MANKATO, Minn. — The full-scruff beards of Sharrif Floyd and Linval Joseph appear to be growing in unison.
Will the same be said about their games?
The Vikings starting defensive tackles are in their second year as teammates and in the defensive system of Head Coach Mike Zimmer and Defensive Coordinator George Edwards.
Zimmer said Tuesday — the first day of camp in full pads — it is too early to see how Floyd and Joseph will function in tandem, but he does like what he's seeing from each.
"Sharrif looks quicker to me," Zimmer said. "He looks more confident in everything that he's doing, and I think Linval does, too. We'll see more as we get going in pads."
Floyd and Joseph have individual roles and responsibilities to make the scheme work, with Floyd generally being tasked with interior rush duties and Joseph often soaking up a double team. Zimmer mentioned at the start of camp that the team would focus on stuffing interior runs and had a drill on that in the afternoon session.
The pair bonded quickly last season, with Floyd visiting Joseph's native U.S. Virgin Islands. Now, they're trying to enhance their connection and impact even more to help the Vikings stuff opponents' runs.
"Playing next to Sharrif is good because that's my guy and you have to play off each other, just like all the other D-lineman," Joseph said. "From last year to this year, we bonded a lot more and know exactly what we have to do to get the job done."
Joseph said that amounts to "everybody doing their job, staying in their gap and being firmer inside."
"Since we came back for OTAs, that's been the emphasis," Joseph said. "We call it small ball. Everybody has to do their job. Your play is going to come to you when it's time to make your play."
Floyd said additional focus on defending the run is "going to help us with technique and help the linebackers see where the D-line is fitting up. It's not often you get a nine-man fit, but that's what we're trying to work on: perfection in the play."
Floyd said putting on pads enables linemen to finish the play.
"We can pick up on some things you can't do without shoulder pads," Floyd said. "Now it's about competing up front and working on that toughness."
It's sometimes hard to see the work that Floyd and Joseph do along the interior of the line, but Brandon Fusco had a good view at left guard in his first padded practice in more than 10 months. Fusco admitted he was anxious and even encountered a few butterflies but said he feels great and the day was worth waiting for.
"Sharrif, from what I remember, he was a good player, but he looks a lot better, a lot quicker off the ball, very explosive," Fusco said. "I think he's a lot stronger than from what I remember. It's going to be a good competition throughout camp. It's going to make me better, and I feel like I can make him better."
4 QUICK PRACTICE OBSERVATIONS:
Everson Griffen and Gerald Hodges flashed aggressively multiple times. Griffen, obviously can't sack Vikings quarterbacks that are in red, no-contact jerseys, but he did put heat on them. Hodges was frequently around the football, and punctuated one with a bowling celebration.
Mike Wallace showcased his varied skill set in two one-on-one drills. In the first he gained a step on Terence Newman for a deep connection. In the second, he stutter-stepped and cleanly shook Shaun Prater on a shorter route to the outside.
Harrison Smith is still a ball hawk. Smith made a sliding interception, alertly jumped up and began returning it. Smith is entering his fourth pro season with 10 career interceptions and 241 return yards, including 150 yards (second in NFL) on five interceptions (third in NFL) last season.
Blair Walsh drilled the ball on seven field goal kicks after starting the drill with a new-in-2015 33-yard point after touchdown kick. Walsh was 7-for-7, leaving little doubt on field goals from 38, 40, 43, 45, 48, 50 and 52. Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright and Adam Thielen returned punts
The Vikings are implementing virtual reality technology by capturing footage at practice that STRIVR can use to show players a 360 degree view of plays.
Thanks to linebacker Michael Mauti, we are privy to a great reaction from 10-year veteran Chad Greenway to the technology. Greenway's seen a lot on a football field, but never had this view of the field in a dorm room.