The first week of Vikings training camp is in the books. Sunday is an off day, a time that rookie quarterback Christian Ponder says he'll dedicate to going back and reviewing his film.
Plenty of Vikings will have that opportunity, but even the young players that performed well in the first six days of practices would do well to familiarize themselves with Kyries Hebert. During the 2002 training camp, former head coach Mike Tice talked up his young safety, but ultimately Hebert's strong start to camp fizzled and he didn't make the team, ultimately ending up in the Canadian Football League.
We're not limiting ourselves to rookies in this assessment, but here are the players that made the biggest impression on us in the week that was.
QUARTERBACK: Christian Ponder looked good early, but as the week progressed his accuracy seemed to wane. He said after Saturday night's scrimmage that he wasn't overwhelmed, just needed to get some things straightened out and stop thinking so much. Donovan McNabb didn't need that assistance. Despite working in the offense for the first time, McNabb looked sharp as soon as he could start practicing, which was three days after most players because McNabb signed a new contract with the Vikings after being traded from Washington.
Once he got to practice on Thursday, he hit four out of his first five passes – all of them to tight ends. Eventually he opened it up and hit Bernard Berrian deep down the left sideline. Like the younger quarterbacks, McNabb has also had his moments of struggle, but overall it appears the trade to acquire him was a good idea.
RUNNING BACK: Last year, Lorenzo Booker made an impact as a third-down back, but he's showing he can be a contributor in the running game if needed – but as long as Peterson is healthy that probably won't be necessary. One play in particular Friday stood out for Booker. Working on the goal-line offense and going at the full defense, Booker took a handoff and started left, but after getting outside the tackle box the blocking broke down that way. He stopped, reversed his direction and beat the pursuit to the right pylon for a touchdown.
TIGHT END: Rookie Kyle Rudolph is showing some flash, but Visanthe Shiancoe could have a career year. First, the offense is tight end friendly, and McNabb isn't afraid to target tight ends often. We have a feeling the more McNabb throws Shiancoe's way, the more he'll be impressed with Shiancoe's ability to adjust to the ball. Confidence could breed consistent completions.
OFFENSIVE LINE: In truth, the offensive line hasn't looked solid yet, but there could be an adjustment period learning the new techniques of position coach Jeff Davidson, who appears to have the players' respect. Steve Hutchinson has simply been the veteran rock that might have to hold it all together.
WIDE RECEIVER: Names like Braylon Edwards and Malcom Floyd excited the fan base as free-agent possibilities before they signed with other teams, but the acquisition of Michael Jenkins didn't inspire the masses. So far, however, Jenkins has looked the part. Coaches rave about his downfield blocking ability, but he can also get down the field and make catches. The 6-foot-4 long-strider is trying to fill a big jersey number in Minnesota – 84 – and while he won't live up to the legend of Randy Moss, the former Atlanta Falcons first-round pick has been catching everything thrown his way. On the first play of seven-on-seven period Friday, Jenkins put one move on CB Chris Cook and was gone.
DEFENSIVE LINE: This could have gone to one of two players. Letroy Guion has been looking quick off the snap and is becoming a disruptive force, but he has also been caught jumping offsides too often. Another quick player on the rise is DE Brian Robison. Robison is looking swifter than ever and has been a menace to third-year tackle Phil Loadholt.
LINEBACKER: Chad Greenway was designated the team's franchise player and has lived up to the billing. He seems a step quicker than everyone else on the field and a step quicker than last year. But it's not just speed he's bringing – on one play Thursday, he came on a run blitz and moved Loadholt off his feet and into the backfield a couple yards, completely blowing up a run play. His uncertain contract situation doesn't seem to be bothering him at all.
CORNERBACK: As an undrafted rookie, Devon Torrence is showing up. On Friday, he picked off Ponder on a sideline route to Stephen Burton and took it back for a touchdown. The Vikings keep throwing at him, but Torrence is almost always in position and making plays when given the chance. A 53-man spot isn't likely, but the way he's looking now he could be a solid practice-squad candidate.
SAFETY: Jamarca Sanford is showing up around the ball a lot. He's known as a big hitter, but he hasn't been able to put that asset into action against his own teammates. He's pulled up short on a number of occasions, but it will be interesting to watch him once the preseason games start and he gets ready to lay out opposing receivers. He's making a strong case to lock down the starting vacancy left by Madieu Williams.
Tim Yotter and John Holler have been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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