MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings newcomers received their first taste of U.S. Bank Stadium Friday, hitting the field for a practice session in helmets and shells a little more than six weeks ahead of Kickoff Weekend.
The venue was without fans, harkening to the COVID-19-induced eerie emptiness of the 2020 opener, but players and coaches were envisioning what the crowd will be like in Week 1 when Minnesota opens against Green Bay.
First-year Head Coach Kevin O'Connell wanted to familiarize his staff and all players to the venue and opted to do so on the third full-team practice of 2022 Vikings Training Camp.
The team will return to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center and welcome fans for the first time this summer tomorrow during Back Together Saturday.
Linebacker Jordan Hicks (non-COVID-19 illness) hit the field for the first time after being sidelined on Wednesday and Thursday. He joined Eric Kendricks at the inside linebacker spots in Minnesota's first-team base defense.
Receiver Blake Proehl and linebacker Ryan Connelly are on the Physically Unable to Perform list. Cornerback Nate Hairston (lower leg) is on the Non-Football Injury list.
Cornerback Kris Boyd and right guard Jesse Davis did not participate for the first time. Harrison Hand and Akayleb Evans stepped in at outside corner with the second team, and Chris Reed lined up at right guard with the first team. Kyle Hinton replaced Reed at left guard with the second unit, which played with Blake Brandel at left tackle and Olisaemeka Udoh at right tackle.
O'Connell invited Jared Allen, who traveled Friday from Tennessee to Minnesota to promote The Salvation Army’s Down For The Challenge, to speak to the entire team after the session.
Allen spoke for several minutes before a video was played that concluded with a graphic surprising Allen with the news he is being inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor. Vikings Owner/President Mark Wilf and Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf congratulated Allen after the announcement.
Here are three observations from Friday's session presented by Minnesota Eye Consultants, the Proud LASIK Partner of the Minnesota Vikings:
1. Wins in the red zone
Much of the back half of practice was conducted at a jog-through speed, but Minnesota was full-throttle in 7-on-7 red zone drills.
Kirk Cousins was particularly sharp, opening with consecutive completions to K.J. Osborn. He had to fire his third attempt out of the back of the end zone on a play that may have been thwarted by Justin Jefferson running into Hicks.
Cousins found Jefferson on the following play and had a really impressive toss to the phenom for a score on third-and-goal from the 5. Jefferson found space between Harrison Smith and Hicks.
The only other incompletion during Cousins' red zone plays was a throw over Irv Smith, Jr., that was well defended by Kendricks.
Kellen Mond then split reps with Sean Mannion as the Vikings mixed multiple personnel groupings throughout the depth chart.
The defense recorded a couple of wins during the period. In addition to the coverage by Kendricks, Cameron Dantzler forced a fumble after Osborn's second reception that was recovered by Hicks.
2. Greg Joseph from way downtown
The Vikings closed their session the way a couple of games ended a year ago — with field goals by Greg Joseph.
Kicking for the first time this camp in 11-on-11, Joseph worked his way from 35-plus yards all the way back to a 55-yarder.
He pushed his first attempt from that distance wide left for his only miss but followed by drilling one from the same distance.
Joseph was good on seven of his nine attempts from more than 50 yards last season, tying for the third-most makes from 50-plus yards in the NFL in 2021. That success included a 54-yarder for a walk-off win against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium. He also made a 29-yard winner as time expired at home against Green Bay.
3. Jog-through offers mental exercises
Jogging through the second part of practice allowed the offense to focus on calls from the sideline and Cousins to take charge of the pre-snap directives he'll likely be providing.
The Vikings defense also was able to work through some things, including a dime defense package with cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Dantzler and Chandon Sullivan (nickel) in the game with safeties Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum and rookie Lewis Cine on the field.