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3 Observations: Cousins & Vikings Offense Sharp in Red Zone & 2-Minute Drills


EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings have completed their eighth voluntary Organized Team Activity practice of 2021.

This session was the third one open to the media, and it went for roughly two hours in balmy conditions at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center.

Minnesota had 84 of 90 players on the roster in attendance for the voluntary session. Defensive end Danielle Hunter, cornerbacks Jeff Gladney and Mackensie Alexander, running back Alexander Mattison, linebacker Chazz Surratt and kicker Riley Patterson were not present.

Tackle Christian Darrisaw and cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and Cameron Dantzler were at practice but did not go through team drills.

The Vikings are scheduled to hold OTA practices on Thursday and Friday before three mandatory minicamp practices from 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. Cousins, offense bounce back

A week ago, Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense struggled in a practice that was littered with mistakes and turnovers.

The 10-year veteran responded in a big way Wednesday. He was clutch in a game-like situation and showed strong rapport with numerous skill players all practice long.

Perhaps Cousins' best throw of the day was a deep ball to Adam Thielen that was reminiscent of their connection in overtime against New Orleans in the Wild Card round of the playoffs in January 2020.

The pair hit for a roughly 50-yard pass that would have put the offense in the red zone in a real game.

Cousins also led what could have been a successful 2-minute drill at the end of practice. Down 24-22 with just over 90 seconds on the clock, the quarterback engineered a solid drive with no timeouts from his own 25-yard line.

The quarterback hit Tyler Conklin for a pair of first downs before Justin Jefferson showed some elusiveness on a big gain down the left sideline. A short completion to Ameer Abdullah put the offense in field goal range with 20 seconds left, but the potential go-ahead field goal was not attempted.

2. Tight ends flash all over

Based on the early reviews from OTAs, Minnesota's tight ends could be in for a big year in 2021.

That group's success continued Wednesday even before Conklin stepped up in the 2-minute drill. He also had a beautiful touchdown catch on a corner route from Cousins in a red zone drill that prompted big celebrations from Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith, Jr.

Brandon Dillon and rookie Zach Davidson also made their presence felt, as both tight ends had touchdown catches from Jake Browning on Wednesday.

Smith was also involved in the offense with a few catches, while Thielen and K.J. Osborn also had touchdown catches in the red zone.

A week after struggling in that area with three interceptions, all units on the Vikings offense picked it up and had strong showings on the day.

View photos of the Vikings organized team activity on June 8 at the TCO Performance Center.

3. Peterson, Breeland match up against Zimmer

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer turned 65 over the weekend, but he still showed off his quickness — and teaching ability — on Wednesday.

Zimmer worked closely with Patrick Peterson and Breeland — both new faces in 2021 — while the majority of the roster did special teams drills.

Zimmer acted as the wide receiver and used a stutter step to help the cornerbacks get their technique and timing down off the line of scrimmage.

The lesson paid off right away, as Peterson had a perfect pass breakup on a deep pass to Thielen on the first play of team drills.

With Breeland and Dantzler on the sideline for team drills (and Alexander not present), Harrison Hand was with Peterson as outside corners with the first unit. Hand then moved inside to the slot in nickel packages, with Kris Boyd mostly taking reps with the 1s.

Breeland, it should be noted, was highly attentive in his second practice in Purple, routinely asking defensive backs coach Karl Scott questions on the sideline.