Quarterbacks led the day on Tuesday as the Vikings kickoff their mandatory three-day minicamp, but on Day 2 of camp it was the defense that jumped up. Not one player on the Vikings defense dominated the day, rather it was a variety of individuals, many non-starters from last year, who stepped up to make plays.
Here are a few examples...
-- Teddy Bridgewater spotted receiver Erik Lora breaking open down the left alley and lofted what appeared to be a perfectly-placed pass to his receiver. Just as Lora was about to watch the football fall into his hands, safety Robert Blanton came flying from the middle of the field and deflected the pass toward the sideline, resulting in an incompletion. It was the type of play in a game where the safety would have to decide whether to try to jump between the quarterback and receiver to deflect the pass or use force to separate the receiver from the ball after the catch with a hit. In practice, there is no such decision and that set the stage for Blanton to make the acrobatic and last-second pass breakup (PBU).
-- Early in practice, cornerback Marcus Sherels was beaten on a play that would’ve resulted in a long touchdown. But it didn’t take long for Sherels to respond, as he displayed outstanding recovery speed to break up a deep pass from Cassel to Jerome Simpson just a few moments later during a team period. As he does so easily, Simpson sprinted through and past the defense, but with the ball in the air, Sherels took aim at a point on the field, got there in time, and got his hands up to deflect the pass away from Simpson.
-- Linebacker Chad Greenway got in on the PBU party, too. He dropped into zone coverage during a team period, saw tight end Kyle Rudolph sit down in the middle of the field to serve as Cassel’s check down target, and sprinted to a spot in front of Rudolph. Greenway got there just in time to dive and get his hands between the football and Rudolph, resulting the PBU. It was a show of quick-twitch reaction, acceleration and hand-eye coordination from one of the senior-most members of the Vikings defense.
-- One of the things Kevin Williams did best late in his career was get his arms and hands up into passing lanes to bat down passes. It was a technique Williams mastered at the perfect time because it allowed him to impact a passing play even if he couldn’t get to the passer in time to record a sack. The man replacing Williams at three-technique is starting to get the hang of this trick, and he executed it during a team period on Wednesday. On a three-step drop, Cassel eyed up an open receiver along the left sideline and fired that way, but Floyd recognized the quick drop and got his arms and hands up in time to knock the pass from the air for a PBU.
-- It wasn’t all defense on Wednesday, though. Jennings got deep down the field a couple of times for touchdowns and Adrian Peterson looked particularly sharp during inside running drills with good reads and decisive jump cuts. Also, quarterback Christian Ponder had a second consecutive solid day, finding Simpson deep down the middle of the field and on the next snap hitting Kamar Jorden along the sideline despite perfect coverage from rookie Jabari Price.
I would rule the offense the winner on Day 1 and the defense the winner on Day 2, just my opinion. And that sets up Day 3, the final day of the mandatory minicamp and the final day of the offseason program, as the rubber match.