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Coming off a brief appearance in the preseason opener that left many wanting to see more, the Vikings first team offense took to the practice fields at 2013 Verizon Vikings Training Camp on Sunday and worked sharply, specifically in the team periods.
Quarterback Christian Ponder had two passing attempts in Friday night’s game before giving way to backup Matt Cassel, not giving anyone much to analyze as the team enters the final stretch of camp in Mankato. On Sunday, though, Ponder and the rest of the team’s quarterbacks saw plenty of action and there will be plenty about which to be happy when they review the film.
The Vikings worked the two-minute drill halfway through practice, with the ball positioned on the minus-28 yardline and the offense needing to enter field goal range to try a game-winner. Ponder guided the first team down the field and into scoring range, going 4 of 4 with completions to Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Jerome Simpson and then Rudolph again. The second completion to Rudolph was deep down the right seam and put the Vikings within field goal range. Cassel followed suit, overcoming a sack and pass breakup (PBU) by Fred Evans to finally hit Stephen Burton deep down the right sideline to get the team in range. McLeod Bethel-Thompson led the third team and went 5 of 5 on his drive, with the final completion going to Adam Thielen deep down the right sideline. Thielen made a leaping catch over cornerback Greg McCoy, who had great coverage on the play but who also couldn’t prevent the former Maverick from making a play. McCoy bounced back later in practice to register an impressive PBU in 7-on-7.
In a special category period that positioned the offense on the minus-45 facing a 3rd and 3, Ponder caused the first team defense to jump offsides on a hard count. Cassel stepped up in a perfect pocket and fired a completion to Burton on a deep crosser, and then Bethel-Thompson also forced an offsides penalty from the defense.
Finally, the Vikings quarterbacks were sharp in the 7-on-7 drill, going 13 of 18 on the day. Typically a drill that favors the offense, one should expect a high completion rate from the offense in this drill, but there were a number of impressive completions to counter the easy check down completions during the drill. Cassel hit tight end John Carlson on an out-breaking route on his first rep, Bethel-Thompson hit Rhett Ellison deep down the right alley, Ponder found Jarius Wright sprinting across the field on a shallow crossing route and James Vandenberg rifled one to Chris Summers on a dagger route.
A few other notes…
-- It wasn’t all offense, all the time on Sunday. Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was solid in one-on-one drills and defensive tackles Fred Evans and Letroy Guion each registered PBUs during team periods. Their fellow position mate, Kevin Williams, is a master at getting his hands in the passing lanes if he can’t get to the quarterback, so it’s nice to see the two younger defenders following suit and finding a way to make a play.
-- LaMark Brown was a standout in Sunday’s practice, hauling in a couple of over-the-middle receptions from Cassel during the 7-on-7 drill, another one from Bethel-Thompson during a team period and then his last came from Ponder during a team period in which Brown found a soft spot in the defense’s zone and made a catch along the sideline.
-- The Vikings will work on the field twice tomorrow, conducting a morning walk-thru and then holding another padded practice (the 13th practice of camp) at 2:45 p.m.