The Vikings conducted Practice No. 8 in front of a packed house of 9,300-plus at Blakeslee Stadium on Saturday evening, providing those in attendance with a taste of real football just days in advance of the preseason opener. The lights were bright, the pads were on, and the action was intense as 2014 Verizon Vikings Training Camp continued.
It was only appropriate that in a practice conducted in the evening it was the team's stars who stood out. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn showed his feisty side, raking the ball from Greg Jennings grasp early in practice. Jennings responded in the one-on-one period by getting behind Munnerlyn for a score. Blair Walsh was perfect on the night, Xavier Rhodes made perhaps the best play of training camp, Chad Greenway got splashy, and Teddy Bridgewater had the last laugh in the two-minute drill.
Let's get to some of the details…
Best play of camp?There have been plenty of outstanding plays during camp. But Saturday night's practice may have seen the best one to date, and it was courtesy of Xavier Rhodes. The play came during the early portion of practice in a team period, with Rhodes in Jarius Wright's hip pocket running stride for stride down the left sideline as Matt Cassel lofted a pass deep down the field. Both Rhodes and Wright made an adjustment on the ball, and Rhodes left his feet to stretch out and catch the pass before Wright could make a play on the ball. With the ball in his grasp, Rhodes crashed to the ground but cupped the ball, keeping his hands and forearms between the ball and the ground as he summersaulted and landed on his left side. It was an incredible display of athleticism, ball skills, body control and flexibility.
Hot start for defensive backsThe Vikings secondary was off to a hot start in Practice No. 8. Captain Munnerlyn closed quickly on Greg Jennings as the veteran receiver made a catch during the no huddle period. As Jennings darted for the sidelines, Munnerlyn got his hands on the football and raked it from Jennings' possession. The fumble turned out to be immaterial to the play, but the forced fumble is yet another illustration of Munnerlyn's scrappiness and of the kind of play Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer demands from his defensive players.
Marcus Sherels actually ended the no huddle period for the first team offense and defense when he ran under a pass from Cassel to Cordarrelle Patterson. Sherels was guarding Patterson as the receiver ran down the right sideline. Cassel saw the matchup and lofted a pass toward Patterson, but Sherels made a quicker adjustment, left his feet and high-pointed the football to make the interception.
During one-on-ones, rookie Jabari Price registered a noteworthy play when he alertly shoved receiver Donte Foster out of bounds just as Foster was about to complete an acrobatic play along the sidelines. A pass intended for Foster was set to sail wide to his left, but Foster reached out and tipped the pass, causing it to pop up in the air and head toward the sideline. Foster dove and got both hands on the football, but Price shoved him to the sideline and ultimately jarred the ball loose.
It wasn't all defense, all the time early in practice. Patterson caught a deep in-cutting route right in front of Harrison Smith that elicited a roar from the crowd, and Jennings was not to be outdone when he got behind Munnerlyn and hauled in a pass that would've been good for a touchdown.
Mr. AutomaticBlair Walsh wowed the crowd during the first special teams period of Saturday night's practice. He lined up for eight field goals, beginning with a 37-yarder and concluding with a 53-yarder. All eight were good, as Walsh booted kick-after-kick straight through the uprights and with plenty of distance to spare, even on the 53-yarder.
Punter Jeff Locke was impressive during the second special teams period, particularly with his punts in backed up situations. He booted three punts 50 yards while standing in the back of the end zone.
No way past GreenwayTeddy Bridgewater took his turn with the first team during a red zone period. Things were moving along swimmingly as the offense drove closer and closer to the goal line. But enough was enough for Chad Greenway, as he displayed an impressive vertical and tremendous hands by leaving his feet to snare an interception off of the rookie quarterback. Greenway wasn't done there, as he gained the edge of the field after securing the interception and may have taken it to the house in a game situation.
Two-minute TeddyBridgewater got the last laugh during the two-minute drill period of practice, though. He threw a dart to receiver Rodney Smith near the front pylon, capping a drive that included five completions in five attempts to four different players. The drive was aided by an illegal contact penalty against Price, but make no mistake about the fact that the play of the drive was an aggressive and accurate pass from Bridgewater to Smith near the front pylon.
The Vikings first team defense stopped the first team offense in the two-minute drill period. After beginning the drive at their own 40, Cassel drove the offense down the field with five completions in his first six attempts. The Vikings defense held from there, though, forcing two incompletions as the clock expired.