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Vikings Rookie Jayron Kearse: 'Night and Day' Difference in His Game

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Early on in Thursday's 10th and final organized team activity (OTA) practice of the offseason, Vikings rookie safety Jayron Kearse couldn't corral an interception that bounced off his hands.

Just 20 minutes later, Kearse was around the ball again, this time coming away with a pick off a deflection near the goal line in a team red zone drill.

Just seven weeks after being a seventh-round pick out of Clemson, Kearse said there's a "night and day" difference from when he arrived at Minnesota's rookie minicamp.

"I'd have to say it was my best practice of the 10 from a communication standpoint, a knowledge standpoint and a playmaking standpoint," Kearse said. "I feel like I did all those aspects pretty well … the difference is night and day with me between rookie minicamp and OTAs. 

"I don't think I showed I was a rookie," he added. "Maybe there were other days when I was out there being quiet or moving as fast as I could. A lot of things came together today."

The 6-foot-4 Kearse said after Thursday's practice that his main objective during OTAs wasn't just to make it through them, it was to progress and improve each drill.

That mindset was evident when Kearse reiterated that, although the near-miss interception was frustrating, he was pleased with himself that he was in the correct position on the field.

View images from the last of 10 OTA practices.

"I couldn't dwell on that because that could affect the rest of your practice or a game," Kearse said. "When I dropped it, I lined back up and got ready to run the next play. I told myself to make up for it, and the next situation I had, I got a pick.

"The coaches put me in the right position to make plays," he added. "It just shows me that when I'm in the right position, those opportunities will come."

Kearse said he's been soaking up every nugget of information from defensive backs coach Jerry Gray and assistant defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon.

"They're the best in the business right now," Kearse said. "Just having those guys on my side, as well as Coach Zim', it's definitely been big for me."

Next up for Kearse is the Vikings three-day mandatory minicamp next week.

If the 22-year-old can continue to work on the finer points of his game, it's a safe bet the ball could find its way to him more often.

"I just wanted to come out here and get better from these 10 practices," Kearse said. "I want to go into minicamp from where I left off today."

Thursday's top plays

The Vikings defense had a strong showing in the final OTA practice, with defensive end Brian Robison wasting little time before making an impact. Robison leapt and knocked down quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's pass attempt on the very first play of team drills.

Here are other highlights from Thursday:

— A few plays after Robison tipped his pass, Bridgewater fired a deep strike to wide receiver Stefon Diggs on a 56-yard touchdown pass.

— Although it's difficult to gauge running plays because of the non-contact limitations, defensive end Everson Griffen sealed the edge on a run to the right in the red zone.

— Bridgewater and Diggs later connected on a slant inside the red zone for a touchdown. 

— Quarterback Shaun Hill had a noticeable rapport with the tight ends on Thursday. Hill connected with both MyCole Pruitt and David Morgan on scoring plays inside the 10-yard line during red zone drills.

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