EAGAN, Minn. – It was Roc Thomas who stole the show Saturday night at Denver, but Mike Boone is using the performance as motivation – not discouragement – as he looks ahead to Minnesota’s second preseason game.
“I get excited for Roc when he makes those plays,” Boone said of Thomas, who scored two touchdowns and racked up 102 receiving yards against the Broncos. “When I’m in there, we have to try to follow suit, you know? ‘He made a big play, now it’s time for me’ – just make it that friendly competition.”
Added Boone: “When he tags me in, I’ll tell him, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do this.’ And then vice versa. It is what it is, man. Roc’s a great athlete.”
Boone and Thomas each received an opportunity when the Vikings signed them as undrafted rookies, and they’re working to make the most of it. Boone said it’s easy to feel “left out” after watching the draft pass you by but emphasized that he’s grateful for the opportunity he has now.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Boone told Twin Cities media members Tuesday. “Come in, control what you can control, and make plays. That’s how I see it.”
Boone said his focus is competing to the highest level with the other running backs, including Mack Brown, who joined the Vikings last season after spending time in Washington, Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook, who is returning from a knee injury.
“I’m just enjoying it,” Boone said. “Roc, that’s my guy. Mack, Cook, all those guys, great athletes. We’re just coming in having fun with it.”
He added that he’s mostly trying to show his versatility on tape. Boone earned a reputation with the Bearcats of being a speedy, scat-back-type player who can catch the ball out of the backfield as well as break open a run.
While Boone acknowledged that it’s tempting to try to get outside every time, he’s learning quickly at the pro level that the approach doesn’t always work.
“You get humbled very fast,” Boone said with a smile. “Those guys on the other side of the ball, they’re fast, too. I just listen to what [Vikings running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu] tells me and try to avoid those college mistakes, like bouncing so much, and stick in the A gap.”
In his first NFL outing, Boone had 12 carries for 22 yards and added three catches for 21 yards through the air.
He’s looking forward to cleaning things up throughout practice and hopefully making some splash plays in Minnesota’s remaining three preseason games. The next chance for the native of Macclenny, Florida, will be against his hometown Jaguars on Saturday.
“You’ve just got to take advantage of every rep you have because they’re limited,” Boone said. “Just try to take advantage and be consistent.”
Preparing for joint practices
The Vikings are preparing to meet some fresh faces in practice.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Vikings and Jaguars will participate in joint practices leading up to Saturday’s preseason game at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the two teams will then kick off at noon.
A number of players were asked by media members Tuesday about the practices and what they’re expecting from sharing the field with an opponent. First-round pick Mike Hughes was asked if Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has warned the team against getting into skirmishes with Jaguars players.
“I think all the guys know what we’re supposed to do, what we need to come out here and do,” Hughes said. “We’re both trying to get each other better at the end of the day, so that’s all that matters.”
Running backs Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook, who joined for a dual interview with reporters following practice, said that practicing two days against Jacksonville provides both teams with chances to improve.
The Jaguars defense finished No. 2 overall in 2017 behind the Vikings, and Jacksonville lost to New England in the AFC Championship Game.
“I think they feel highly about themselves and their defense, they’re feeling the best in the league, and obviously we feel the same about ours,” Murray said. “They did a lot of things well. I think it showed and was a reason why they went pretty far last year. They went the same as we did, actually. It’ll be some good work for both teams, I feel, going forward.”
When asked if players looked forward to sharing a practice field with an opposing team.
“We won’t say we don’t like it because every work is good work,” Cook said. “That’s how you go about it. It’s football, at the end of the day. You always like lacing your cleats up and coming out here and playing football.
“Like I said, we know some of those guys on the team, and we won’t mind seeing another team coming out here and get some work out there,” Cook added. “We’re tired of seeing our defense.”
Johnson ‘more comfortable’ in 2nd NFL season
Jaleel Johnson is entering his second NFL season and feels much less overwhelmed than this time a year ago.
Johnson played 25 (41 percent) of the Vikings defensive snaps against the Broncos Saturday night. He started at nose tackle in place of Linval Joseph before shifting to the 3-technique.
That versatility could help the Vikings on game days when the team is limited in how many players can dress.
“It’s really about his skill set. I wouldn’t say he’s a prototype 3-technique, and he’s probably a not a prototype nose,” Zimmer said. “But he’s a mauler in there, so he uses his strength and quickness that way. We just have to find out what’s the best skill set he has.”
Johnson said the game’s pace is still plenty fast, but his confidence level has increased.
“I wouldn’t say the game’s slowed down completely, but I’m definitely a little bit more comfortable out there now, going against the [first-team] offense,” Johnson said.
In addition to getting more experience under his belt, Johnson also appreciates the opportunity to pick the brains of Joseph and Sheldon Richardson.
“Those guys know the ins and outs of everything, so I’m always around those guys asking questions,” Johnson said. “They understand what it’s like. They were first-year guys, second-year guys as well, so they understand, they know where we’re coming from.”
Play of the day
Kirk Cousins fired a laser beam, and Laquon Treadwell climbed the ladder to get it.
The duo connected for a touchdown in a team drill in the red zone after the offense had been denied access to the end zone on the previous five plays.
Cousins dropped back and zipped a pass to his left and in the direction of Treadwell, who was covered by Horace Richardson.
Treadwell leapt up and snagged the pass, tapping two feet in bounds as Richardson could only watch the impressive play.
The crowd at Vikings Verizon Training Camp unleashed their biggest cheer of the day in response.