MANKATO, Minn.— Pat Shurmur is in the middle of his first training camp as offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.
With a small sample size of watching his offensive line compete, Shurmur is optimistic about how the group is coming along so far.
"I think we have covered a lot of ground, and I think we're making progress," Shurmur said. "We really like the way our guys are competing, and I think even though we are mixing it up a little bit, I think those guys are getting a good feel for working together, and I think that's as critical in an offensive line group as it is as just blocking your guy.
"How you're coordinated, are you the front side or back side of a scoop, how you are by yourself because somebody is pulling, I think the coaches and the players in that group have done a nice job," Shurmur added.
Left tackle Riley Reiff was injured on the first day of practice with an undisclosed injury, and has not participated since for the Vikings. The first unit has consisted of Rashod Hill, Pat Elflein, Nick Easton, Nick Easton and Mike Remmers from left to right for a majority of camp.
Third-round draft pick Pat Elflein has also seen time with the first group at center in Easton's spot. Shurmur noted that both players have the ability to be vocal when communicating in the middle of the line.
"We sort of refer to it, you can't be a slow blinker, you've got to make a good decision and roll with it," Shurmur said. "If Sam (Bradford) doesn't like it he can trump it, but go with it, and we'll all run off the cliff together. But the center has to be able to do that, so if you're a guy that's indecisive or you're a little bit, kind of a slow blinker, that's not a spot for you. But, I think the two guys we're talking about, Pat and Nick, are both fast blinkers."
Shurmur spoke about the need to determine a starting five and have versatile depth behind that group because teams often only have seven offensive linemen active on game days.
"You develop a starting five, and typically you take seven to the game," Shurmur said. "You have to have a guy that can be primarily an inside guy or a backup center-guard. So, until you become a Hall of Fame starter at a position where that's your position, if you're say the sixth guy and you're the inside kind of rotational guy you have to do both, and then you always have a guy that can play tackle and maybe guard. So, in the event you have injuries, and we had a lot of practice at it last year, those guys slide in and do what they have to do."
Here are four more topics addressed by Shurmur on Wednesday:
Shurmur impressed by Cook
Shurmur echoed the opinions of Head Coach Mike Zimmer when accessing the performance of second round pick Dalvin Cook.
"He has done a good job," Shurmur said. "I don't see any elements of running back play that he can't be very good at."
The Vikings offensive play caller complimented Cook's ability to protect the passer in the pocket after learning in Florida State's pro-style offense in college.
"He's got a great background in it," Shurmur said. "I think the last time we visited here, we talked about how he has a really great foundation coming from Florida State, so he understands the big picture, he understands our terminology as to who we're blocking, and he really has a good feel for the game."
2017 rushing attack
The Vikings plan on continuing to use training camp to find where each of the running backs can find their spots on offense.
Latavius Murray, Cook and Jerick McKinnon are the three running backs who will battle for a majority of the carries.
While Murray is still sidelined due to injury, Shurmur feels Minnesota has multiple backs who will contribute throughout the season.
"I think what is important is when you put the roster together, and we feel like we got a lot of guys in that running back room that deserve carries," Shurmur said. "As you're game planning each week, we feel like each one of those guys can go in there and run the ball, pass protect, and then catch it when we throw it to them so it gives us a lot of flexibility offensively."
He went on to discuss how he plans to handle substituting each player in an actual game.
"From a substitution standpoint we can give them chunks of time, or we can give them specific plays, or we can just get a feel for how they're doing and just make sure we get fresh backs in there so there's a lot of ways to do it," Shurmur said. "I still think that is a final cut, final team decision as to what we are going to do with it though."
Floyd excelling at camp
Vikings free agent acquisition Adam Thielen has turned heads in his first training camp in his home state.
The former Patriot and Cardinal has been beating defenders and making plays on a daily basis.
Floyd will have to serve a four-game suspension starting in Week 1, but will be able to participate in the Vikings preseason games.
Shurmur said Floyd's game went up another notch when the players donned pads.
"We were certainly as offensive coaches were excited when he became a part of our team," Shurmur said. "We watched him be a really good player for a lot of years, so we kind of knew that.
"I think the thing that I'm seeing now as compared to the spring is his physical presence out there," Shurmur added. "He's a big physical guy, he's a full-grown man playing receiver and I think that shows up on the practice field. He can make contested catches, but yet you've seen him do a decent job at times of getting behind the corners, which is a good thing. We like what we've seen."
Eric Wilson progressing as NFL tight end
Vikings sixth round draft pick Bucky Hodges is learning on the fly how to be an NFL tight end.
The 6-foot-6, 236-pound specimen has the size and ability to play the position, but played more like a wide receiver in college last season at Virginia Tech.
Shurmur explained how the former Hokie is coming along at his new positon.
"He's gotten better," Shurmur said. "I think he still needs to improve. There are a lot of areas. We're asking them to do some things at the tight end position that he didn't do much of in college. He was extended, he was standing in a two point away.
"Bucky is a tough guy, he showed up well in the red zone, in terms for having a feel for getting open, which is good," Shurmur added. "He'll stick it in there, now it's just a matter of time to have that courage to do it with the fundamentals of the footwork or the fit and then the finish. I think he's working on that and making steady progress."