Would Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores, whose scheme installed this summer promises to be versatile, aggressive and a difficult test for opposing offenses, be comfortable starting a rookie right out of the gate?

"Depends on the rookie," the former NFL head coach said Saturday. "Coming into this league, there's a lot that's thrown at you."

Through the early portion of training camp, third-round cornerback Mekhi Blackmon has shown he can handle a lot. Starting Monday, Blackmon overtook veteran Joejuan Williams as the third corner with the first-team defense. He hasn't ceded many reps in the five practices since.

Flores said it's early in the evaluation process, but Blackmon is trending upward.

"We're moving a lot of guys," Flores said. "I wouldn't dig too much into who's where. I'd say Mekhi has done good with his opportunities. He asks a lot of questions. He tries to execute the technique and fundamentals [position coach] Daronte [Jones] gives him. I think if he continues on this trajectory, he'll set himself up for some playing time."

Blackmon, the oldest of seven children, hasn't been the typical quiet rookie. Second-year cornerback Akayleb Evans — three months younger than Blackmon, who played six collegiate seasons — called him "very mature."

"Making sure to step out of my comfort zone," Blackmon said, "and let the other guys know I'm intrigued by what's going on and I want to know. So, they trust me and that's put me on the field."

Evans has held down one starting job opposite Byron Murphy Jr., who moves into the slot on passing downs. Blackmon is competing with Williams and Andrew Booth Jr. for reps as the outside corner when Murphy slides inside.

"I'm not surprised," Evans said. "He's very good."

On Saturday, Booth said he expects to return to practice Sunday. Booth has missed three practices with an injury he called "nothing serious."

'Run the show'

Rookie quarterback Jaren Hall, the fifth-round pick, has had "a nice start to camp," Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell said, but there's work to do before he's ready to "run the show" during Thursday's preseason opener at Seattle. Hall and backup quarterback Nick Mullens are expected to play.

"What I've really challenged him to do, and maybe from personal experience," said O'Connell, the former NFL backup quarterback, "[is] I want him just totally submerged in the X's and O's and really trying to learn at a fast pace. He's clearly put in a lot of work over the summer. Just simple things: formations, calling plays, being able to run the show with the group he's in there with."

Hall, a two-year starter at Brigham Young, said last week he's adapting to the NFL's speed and what can be wordy calls from O'Connell's playbook, which offers quarterbacks different plays to change into based on what they see from the defense.

"I'll try to get in preseason mode," O'Connell said, and "give [Hall] the call a couple times — if I know it's a little bit of a lengthy call for him or a coaching point I want to give him, I have that benefit right now. ... As we work toward next Thursday night, we want to make sure we go out there and execute in a timely matter."

D-line depth thinned

Flores said fourth-year defensive tackle James Lynch was "moving his way up the depth chart" before suffering a season-ending knee injury during Thursday night's practice. Lynch, the 2020 fourth-round pick from Baylor, will undergo a second operation this calendar year after playing through a shoulder injury in January.

"He's done a great job of just coming back from surgery in the offseason," Flores said. "We feel it's a tough break. We feel bad for him. We know how important the game is to him. But from my conversation with him [Saturday], he's going to work his butt off."

During Vikings camp so far, the interior defensive line has mostly been a rotation of Harrison Phillips, Khyiris Tonga, Dean Lowry and Jonathan Bullard. Flores also mentioned rookies Jaquelin Roy and Calvin Avery when asked about depth.


• Tight end T.J. Hockenson was held out of Saturday's padded practice due to a minor health-related issue, O'Connell said after practice. Hockenson was also limited in Thursday night's practice at TCO Stadium in Eagan.

• Also not practicing Saturday: right tackle Brian O'Neill, receivers Jalen Nailor, Trishton Jackson and Lucky Jackson, Booth and running back Kene Nwangwu. Center Garrett Bradbury suited up but watched full-team drills; Austin Schlottmann replaced him.

• Rookie edge rusher Andre Carter II, who received what is believed to be a team-record $340,000 guaranteed for an undrafted free agent, passed a physical and returned to practice. He missed the first eight practices of camp due to an injury suffered while training.

• Receiver Brandon Powell and running back Ty Chandler have returned kicks while Nwangwu has been sidelined for an undisclosed reason.