills

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer put 1-on-1 drills on the docket for the first time in camp, and the intensity didn't disappoint.

Tight ends and running backs went against pass-rushing linebackers, while wide receivers and defensive backs were pitted against each other. Offensive and defensive linemen later engaged in 1-on-1 battles, too.

Adam Thielen had the highlight of the day with a deep touchdown catch from Cousins that beat [Baushaud] Breeland in those drills, which prompted a celebration and strong reaction from the crowd. Breeland later got some payback with a sliding interception off Cousins in a team drill. Patrick Peterson and Justin Jefferson also had some solid reps against one another.

Besides Smith, Dalvin Cook (a new college graduate) fared well in the pass rushing drills. He bested Eric Kendricks at one point, which caused the defense to do push-ups because of the loss.

Kendricks had more good reps than bad ones though, including wins against Alexander Mattison and Jake Bargas while trying to get after the imaginary quarterback.

Olisaemeka Udoh and Garrett Bradbury performed well against the defensive line Friday. Bradbury had a testy battle with defensive tackle Armon Watts, while Udoh looked good in his new position at right guard.

Those 1-on-1 battles will only get more intense as the pads come on and the Vikings get later into camp.

View photos of Vikings players from 2021 U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp practice at the TCO Performance Center on July 30.

3. Davis shows versatility along offensive line

As we noted earlier this week, Darrisaw and Cabral being out means the Vikings are down to just 13 offensive linemen so far in camp. (With 15 players healthy, they could roll three lines rather easily).

And with spots to be filled Friday, rookie Wyatt Davis showed his ability to adapt by taking third-team reps at center. A two-time All-American guard at Ohio State, Davis has primarily lined up at right guard in his time with the Vikings.

But his position flexibility could only help the Vikings, who also have Bradbury and veteran Mason Cole at center.

Davis didn't play center for the entirety of Friday's practice, but did so in a handful of drills. He also practiced snapping to fellow rookie Kellen Mond after Thursday's practice, which means the Vikings are looking to maximize his versatility whenever possible.