Surprising players, performances and positions at Minnesota Vikings OTAs

Several Vikings had surprisingly strong performances in Wednesday’s practice and could be making a jump forward in 2016, but it wasn’t all good. A look at who stood out, who has work to do and other surprises from the first open practice of 2016.

Offseason training sessions can sometimes have a tedious flavor to them, but this week provided some interesting insights into where battles currently stand among Minnesota Vikings vying for starting spots, and Wednesday’s practice even brought some surprise performances.

In short, the practice open to the media on Wednesday brought a mix of surprisingly good and a few somewhat disappointing performances.

Here is the quick-hitting version of what stood out:

PERHAPS PATTERSON?

Cordarrelle Patterson has posted several times on social media how hard he has been working this offseason. Maybe this is the year the off-field posts on social media will turn into on-field production.

Patterson looked surprisingly good and consistent in Wednesday’s practice, appearing to be in the right spot at the right time. After his consistency and route-running were questioned in previous years, that alone is a good sign.

Patterson was one of the better receivers at getting separation, catching the ball away from his body and running after the catch. The latter was never a problem for him.

Also never a problem for Patterson: raw athletic ability. But perhaps this is the year that finally translates on the field.

He started practice with an early 20-yard reception from Teddy Bridgewater as the No. 3 receiver with the first-team offense and had several other good catches as practice progressed.

Wednesday was just one practice, so it is far too early to say that the former first-round pick has turned a corner, but if he has and can show that consistently in the next month he might be able to become a regular part of the receiver rotation.

REST OF THE RECEIVERS

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1672956-bridgewater-meets-hey-ted...  While Patterson was impressive Wednesday, German receiver Moritz Böhringer showed he is project. Early in practice he dropped a pass in traffic during a hurry-up drill and dropped a couple of others he could have had. He did have one reception of about 30 yards from rookie QB Joel Stave, but Bohringer has a long way to go in getting comfortable in an NFL offense.

While Patterson worked in the occasional reps with the first-team offense, rookie first-round pick Laquon Treadwell was involved early, then sitting out the rest of the practice (perhaps a minor injury). He was at least battling for the ball early when he knocked down an errant pass from Shaun Hill that might have otherwise been intercepted.

Adam Thielen and Bridgewater started practice out right when Bridgewater hit Thielen perfectly in stride on a deep post pattern with Xavier Rhodes trailing in coverage during 7-on-7 work. The Vikings appear to be making sure that Bridgewater gets plenty of deep-ball work in practices.

The receivers most often running with the first-team offense were Stefon Diggs and Charles Johnson. Johnson is back to full health after trying to play through a broken rib last season.

O-LINE SHUFFLE

Center John Sullivan says he is also back to full health, but didn’t automatically assume his spot in the starting lineup. Instead, Joe Berger, who filled in for Sullivan all of last season while Sullivan recovered from two back surgeries, was with the first-team offense and Sullivan delivered the second-team snaps at center.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1672873-loadholt-it-s-been-extrem...  While Sullivan didn’t immediately get his starting spot back, right tackle Phil Loadholt did. Like Sullivan, Loadholt missed all of last season with injury – in Loadholt’s case it was a torn Achilles tendon suffered in a preseason game. The 6-foot-8, 345-pound tackle admitted he has some things to work on and it showed when second-year defensive end Danielle Hunter blew past him on consecutive plays for would-be sacks.

Matt Kalil didn’t practice with an apparent injury, but it wasn’t T.J. Clemmings taking the first-team reps at left tackle for Kalil. Instead, free-agent signee Alex Boone, the expected starter at left guard, was playing left tackle and Jeremiah Sirles was at left guard with the first-team offense.

All of those modifications meant there was only player – Berger – from last season’s starting offensive line playing the same position with the starting unit on Wednesday. Brandon Fusco was back at right guard after playing left guard last season.

DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD OPTIONS

While the offense hit on a few big-play throws, the defensive backs were generally winning the battles on passing downs.

Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith manned the starting safety spots with free-agent signee Michael Griffin and Anthony Harris working with the second team. Harris had an interception on a Bridgewater pass intended for TE Kyle Rudolph.

At cornerback, Terence Newman and Rhodes got most of the starting reps, but 2015 first-round pick Trae Waynes had a very solid practice. He broke up a 40-yard pass from Taylor Heinicke intended for Isaac Fruechte. Waynes was in perfect inside position on the long pass down the right sideline and looked back for the ball just in time to locate it and knock it away. The second-year cornerback had a strong practice, knocking away multiple passes, and looked fast.

Second-round pick Mackensie Alexander missed an opportunity at an interception when Heinicke unloaded a pass into traffic in between Alexander, Fruechte and Griffin. While Alexander was a little too late to make the pick, he did a nice job coming off his assignment in the flat and getting in position to knock away the pass.

Captain Munnerlyn joined Harris and rookie linebacker Kentrell Brothers as the three defenders with interceptions on Wednesday.

NOTABLES

  • Defensive tackle B.J. Dubose suffered a right knee injury that the Star Tribune is reporting as a torn ACL.
  • Blair Walsh was hitting field goals right down the middle with consistency, good from 30, 33, 35, 37 and 40 yards in his five kicks in live situations.
  • With Sharrif Floyd out with injury, Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen got plenty of first-team work as the defensive tackles.
  • Undrafted rookie linebacker Jake Ganus had two would-be sacks in short order, but then the offense drew him offside with a hard count.
  • With Hunter coming on strong, Brian Robison slid inside as a pass-rushing defensive tackle at times in the nickel defense.
  • Although head coach Mike Zimmer didn’t provide details on Floyd’s injury, he did say, “if it gets into training camp like that, then it will be an issue, but I don’t think it’ll be that way.
  • In addition to Floyd, linebackers Anthony Barr and Brandon Watts, Kalil and tight end Rhett Ellison weren’t practicing. Zimmer said he doesn’t believe Barr is injured.

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