The first day of Minnesota Vikings rookie minicamp provided very few surprises, at least to observers, but one player was lining up at a position he hadn’t in college.
Jack Tocho practiced exclusively at safety on Friday and didn’t look out of place one bit. Granted, there were no pads and things move at a slower pace for rookies in the early stages, but Tocho has a solid frame (6 feet, 202 pounds) and knew that safety was a possibility.
Tocho, the seventh-round draft pick out of North Carolina State, played cornerback in college, but he knew safety was a possibility at the NFL level so he started getting some work there in college practices even if he wasn’t going to play there in a game.
When the Vikings drafted him, he knew right away they were looking at him as a safety and he believes the move will help him because he can use his diagnostic skills and smarts to recognize plays quicker there – he played the 2016 season as a graduate student after earning his accounting degree in three years. It also helps that he has impressive strength – at the NFL Scouting Combine, he benched pressed 225 pounds 21 times, two more times than defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson.
Here is what else stood out after two hours of the first practice for the rookies:
- Running back Dalvin Cook’s quickness was on display several times with a variety of quick moves to create space, but one defender found that if Cook gets past, a quick grab of the hair from behind can slow him up. Cooks showed good hands in most of the receiving opportunities he got.
- Yes, it’s early, but center Pat Elflein looks like he could be a very solid find for the Vikings in third round. He says he has gotten stronger since the end of his college career and it looks like it, and he also appears to have a very good, natural sense of positioning his body to wall off defenders at the second level.
- Elflein and fifth-round guard Danny Isidora were a solid combination next to each other going against interior defensive linemen who are also rookies. Isidora is an aggressive drive blocker, and when performing combination blocks with Elflein, it was an impressive duo.
- Tight end Bucky Hodges showed off his separation ability and speed, but there are a few things he’ll have to improve. One is his blocking and he knows that, although it would be a surprise if the Vikings actually put him in that situation too often early in his career. Another is his hands – he was inconsistent with the ball in the air, making some more difficult grabs but dropping others he could have had. A final thing he’ll have to be careful about is pushing off coming out his breaks, as he could draw some offensive pass interference penalties.
- The combination of Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley showed their short-area quickness and what appeared to be some good route-running on offense. They were the only two on punt returns.
- With an undrafted rookie, Wes Lunt, and a tryout guy at quarterback, it wasn’t exactly a smooth passing performance put on display and Adams dropped one easy pass he should have had.
- Undrafted defensive end Tashawn Bower looks like he has a chance as a pass rusher. He looked good lowering his inside shoulder against undrafted left tackle Aviante Collins and getting the edge. Collins was getting too grabby on occasion.
- First-year receiver Cayleb Jones had a strong first day. At 6-foot-3, he was one of the taller receivers on the field and created separation with deep speed. Even when the ball was underthrown, he displayed a good feel for adjusting and gaining position on the cornerback for the catch.
- Former practice-squad receiver Moritz Böhringer had a nice diving catch and looked more comfortable this year. However, he did line up on the wrong side of the formation for one play, but so did another receiver on the same play so it may have been a miscommunication in the huddle.
- Perhaps the pleasant surprise of the day went on display late in the practice. Punter Taylor Symmank had a late low line drive, but other than that he boomed several beauties that traveled 60 yards with good hang time.
- The rookies will continue their camp on Saturday and Sunday, but those two practices are closed to the media.