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Saturday Night Scrimmage

Why didn’t I read through last year’s “Family Fun Day” post before agreeing to cover this years? Haha… Actually the night scrimmage is a great chance to see some actual competition between the offense and defense. The crowd was just packed! People wandered looking for seats. Even 30 minutes early I had no chance of finding a decent spot. I lucked out, settling in on the 20 yard line and taking a view of the action. Around 7:00 the Viking players started to make their way out onto the field, followed by the coaching staff. If you followed along on Twitter, I’m sure you caught most of the highlights. So… instead I’m going to point out the most interesting, unique and exciting pieces of last night’s scrimmage.

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Rookie Alert:

-Anthony Barr played amongst the first team defense the entire evening. This was a surprisingly good thing to see considering he spent all of last weekend with the 2nd unit. It would appear he’s cementing himself a starter spot. He stayed in all three downs, while Jasper Brinkley rotated in and out.

-Jerrick McKinnon stood out to me. He switched off taking punt and kickoff returns for the special teams unit. Outside of the consistent Marcus Sherels, McKinnon looked the most solid in catching the ball. The others, including Jarius Wright, stumbled and nearly fumbled it. McKinnon also took snaps out of the backfield and will be a nice change-of-pace skat back (think McCoy from the Eagles).

Teddy:

-The quarterbacks had a rough night. Cassel looked worse than Teddy. However, both quarterbacks had interceptions. Teddy threw a pick to Chad Greenway during the red zone offense practice.

-I’m noticing that Teddy has a tendency to get happy feet and take off when the pocket collapses. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, making a positive out of a broken play. However, it did remind me a little bit of Christian Ponder.

-Teddy received the loudest ovation from the crowd (more so than AP) when arriving on the field last night. The crowd began chanting “Teddy” and gave him a warm welcome.

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FAIL of the Evening:

-At one point the wide receivers were running through a drill that had them catching the ball near their ankles. (I assume a low pass from a QB). Cordarelle Patterson dropped his first attempt and had to line back up. He proceeded to drop his 2nd and 3rd and then finally found his focus. It was dissapointing to see the lack of energy and focus on his part.

Overheard at Vikings Training Camp:

“Go back, let’s go!” Defensive Backs coach Jerry Gray screamed at his defensive backs during drills. Gray, is always the loudest coach on the field… constantly stressing communication between the players. Sometimes he appears more like the Defensive Coordinator.

“Is that AP? Is that… Yeah I think that is! That’s AP.” I cannot stress enough how often I hear this from the fans sitting around me at camp. And 99% of the time… it’s not Adrian. I’ve heard almost everyone on the team called Adrian, including Brian Robison.

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Noticeables:

-With Josh Robinson out, Marcus Sherels stepped up and played outside cornerback. Captain Munnerlyn took his spot in the nickel. And when it came to corner blitz plays or run defense… you noticed him there. One thing I’m very concerned about is who our backup outside cornerback will be, especially if Rhodes or Robinson are out. We look very weak there.

-Kurt Coleman, Mistrael Raymond and Jamarca Sanford each took their turns with the first team defense at safety. None of them stood out to me. If we have any hope of a competent starting safety next to Harrison… it’s going to be in Robert Blanton’s hands (who was out with a hamstring injury). Coleman had the hardest time… getting burned by Greg Jennings on a 1-on-1 drill.

-The loudest and biggest talker on the field is always Captain Munnerlyn (the new corner we added this offseason). He is constantly chatting it up with the defensive coaches and even Mike Zimmer. I think he likes to push buttons and make jokes. I think he’ll become a fan favorite. He reminds me a lot of Winfield.

-Mike Zimmer looked frustrated with the offensive after the first 11-on-11 scrimmage. He pulled everyone off the field, gave them a talk and proceeded to have just the offense walk back onto the field and run through plays (while the rest of the team watched).

-Greg Jennings beat Captain on the one-on-one wide out versus cornerback drills. During the same drill, Rhodes tipped a pass covering Cordarelle Patterson.

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-Rodney Smith went down with an injury halfway through the scrimmage. He was shaken up on a pass play. But, he took a few minutes to himself and returned to the action – even catching a long ball along the sidelines later on.

-Blair Walsh hit all 8 of his field goal attempts. The longest was from 53 yards and he made it with ease. As one fan pointed out… “Zimmer inherited a very good kicker.”

-I was so pumped to see how Adam Thielen did after last week’s stand out performances. Instead, Thielen had a rough night… dropping a few easy catches.

-Matt Kalil pushed Everson Griffen to the ground when the linemen went up against each other one-on-one. Griffen did not look pleased.

-Matt Cassel looked OFF tonight. He had the worst night of any of the players. He was overthrowing receivers. He threw two interceptions. It looked sloppy and off target. He lobbed one pass 5 feet over the head of Jerome Simpson in the end zone.

Optimism:

I gained huge respect for Marcus Sherels last night. I made a joke last week about him making the team because he was our only real option at punt returns. But, he stepped up last night. Not only did he look steady and consistent catching every single punt, but he held his own against some of our best receivers. Covering Jarius Wright, he made a great play on the ball and tipped it away. I watched him line up against Cordarelle… looking dwarfed on the outside. I knew Patterson had the advantage. Instead, Patterson ran a lazy route and Sherels jumped it. He does deserve a spot on this team and he may even deserve the 4th cornerback spot on this roster.

Across from Marcus, Rhodes looked much improved from last year. He is going to develop into one of the league’s top cornerbacks – no doubt in my mind. Rhodes locked down every receiver he went up against. He also made the play of the night – a super man diving interception against Jarius Wright. It was a terribly underthrown ball by Cassel, but Rhodes made an incredible leap to grab it. He jumped up to Zimmer running across the field to congratulate him. Ever see Frazier do that?

Looking Ahead:

Sadly, this was my last practice to cover for this year’s training camp. I was hoping to get a few more days in… but hobby funds only go so far :) However, I will be covering and continuing to evaluate this roster throughout the preseason. I’m also planning on doing a camp round-up and even a fan mailbag. So… if you had any questions about specific players at camp, feel free to email them to me at cbrusoewriter@gmail.com or get a hold of me on Twitter at @Cbrusoewriter. We are also still running a great Greg Jennings autographed prize giveaway on Twitter. Check that out @PJDiaries.

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