The Minnesota Vikings wrapped up their spring practices on Wednesday with the last day of mandatory minicamp. Now, they’ll scatter for a little rest and recuperation and prepare to hit the ground running later this summer at training camp.
After spending weeks singing the offense’s praises, the defense got a little shine as the intensity stepped up a bit.
It’s hard to envision the unit not being any better than it was last season, at the very least. That obviously isn’t saying a lot considering how badly they struggled in 2021. But improvement on the defensive side of the ball could obviously be a turning point for the team.
It’ll be interesting to see what things look like when they return from break and the pads come on. Here are some highlights and notes from the final day of minicamp.
Defense “stealing a second” on plays
After practice on Wednesday, legendary cornerback Patrick Peterson talked about the defense focusing on “stealing a second” from opposing quarterbacks.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins vouched that it was working when speaking with the media. He admitted the disguised looks he was seeing on the other side of the ball made his job “difficult” when under center at practice.
The veteran signal-caller compared it to the Denver Broncos defense from nearly a year ago, when the two teams held joint practices together at training camp. Donatell was the coach of that defense as well at the time, and it was a unit that thrived off confusing the quarterback.
“It’s really muddy. So when you drop back, you don’t quite know what you’re getting, ”Cousins said. “Obviously as a quarterback — but at any position on offense — you want to know what you’re getting. And they’re doing a good job with disguise, making everything look the same. … I think it’s a great scheme, and they do a great job. It just makes practice difficult. ”
Facing Donatell’s defense on a daily basis should only help Cousins and the offense get better. The best defenses in the league are typically great at disguising coverages and making opposing quarterbacks think for an extra second.
This is one of those cases where the Vikings are hoping iron sharpens iron.
Cine gets in first-team work
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Lewis Cine got to work side-by-side with six-time Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith at practice.
Just the sight of “The Hitman” lining up next to the hard-hitting rookie that claimed he wanted to “stack bodies” is an intimidating one for an offense.
There was never a doubt the Vikings wanted to get Cine involved as soon as possible with the starting unit. Yes, Camryn Bynum is really good, and the team will likely use all three in specialized defensive schemes. But the line of thinking is that Cine will move into that second spot and consistently contribute alongside Smith.
He had a pass break-up on the field on Wednesday, but the real fun will begin when the pads come on at training camp. That’s when we’ll get a better understanding of where Cine is in his rookie development.
Greg Joseph responding to pressure
There’s $ 2.4 million (RFA tender) hanging in the balance of Greg Joseph winning the starting kicking job for the Vikings. Even with rookie Gabe Brkic nipping at his heels, the veteran kicker is responding well to pressure.
Per The Athletic’s Chad Graff, Brkic’s leg strength is clearly evident, but he’s also struggling with accuracy right now, while Joseph routinely made “all four of his field goal attempts Wednesday.”
Keep in mind, there’s still a long way to go in this competition. Brkic could just as easily regather himself over the break and come back stronger in training camp. But as of right now, it looks like it’ll be Joseph’s job to lose.
Rough drive-ender for Mond
Kellen Mond ended up on the wrong side of the highlight reel when an errant throw led to him getting picked off by cornerback Parry Nickerson.
The play came not long after he converted a nice 17-yard pass to receiver Albert Wilson to keep the chains moving on a third-and-5.
Some will obviously make more out of the play than it really is at the moment. It’s only the final day of minicamp, and Mond, who was virtually invisible last year, is adjusting on the fly to a new opportunity with a new offense.
In many ways, this could be seen as his actual rookie season with the Vikings. While he’s shown flashes of improvement in practice, it’s still clearly going to take time before we have a fair assessment of him.
Highlights from Day 2 of minicamp