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Notebook: Offensive Line Opening 'More Creases' Than Zimmer's Seen

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings have been able to build on a relative level of continuity with offensive line groupings this offseason.

Aside from a few reps divvyed by Minnesota's coaches to projected backups, the Vikings rolled out these combinations, from left to right:

First unit: Riley Reiff, Pat Elflein, Garrett Bradbury, Josh Kline, Brian O'Neill

Second unit: Aviante Collins, Dakota Dozier, Brett Jones, Danny Isidora, Rashod Hill

Third unit: Storm Norton, John Keenoy, Cornelius Edison, Dru Samia, Olisaemeka Udoh

Tyler Catalina was signed last Thursday and has taken reps at tackle and guard but did not participate on Tuesday. The same was true for Collins, who has been sidelined since Aug. 1, and O'Neill.

The Vikings moved Hill and Norton up, and Dozier took reps at left tackle with the third unit.

"I don't think it's going to be too long with either one of those guys, so I don't think it will change that much," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "They had some good blocks in there today, some of the stuff that we've been practicing pretty good. Rashod, and Dakota at tackle there at the end. It may not be great in the first preseason game, but we expect them to go out and perform."

Unlike a year ago when Elflein was working his way back from a significant injury sustained in the NFC Championship Game and Collins was lost for the season during a practice, the continuity has helped Minnesota install its new offense.

"I really like the stuff that they're doing," Zimmer said. "They're changing up protections. As you've probably seen, the play-actions have been good, and part of that is you get some suck-up by the safeties and linebackers, but a lot of these, you're getting four hands on [defensive linemen], and you might be keeping an extra tight end in, so if you get that, the receiver's got a chance to run all over the field."

Zimmer said Kirk Cousins has "been throwing the deep ball really well."

"As far as the running game, I'm seeing more creases than I've normally seen," Zimmer added.

Sharpening from within

Tuesday's session was the 10th full-team practice and another instance of the defense rising to the occasion after a bit of a verbal boost by Zimmer.

It is vital for the offense and defense to continue sharpening each other for at least one more day of practice before traveling to New Orleans to face the Saints at 7 p.m. Friday.

"We go out there and compete every day," Rhodes said when asked about going against the young receivers. "We don't give those guys the benefit of the doubt or anything, but we let them know they have to come out here and work. No matter what defense we are and how we've defined ourselves in previous years, we're going to come out here and work harder and try to be better and try to get everyone going."

Eric Kendricks said: "We have to keep our edge and keep our mentality. That's what makes us great and is going to continue to elevate us to the next level. We have to push each other."

The first-team defense stymied a possession by the first-team offense in the two-minute drill on Tuesday.

Zimmer said he's been pleased with the response and the progression of the offense.

"It's really about teaching and learning and trying to find out, I mean, it's competitive, but there's more than just running plays," Zimmer said. "You've got the clock and timeouts and all of those kinds of things, so just learning."

Rhodes said he thinks Zimmer has been "pretty happy" with the way the defense has responded.

"I've seen a smile or two," Rhodes said. "He hasn't been on us lately."

Mackensie Alexander, who has grown into his role as the team's starting nickel back, said the offense "is doing great."

"I like what Kirk is doing. He's making it hard, putting passes in different spots that is making us stretch out and is making good throws, honest throws, not giving cheap balls out, so I see a lot of good stuff on offense," Alexander said. "We've got great receivers, so they're doing great. I like where they're at."

View photos of actor Woody Harrelson who visited Vikings Training Camp on Aug. 6 at TCO Performance Center.

Hughes is doing 'really good'

Vikings 2018 first-round pick, cornerback Mike Hughes, is continuing to rehab from the torn ACL he suffered in Week 6.

Hughes has been running sprints without a knee brace and spent part of Tuesday going through some exercises on a physical therapy staircase adjacent to the practice fields.

"I don't know. He's doing really good, so we'll just have to, you know, it's up to the doctors," Zimmer said. "When they say he's ready to roll, then he's ready to roll."