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Presser Points: Shurmur Sees Opportunity for Young WRs

MANKATO, Minn. — With veterans yet to report to training camp, the Vikings have six wide receivers at their disposal on the practice field in Mankato.

Danny Isidora, Stacy Coley and Moritz Böhringer were late-round draft picks over the past two years. Others such Adam Thielen, Cayleb Jones and RJ Shelton were picked up as undrafted free agents.

No matter how they landed in Minnesota, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur said Monday that each player is at camp for a reason.

Shurmur, who met with the media for the first time in Mankato, said players could follow the route of Stefon Diggs as a late-round wide receiver who has blossomed into a key component in Minnesota's offense.

"I think we brought these players here because we thought they were good football players, and we've seen guys have success throughout the draft, depending on where they've been picked," Shurmur said. "If they're on the roster, we're looking for them to compete, and their challenge is to make our team.

"Unfortunately, if they don't make our team, then develop well enough where they can make someone else's team," Shurmur added. "When you ultimately do the math, the young players have got to try to keep getting better every single day, make our team or be good enough to make someone else's."

Shurmur said while he's constantly looking for improvement from that group, he added that he wasn't anywhere close to thinking about the 53-man roster just one day into camp.

"Right now they just go out and play with the reps they get," Shurmur said. "We saw improvement in that group throughout the spring, and we're looking to see that steady climb.

"Then we'll sort it out as we go. It's really early now to start doing the math on that," Shurmur added. "There's a lot of football to be played and development that has to happen. We'll just see where they're at once we put the final roster together."

Here are four other takeaways from Shurmur's podium session Monday:

Counting on Coley

The Vikings used a seventh-round pick in April's draft to tab Coley, a former standout at the University of Miami.

Coley participated in rookie minicamp but then missed a significant amount of time during the rest of spring practices with an injury.

Shurmur said that Coley's top priority at camp should be to focus on his health.

"He's got to get healthy. Once he does, he'll be a — he's a quick-twitch guy, very productive player in college, and for the short time we saw him, we really liked what we saw in the spring," Shurmur said. "For him, it's going to be the challenge to get healthy and get himself in the right type of condition where he can compete when we call on him. He's like a lot of rookies. He's just got to keep getting better every day." 

Over four seasons with the Hurricanes, Coley played 48 games and recorded 167 catches for 2,222 yards and 20 touchdowns. In addition, he had eight carries for 125 rushing yards and one score on the ground.

Off and running

Shurmur took over the Vikings offense midway through the 2016, getting bumped up to offensive coordinator from his role as tight ends coach.

While Shurmur and the offensive coaches had to get comfortable on the fly last season, he said 2017 has been much smoother.

Shurmur said the ability to spend a full offseason as the offensive coordinator allowed him to put his stamp on the offense.

"I think we spent a lot of time in the spring deciding what we wanted the offense to look like from the foundation, the roots, and we as coaches really spent a lot of time together on what we're going to call things, what we're going to do," Shurmur said. "So there's more of a comfort there because we're all on the same page and feel like what our direction is going to be, but it's a matter of going out and doing it and trying to find out who the final offensive players will be as you go through training camp."

A familiar setting

This is the first time the Vikings has had rookies report to training camp early under Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

Shurmur said Monday he has some experience with the setup, as there were a pair of report dates while he was in Philadelphia. 

With young players sometimes needing extra time and coaching, Shurmur said the chance to hone in on a select number of players is crucial to their development.

"This is a very beneficial couple of days for the rookies and some of the selected vets," Shurmur said. "To be able to hear (the play calls) again, to be able to get the reps — when you're a young player reps are really, really important and to get a lot of reps in a short period of time really helps with your development.

"It's good for us as coaches. We get back coaching and talking and teaching and doing the things that we do," Shurmur added. "And you do it in a small group setting so guys can ask questions because the numbers of small. We can't add the tempo to it and go really fast so we go really slow and get all of their questions answered. Then when the vets come back they have really got a refresher course."

Double difficulty

In addition to handling his own position, a center is tasked with commanding the rest of the offensive line.

Shurmur said Monday that the former Ohio State standout Pat Elflein has a tougher job than most rookies but that the third-round pick is adjusting well.

"It's doubly difficult as compared to playing a position where somebody directs you, but he's done a good job with it," Shurmur said. "He's a smart player. He's done it in the past, and all indications are he's learning at the right pace to be a good player."

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