Two weeks down, one to go. By the end of next week, Vikings players will make their mass exodus from Southern Minnesota and flee north to the Twin Cities, where they will resume preseason practices at their regular practice facility at Winter Park.
Even though training camp in Mankato amounts to about three weeks, it appears offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell's mission of installing the Vikings' new offense appears to becoming close to accomplished. Sure, their game Monday night against Oakland will include wrong routes and missed assignments (and no doubt a few chaotic moments when players aren't on the same page), but Vikings players have spent the last 14 days on a crash course as the coaching staff installs a new West Coast offense.
Summer school has been in session.
"It seems like we've had install every day, so you are adding seven or eight runs and 25 passes a day, different formations, different shifts, different motions, different personnel groupings, so you're always kind of on the go," quarterback Brad Johnson said. "You install now, and as the season takes its course in Week 12 or Week 13, you'll pull out some plays that you might have run here in training camp, put them on film, and just have different looks for all different schemes and different things we're playing."
It helps when the quarterback knows the system. While there are myriad differences in practically every offensive system, there are also many striking similarities. Brad Johnson has seen both.
"I think West Coast terminology – I had a lot when I was with Washington and Norv Turner, and I had a lot with Jon Gruden in Tampa," Johnson said. "The biggest difference is just all the verbiage, how you call a particular play. You've given every player on the team a call. You can call v-right, u-right, fullback slide, halfback quick. … You can make a lot of different calls, so that's the biggest difference between this system and all the other systems."
The two weeks of training camp have been important in the classroom as on the playing field, Bevell said.
"We have a program that we are trying to install," Bevell said. "The guys are working hard, they are studying hard, they're paying attention in the classroom, and that's what it takes. That's our job to make sure that we pound the information into them and get the retention.
"Out here on the practice field, that's a step… It's one to see it in the book, two to be able to watch it on tape, and three for them to go through it on the field and run it. That's the process of them learning that."
Even Johnson, a veteran of 14 training camps that required the adoption of a handful of different offensive playbooks, concedes this training camp has been intense and often as demanding mentally as physically.
"It's been a grind," Johnson admitted. "You spent your first 10 days as far as installing play from first-and-10 calls, to second-medium, third-and-short, third-and-long. What's going to occur in a game, you might only get one or two of those plays on a short-yardage play, compared to running eight or 10 out here on the practice field."
At least Johnson is afforded the luxury of wearing a red jersey.
"I'm not hitting, thank goodness, so I shouldn't complain," Johnson said.
Offensive Install a Camp Grind
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