EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings offensive line won’t truly take shape until training camp, which is when the pads come on and the intensity cranks up.
But Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer can somewhat get a feel for how the big boys up front are doing this spring, even if they’re in just helmets and shorts.
“There’s a lot of things technique-wise that you look at,” Zimmer said of his evaluations of the offensive linemen. “Pass protection, a lot of certain things with technique. In the run game, it’s a little bit tougher to evaluate those things because you’re not coming off the ball and all that.
“It’s always mental mistakes, going to the right guy, working with the guy that’s next to him. It’s all those things,” Zimmer added.
From left to right, the Vikings lined up Riley Reiff, Danny Isidora, Nick Easton, Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill on Tuesday.
That won’t be the starting combination in Week 1 as center Pat Elflein is currently rehabbing from an injury but is expected to be ready for training camp.
Easton made 12 starts in 2017 (including 11 at left guard), but has slid over a spot to take Elflein’s place this spring.
That opened up an opportunity at left guard, which has recently been filled by both Isidora and Tom Compton.
Zimmer praised Isidora’s development after the Vikings first minicamp practice Tuesday.
“We’ve been mixing him in some with the first group and some with the second group,” Zimmer said. “He continues to get better.
“I went back to watch all his plays from the past season, and when he was in, he did a good job,” Zimmer added. “We just have to see how it shakes out.”
Isidora appeared in seven games in 2017 and started at left guard in Minnesota’s win over Cleveland in London.
Here are four other takeaways from Zimmer’s podium session Tuesday:
1. The Minnesota mentality
The Vikings won just five games and ranked dead last in points allowed per game in 2013, the season before Zimmer was hired.
Minnesota’s defense has since evolved into one of the league’s best, and Zimmer has helped lead the Vikings to a pair of NFC North titles over the past three seasons.
While an influx of talent has certainly played a role in that success, Zimmer said Tuesday that having a mix of strong camaraderie and selfless players help create a winning culture.
“It makes it easier when you’ve got good guys. It’s not like pulling teeth all the time,” Zimmer said. “You get guys that come out here and want to work. They want to get better, they’re good teammates in the locker room.
“Honestly, that part, for me, has not been that difficult,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got the right kind of guys here.”
2. Morgan more involved
David Morgan had a limited role as a rookie in 2016 before taking a step forward in 2017.
The tight end caught his first career touchdown pass this past season, and finished with 10 total receptions for 95 yards.
And that doesn’t even take into his clutch long-snapping abilities.
As Morgan enters his third season in the NFL, Zimmer said he likes what he has seen from him so far this spring.
“It’s hard to say big leap, but he’s become a lot more involved with the offense,” Zimmer said of Morgan’s progression. “I don’t know if he’s going to have a 100 catches. That’s not really his game, but the rest of the stuff, I see him a lot more involved in the offense, yes.”
Zimmer also noted it’d be inaccurate to just label Morgan as a blocking tight end.
“There’s some routes that he runs well as well,” Zimmer said. “I think that he’s probably not going to be in too much on third down. That’s just not who he is.”
3. Tracking Treadwell
Laquon Treadwell turned some heads Tuesday by making a handful of snags during practice.
The former first-round pick has mixed in with the first-team offense for most of the spring as the unit learns Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo’s offensive scheme.
Zimmer said before the 2017 season that Treadwell was almost working too hard at times, whether it was extra drills or workouts on top of the usual practices.
But that hasn’t been the case much in 2018, Zimmer said.
“So far, so good,” Zimmer said. “I happened to see him last Friday, and I asked him what he was doing that day. He said, ‘just getting some treatment.’ Hopefully that’s improved, that part of it.
“He’s done a nice job, he’s caught the ball well this spring. He’s still got some areas where he’s got to continue to improve,” Zimmer added. “He had a false start out there today, and he had one wrong route, but he’s learning the offense as well.”
View images from the first of three minicamp practices at the TCO Performance Center on Tuesday.
4. Commending Cook
Dalvin Cook talked last week about his rehab from a torn ACL the running back suffered last October, noting he feels like the same player he was before the injury.
Zimmer chimed in on Cook’s attitude in recent months and had nothing but compliments for the former second-round pick.
“Number one, he’s attacked his rehab really, really hard,” Zimmer said. “Even when you joke around with him, I’ve heard him say he’s the same guy that he was. I say, ‘Well, that’s cause you’re young, if it was me it’d be a lot harder.’
“He’s got a great attitude about it,” Zimmer added. “I think he feels like he still has something to prove, he’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder in the way that he’s attacking this rehab.”
Cook had 354 rushing yards and two touchdowns in three-plus games before getting injured.