EAGAN, Minn. — That’s a wrap on Verizon Vikings Training Camp.
The Vikings held their 16th and final open practice of camp on Friday in front of a packed house at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, going for almost two hours in shells and shorts.
Minnesota will have a “mock game” Saturday morning and will host Seattle in a preseason game at 7 p.m. (CT) Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Of the 87 players who do not have a Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) or Non-Football Injury (NFI) designation, tackles Brian O’Neill and Aviante Collins and defensive end Ade Aruna did not practice. Linval Joseph did not participate in team periods.
View images from Verizon Vikings Training Camp on August 16 at the TCO Performance Center.
Here are three observations from Friday’s session:
1. Buxton takes in practice
In mid-May, Stefon Diggs and a handful of teammates took part in ‘SKOL Night’ at Target Field, where the Vikings wide receiver met Byron Buxton and gave him a No. 14 jersey.
The Twins outfielder returned the favor Friday, visiting Diggs’ digs at training camp while wearing the Purple jersey he received three months ago.
Buxton, who is currently on the Injured List, took in the majority of Friday’s practice and hung out with a handful of players, including Diggs and Adam Thielen, after the session.
Buxton is one of a handful of local sports figures to have stopped by training camp this summer, as Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders, Twins pitcher Jake Odorizzi, Gophers football coach P.J. Fleck and Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost all made an appearance in Eagan.
2. Tight coverage
A handful of defenders earned praise for their coverage skills on Friday.
Cornerback Duke Thomas started the strong showing with tight coverage on wide receiver Bisi Johnson on a pass from Sean Mannion.
Rookie linebacker Cam Smith garnered the biggest reaction from coaches and teammates when he didn’t bite on the play-action fake and kept with tight end Tyler Conklin 30-plus yards downfield. Anthony Barr was especially vocal to praise Smith, a fifth-round pick out of Southern California.
Cornerback Trae Waynes then locked down his man on back-to-back plays, keeping Johnson and Chad Beebe from making catches on passes from Kirk Cousins.
3. Prepping for the real thing
The second preseason game will feel more like a regular-season game than the contest against New Orleans, while the third preseason tilt is the most-realistic dress rehearsal the Vikings will have in exhibition play.
As a result, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is slowly ramping up the feel of regular-season practices.
On Friday, the Vikings spent four full sessions focused on “cards,” which is where a starting unit goes against scout plays from the upcoming opposing team.
Zimmer had his first-team offense and defense go against each other Friday, as Minnesota’s defense presumably showed some looks the Seahawks might give. The offense then showed possible plays Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson might run, giving each unit a chance to get a look at the opposition.
The second and third-team defenses also went against each other in the cards session, which is so titled because a coach shows the scout team the upcoming play while they are in the huddle.