It was a sunny day in Mankato with temperatures in the high 70s when the Vikings took the field for their second day of training camp. Players were again in shorts. On Sunday, they will have their first padded practice, giving the coaching staff a chance to more accurately evaluate the offensive line. But on this afternoon, big plays ruled the day.
DEEP THOUGHTS: Coaches and teammates praised quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for displaying improved accuracy on deep balls during spring practices closed to the media. It has clearly carried over into training camp. For the second straight day, Bridgewater connected on a strike deep down the field. This time it was veteran slot receiver Jarius Wright running down the middle of the field to get under an accurate pass from Bridgewater that traveled 45 to 50 yards in the air. Moments later, Bridgewater threw a 25-yard laser to Wright but Wright couldn’t hang on. On Friday, Bridgewater hit wideout Stefon Diggs on a deep ball in an 11-on-11 drill.
O-LINE SHUFFLE: Coach Mike Zimmer reiterated on Friday that he would continue to look at different combinations along the offensive line. So it was no surprise that today he had Joe Berger in as the first-team center instead of John Sullivan. But it was slightly surprising that second-year lineman T.J. Clemmings swapped in for veteran Andre Smith at right tackle. Before Phil Loadholt retired, the plan had been for Clemmings to be the team’s swing tackle. But with Loadholt out of the mix, the Vikings clearly feel they need another competitor at right tackle to keep pushing Smith.
SETTLING IN: There is no doubt that second-year middle linebacker Eric Kendricks has the talent and instincts to be an excellent pass defender even though he was inconsistent in that area as a rookie. He flashed that potential today when he jumped an out route and made a diving interception of a Bridgewater pass intended for tight end Kyle Rudolph. Kendricks rolled to the ground then got to his feet and beat Bridgewater to the end zone for a pick-six. Zimmer later noted that the hyperactive linebacker has calmed down, at least a little bit, and looks much more comfortable.
THE WHEEL DEAL: With top running back Adrian Peterson being held out of team drills for a second straight day due to a minor hamstring injury, third-year back Jerick McKinnon again got the bulk of first-team reps. His most impressive play today came with the second-stringers when he beat outside linebacker Emmanuel Lamur on a wheel route down the right sideline. Backup quarterback Shaun Hill hit the speedy scatback in stride for an easy touchdown. Before returning to the sideline, McKinnon high-fived a few fans standing behind the end zone.
KEEP YOUR HEAD UP: Late in practice, seventh-round safety Jayron Kearse couldn’t resist putting a hit on wide receiver Terrell Sinkfield even though there isn’t supposed to be much contact in camp practices. Kearse didn’t exactly pop Sinkfield, but he got enough of him to force the wideout to drop the ball. I’m guessing Zimmer probably didn’t mind.
BRONX CHEER?: Sixth-round pick Moritz Bohringer continues to struggle trying to catch footballs. During a walkthrough-type period with no defense, the German project dropped an easy floater. A moment later, he caught a similar throw, prompting some of the fans on hand to do an unusually loud cheer for what was a catch that many of them could have made.
CAMP CHATTER: “[Matt] Kalil did really good [Friday]. That’s maybe the best I’ve seen him since I’ve been here. It was just one day, but he did some really good things.” — Zimmer giving the left tackle unsolicited praise.
INJURY REPORT: Diggs sat out the second half of practice with what appeared to a leg injury, but he was spotted snagging passes from the JUGS machine afterward. … Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who injured his left shoulder Friday, did not practice. Zimmer said he will be out “a few days.” … Quarterback Taylor Heinicke, tight end Rhett Ellison, guard Mike Harris, nose tackle Kenrick Ellis and cornerback Keith Baxter all missed practice again. All except Baxter watched from the sideline.
SUNDAY’S SCHEDULE: 10:30-11:30 a.m. walkthrough, 2:45-5 p.m. practice.