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Pads to Elevate Practice Battles at Vikings Camp

MANKATO, Minn. — Vikings training camp practices are about to escalate with today's addition of pads.

Players opened the first two days of camp wearing shorts, helmets and soft-padded "shells" under their jerseys, but now the team is allowed to practice in pads.

The physicality will increase, but coaches will remind players that they are still on the same team.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said it will be fun to get the pads back on. It also will be insightful as the coach and his staff evaluate players, particularly in 1-on-1 drills and 11-on-11 settings.

While the impact of pads affects most position groups at one point or another, here are two matchups that should be interesting to watch.

Offensive line versus defensive line

The Vikings put a particular amount of emphasis on the offensive line this offseason, signing free agents Alex Boone and Andre Smith.

Boone is pretty much solidified at left guard, the position he played in San Francisco. Smith is in competition at right tackle, the post he manned in Cincinnati.

The Vikings alignment during walk-through practices on Friday and Sunday was: LT Matt Kalil, Boone, C John Sullivan, RG Brandon Fusco and Smith. At Saturday's walk-through and practice, Joe Berger was in at center, and T.J. Clemmings was at right tackle. Berger and Clemmings started all 16 games at those positions in 2015.

It will be interesting to see the blend of offensive linemen going against a defensive line that maintained continuity among starters — Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and Brian Robison — and in a sub package of nickel rushers with Griffen and Danielle Hunter at defensive end and Robison sliding inside to pair with Tom Johnson at defensive tackle.

Both sides of the line of scrimmage will be able to be more aggressive. The defense, however, must pull up at the end of a play to avoid contact with quarterbacks.

Receivers versus corners

One of the coverage techniques that Zimmer likes cornerbacks to deploy is bump-and-run, where cornerbacks get physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage. Xavier Rhodes is able to use his large frame and strength in this manner to disrupt receivers' timing with a quarterback and get them off their line. Trae Waynes played this coverage at Michigan State.

A year after drafting Waynes at the 11th overall spot, the Vikings tabbed Laquon Treadwell at 23rd overall this year. Minnesota GM Rick Spielman and Zimmer said they liked Treadwell's physicality in college and expect that to be a helpful factor in his transition to the pros.

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