OTA Observations: Looking at Youth

Head coach Brad Childress gave most of the starters the day off, setting up an extended look at the depth behind them.

After five practices in three days over last weekend and more organized team activities on Tuesday and Wednesday, the veterans rested on Thursday.

Head coach Brad Childress gave about half of the roster – mostly the top half as far as experience – the day off from practice on Thursday.

"No rhyme or reason to it. There was all the way from second years to different numbers of people that were left off, so he gave those guys off today," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "Any time that happens for us, we just have to treat it like a situation where you get an injury during the year where the next guy has to step up. Whoever is in that position, he has to be able step up and make plays."

Most of the starters were not on the practice field, but at least a couple of expected starters like quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, linebacker Chad Greenway and running back Adrian Peterson did practice. So did wide receiver Sidney Rice, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, guard Anthony Herrera, safeties Mike Doss and Tank Williams, and rookies Brian Robison and Marcus McCauley.

With the entire starting offensive line from 2006 not in attendance, it gave coaches an extended look at some of their undrafted rookies.

"I think that's about the best five that we could come up with and that any of us have been around as far as free agents go," Bevell said. "All five of them have skills to be able to make the team, to be able to fight for competition at different spots as well as the practice squad."

Without pads on during this offseason stretch of practices, it's difficult to gauge the progress of linemen, but Bevell was able to get more of a look at tight end Braden Jones with players like Jim Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan not practicing.

"He's very athletic. He has good speed. He has good ball skills," Bevell said of Jones. "We're excited with that whole position. It's deep. Again, we're not making decisions here in June. We're making those decisions late in August, but there is competition there that is going to help us get better and improve all across the board."

Another raw prospect that was in demand after practice Thursday was rookie receiver Todd Lowber, who has usually been the first receiver on the practice field as he makes the transition from basketball to football and searches for consistency in his game.

"He's made leaps and bounds, and to his credit he's putting about as much time in as any one guy can," Bevell said. "The bad thing for him is that he never had the baseline from when we were all growing up. He must have put the basketball in his hands at the very beginning instead of being out running routes and running around. He's catching up fast. We can feel his speed. If you talk to any of the DBs (defensive backs), they're going to mention him just with his speed. He's made some nice catches, and we'll just have to see how far he can progress."

Bevell said he was "cautiously optimistic" about his playmakers, especially at the deep wide receiver position.

"I really feel some speed out there. I feel some athleticism out there," Bevell said.

Other OTA observations from Thursday:

  • Minority coaching intern Frank Gonzalez, who spent four of the last five training camps as a coaching intern with the Philadelphia Eagles, attended Thursday's Vikings practice. He will be assisting with the offensive line during training camp. He talked about the popularity and competition of the Onefa League in Mexico, where he coaches, saying attendance is regularly between 20,000 and 28,000, with big games drawing as much as 75,000 fans. His Monterrey team has won the last three titles in that league. He said the speed of the skill positions is different there and said it would probably rank as a high Division III to middle of Division II talent in the United States. Two players from that league are currently under contract in the NFL, with the Chiefs and Cardinals, and eight more are playing in NFL Europa.

  • With Chris Kluwe and Ryan Longwell given the day off, Alex Reyes worked on punts and kickoffs.

  • Cornerback Mike Hawkins had an interception.

  • Much of the full-team practice was spent working on goal-line plays.

  • Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman officially announced the signing of George Paton as the franchise's director of player personnel, handling the pro side of the business. Paton has spent six of his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins, where he worked with Spielman. Scott Studwell will continue to direct the college scouting department. Scott Kuhn, who was hired by the Dolphins in 2000, was also added as a pro scout.

  • The full team is expected to practice Friday morning and then head over to the American Indian Magnet School in St. Paul to take part in building a playground for the school. The playground's design will be based on drawings from students that attended a "design day" in April. The cost of the construction of the playground is being split between the Vikings and Toro, a community partner with the team.

    "We'll see if they can put up a tire swing that will hold up Bryant McKinnie," Bevell joked.

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