Mankato, MN. --
The Minnesota Vikings continued their training camp on Wednesday with two practices before they leave for River Falls, Wisconsin for joint practices with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here's an overview of some of the developments during today's practice as well as some other notes of interest.
THE JACKSON DEVELOPMENT: It's not a secret that this season is a pivotal year for Tarvaris Jackson.
Head coach Brad Childress said repeatedly last season that he wanted to get a full season to evaluate the young signal caller.
Jackson has been up and down in training camp this far but seems to be making noticeable strides in some areas.
What practice observers have noted is Jackson seems to have a better understanding of the offensive scheme and he's more decisive with the football.
Jackson also throws a really good deep ball with solid touch.
But Jackson, like many young players at his position, struggles with consistency and technique.
On one than more occasion during Wednesday's early practice, Jackson didn't totally get his feet set and his passes were slightly off target--either behind or ahead of the receiver.
He also needs to do a better job of throwing with timing and anticipation. Those are two facets are very important in the development of a quarterback.
We asked offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell what were the little things Jackson still had to improve on.
"I think the big thing to point out is consistency. He has made a lot of improvements since the day he got here and even some of the things we asked him to improve on from the off-season till now he has done that whether it was stepping up in the pocket with two hands, keeping his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage, or keeping his yes down the field, some of those types of things. He is going to be able to have to make routine plays routinely. You will see him out there make some great plays, some big plays and then he may miss a couple in a row. We just need to continue to get the consistency from him."
RECEIVER DEPTH NOTICEABLE: Last year at this time, the coaches were trying to find two reliable receivers. Fast forwarding a year later, Minnesota appears to have much better depth at the position.
In fact, the first three spots on the depth charts seem to be set with the No. 4 and No. 5 spots having pretty good competition.
Because of the improved depth, sixth-round pick Jaymar Johnson is more likely to land on Minnesota's practice squad.
Another noticeable improvement is the speed and size at the position.
No. 1 receiver Bernard Berrian is known as one of the fastest at his position on the league and second-year WR Aundrae Allison has always been known for his speed.
The size is apparent with projected starter Sidney Rice and with veteran Robert Ferguson.
ALLISON MAKING STRIDES: Second-year WR Aundrae Allison only saw limited playing time as a rookie (about 15.6 % off the offensive plays according to a league source) but if training camp is any indication, he could double that percentage this season.
Allison has shown enough improvement during camp thus far that it appears that he's surpassed veteran WR Robert Ferguson for the No. 4 role.
Allison also has shown some versatility and has been asked to play in the slot in addition to backing up starter Bernard Berrian. Allison saw plenty of time in the slot during practice Wednesday since Bobby Wade was limited due to a knee injury.
But as offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell explained Wednesday, there's definitely room for improvement.
"Aundrae's only thing and we tell this to Aundrae all the time is he is his own worst enemy. He has got to do things the way we want him to do it. He is a little bit of a free rider (free lance route runner) and a cowboy. That is what I have seen him improve on, from even the OTAs, minicamps, he has just got to make sure he is doing exactly the way we want it done because it puts us all on the same page. So he has been doing that more and more because obviously he would not be here if he did not have the ability. He is doing a nice job of doing what we are asking (him to do)."
MILLS COULD FIND A ROLE: While he didn't get much playing time last season after being signed off of waivers last season, FB-TE Garrett Mills could play a fairly significant role in Minnesota's offense this season.
More than one league source notes Mills, during OTAs, was used in about three positions on offense--tight end, fullback, and H-back. Mills' versatility caught the eye of the New England Patriots three years ago which is why they selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.
And before he sprained his ankle during Monday morning's practice, Mills was being moved around the offensive formation. This is something we saw during 2006 Senior Bowl practices and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell discussed the way he's been using Mills on Wednesday.
"We have moved him around playing multiple positions so he has been able to embrace that."
DEFENSIVE BACKS HAVE THEIR WAY: The defensive backs, especially the cornerbacks, had their way with the receivers for much of Wednesday morning's practice.
Starting CB Cedric Griffin picked off more than a few passes in seven-on-seven drills and also had a few passes defensed. Third-year CB Charles Gordon, who has put together a solid camp and could be the leader for the nickel job over Marcus McCauley, also had a pass defensed.
BENNY IS NO SAP: When Minnesota signed free agent CB Benny Sapp
earlier this year, the move hardly got any notice. But the former Kansas City
Chief has been a bright surprise for the Vikings thus far in training camp.
Sapp had been really known for his special teams coverage prowess with Kansas City but he's making a legitimate run for a role in Minnesota's dime defense. A league source notes Sapp played in about a third of Kansas City's plays on defense last season, mostly in a dime role.
During Wednesday's early practice session, Sapp picked off two passes and did a nice job of anticipating the route by the receiver. Griffin and Sapp were the stars of the morning session from the secondary.
However, despite Sapp's solid performance in camp, he'll still have a lot of competition for a job as Minnesota is one of the deepest teams in the league at the cornerback position.