OTAs are mostly to get players legs under them again in time for next week’s mandatory minicamp. That said, in two weeks of padless practice, there were some notable developments. Here are five things to take away from the Vikings’ OTAs.
Cook close to full strength
Dalvin Cook seems to be ahead of schedule in his recovery from ACL surgery. The initial estimate was he would be ready for preseason action, but he took part in the second week of OTAs. Chances are Latavius Murray will get most of the first team reps once padded practices begin in order to ease Cook back in. But if all goes according to plan, Cook should be ready to take the larger load come week one.
Offense clicking early
Kirk Cousins was not shy when discussing the challenge of learning a new offense alongside a whole different unit of weapons. He described the process as gradual, but said he and the offense took steps every day of practice. The growing connection with receivers was evident throughout OTAs, particularly in the two minute drill sessions. Cousins worked out with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs in Atlanta soon after signing with the Vikings, and it seems to be paying early dividends.
No rookies in first O-Line unit
When the Vikings did not pursue top-end offensive line talent in free agency, many thought they would go after someone in the first round of the draft. When that did not happen either, it opened the door to some questions about the prospective lineup. During OTAs, with Pat Elflein recovering from injury, the first team reps went to (from left-to-right) Riley Reiff, a Tom Compton and Danny Isidora rotation, Nick Easton, Mike Remmers and Rashod Hill. Presumably, that means Easton will slide over to left guard when Elflein returns and Hill will hold his starting right tackle job he had the final few weeks of 2017.
This revelation may concern some Vikings fans, as the grouping of Remmers and Hill on the right side was a mixed bag last season. It also means neither of the drafted rookies, Brian O’Neill and Colby Gossett, are factoring into the starting line at the moment.
Hughes and Hill impress
As the first round pick, Mike Hughes will garner most of the eyes among rookies in training camp. By all indications, coaches have been impressed by Hughes athleticism and coachability. Both Mike Zimmer and Xavier Rhodes gushed about his willingness to learn. At the moment, Mackensie Alexander is handling first team nickel reps, with Hughes on second team. With Terence Newman also on roster, time will tell how much Hughes factors into weekly gameplans. But for now, signs are positive.
Undrafted rookie Holton Hill was one of the most coveted players available following the draft this past year. He was viewed by some as a third round talent who dropped due to character concerns. According to NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero, there are those in the Vikings’ building who believe Hill has “starter ability.” Hill has a rare combination of size and speed that should give him a spot on the roster as a gunner at the very least.
Rookie grabs early lead in kicker battle
The Vikings’ kicking competition will not be decided by a handful of kicks in shorts and t-shirts. But through OTAs, Daniel Carlson appears to have the early edge over veteran Kai Forbath. Carlson made several big kicks, including a 45-yarder in the two minute drill, and was basically perfect throughout practice. Forbath, on the other hand, has already missed a couple of makeable kicks. It would be an upset if Forbath ends up keeping his job, as the Vikings traded up in the fifth round to draft Carlson. Even so, seeing Carlson succeed early is encouraging.
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