A group of four players — receivers Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn and cornerbacks Cameron Dantzler and Kris Boyd — stayed about a half hour after Thursday's practice for extra drills refining their techniques and footwork.
Jefferson might not need the added reps, but Thursday's practice was a rare time when not everything thrown his way was caught or secured properly.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins, returning from a five-day quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols, threw two interceptions, but neither were really on him. The first saw Osborn slip on a go route. On the second, Jefferson bobbled an easy catch into an interception. Both passes were picked off by cornerback Cameron Dantzler, who is trying to be in the right place at the right time more often entering his second NFL season.
"Knowing where my help is and knowing the defense a little better than I did my rookie year," Dantzler said Thursday. "I feel like having veteran guys to teach me how to study film, and they've been doing a great job with that, so really just my IQ and knowing where to be at the right time."
Jefferson later beat cornerback Bashaud Breeland to the front pylon for a toe-dragging touchdown catch during a red-zone drill. But he followed that up with a drop on a deep ball down the sideline that was placed right over his shoulder. Jefferson also had two catches batted out of his hands by defensive backs during team drills.
Here are some more observations from Thursday's practice:
- It was a lighter session as Vikings players wore shells instead of full pads, and a handful of veterans — receiver Adam Thielen, safety Harrison Smith, guard Dakota Dozier and cornerback Patrick Peterson — were given the day off to rest. Three injured players returned to practice: tight end Tyler Conklin (ankle), center Cohl Cabral (undisclosed) and tackle Rashod Hill (undisclosed). Only defensive end Hercules Mata'afa, who left Wednesday's practice with an apparent injury, was sidelined.
- Nose tackle Michael Pierce took some 11-on-11 reps for the first time as he returns from the calf injury sustained while training last month. Pierce, listed at 340 pounds, appeared to move well while taking limited reps. Receiver Dede Westbrook (knee) and tackle Christian Darrisaw (groin) also remained limited.
- The veteran rest days opened spots for younger players as Osborn, the second-year receiver, lined up in Thielen's outside receiver spot opposite Jefferson. Receivers Chad Beebe and Ihmir Smith-Marsette also got reps with the first-team offense. At safety, Myles Dorn and rookie Camryn Bynum replaced Harrison Smith with the starting defense. Bynum deflected a Jake Browning pass intended for Beebe. Dantzler got more work with the starting defense while Peterson watched from the sideline. Oli Udoh took every rep at right guard without Dozier.
- Rookie running back Kene Nwangwu drew cheers from teammates with a sharp cutback that led to a breakaway run during team drills. Nwangwu, who was clocked running around a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at Iowa State's pro day, has shown impressive acceleration during camp so far. He's also competing for the kick returner job, which running back Ameer Abdullah and receivers Osborn and Smith-Marsette also practiced Thursday.
- Games are coming soon, so the Vikings equipment staff broke out the four bulky speakers stacked two-by-two on the back of a utility vehicle to amplify crowd noise while the offense tried to operate during full-team drills. The Vikings practice Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium, where they'll return Aug. 14 to open the preseason against the Broncos.