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3 Observations: Vikings Tight Ends Steal Show in Red Zone

EAGAN, Minn. — The third week of U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp got off to a hot start Monday.

Minnesota practiced for nearly two hours in full pads and in stifling heat, but those were the conditions Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he wanted to help his team get in better shape.

Justin Jefferson and Sheldon Richardson did not practice. Christian Darrisaw and Dede Westbrook did not participate in full-team drills.

The Vikings will practice Tuesday before the Broncos are here for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

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

1. TEs shine in red zone

It's no secret that the tight end position is a key spot in the Vikings offense, and that group put on a show Monday.

The Vikings worked on 1-on-1 drills in the red zone in the early part of practice, with all five tight ends on the roster catching a touchdown pass.

Irv Smith, Jr., started it off with a leaping score despite strong coverage from Harrison Smith.

Tyler Conklin then turned heads with a juggling, one-handed score while eluding Xavier Woods.

Brandon Dillon and Zach Davidson followed with scores, and Shane Zylstra capped off the fine showing with a touchdown catch while being defended by Myles Dorn.

Davidson later flashed in a 7-on-7 drill in the red zone with a 20-yard touchdown catch from Jake Browning.

View photos of Vikings players at training camp practice on August 9 at the TCO Performance Center.

2. D-line wins the day in the trenches

If the tight ends were the top group on offense, the defensive line won the day on defense.

That group got the better of 1-on-1 drills against offensive linemen, a sequence that started with two wins from Danielle Hunter against Brian O'Neill.

Hunter later showed tremendous play recognition when he sniffed out a Kirk Cousins bootleg and would have likely had an easy sack.

Dalvin Tomlinson looked good against Dakota Dozier before Michael Pierce showed some muscle in back-to-back reps against Garrett Bradbury. Pierce, by the way, has increased his workload in full-team drills in recent days, too.

D.J. Wonnum and Kenny Willekes also looked good in 1-on-1 drills.

3. More emphasis on special teams

Zimmer said Monday that special teams will continue to be at the forefront of practice, and that was the case again.

Kicker Greg Joseph was solid, making all four field goals with a long of 46 yards. He is now 24 of 30 (80 percent) in camp in team drills.

Joseph also practiced his onside kicks, with two rolling out of bounds and Chad Beebe getting the third one on the coverage team.

Ameer Abdullah, Kene Nwangwu and Ihmir Smith-Marsette later took reps at kick returner. Joseph kicked off from the 50-yard line at the end of practice, which would happen in a game if the opposing team was called for a personal foul on the previous scoring play.

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