We're officially two days into the start of Minnesota Vikings training camp, with an off day Sunday before starting up the week all over again.
Practices are open to the public, which provides fans an opportunity to evaluate players in unison with coaches. With a 90-man roster needing to be trimmed down to 53 by the end of August, every opportunity is critical for players to make an impact.
Let's take a look at some of the highlights and storylines through the first two days of camp.
According to Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com, Ponder had a more difficult time braving the conditions, struggling with his accuracy outside of short passes and checkdowns.
One impressive play came from the hands of Cassel to converted wide receiver Joe Webb, hauling in a deep pass with Xavier Rhodes and Robert Blanton draped over him.
After the play, Webb commented, via Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune, "A couple more of those and I’ll be good."
Greg Jennings further weighed in on Webb's progress to Wiederer, stating, "He can catch the ball. And that’s the first hurdle. If you can’t catch, you can’t be taught."
Jennings continued, "He’ll notice the little things without someone telling him. Which lets me know he’s willing to work to improve, to really home in on the skills that it takes to perform at a high level at this position."
With 11 wide receivers currently on the Vikings' active roster, the front office will most likely need to cut that number down to five or six. Considering the players ahead of Webb, he will likely be on the roster bubble throughout training camp, but performances like Friday's should help him land a final spot.
Second-year player Greg Childs entered training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. He joined undrafted rookie Nathan Williams, a linebacker from Ohio State.
Regarding John Sullivan, the Vikings center who had left knee surgery in February to repair a microfracture, he looks on pace to start the regular season.
According to Leslie Frazier, via Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press, on the eve of training camp, "We think he's going to be ready to go. Now we will have to monitor his reps. We won't just throw him in there for every rep. We're going to kind of bring him along until he gets the confidence in that knee, but I don't see any reason why we won't be playing him the preseason."
The Vikings stayed true to that plan on Day 1, monitoring Sullivan's reps. He reported no issues to Murphy, simply saying, "My knee's fine."
As for the linebacking corps, several scenarios have been swirling this offseason with the departure of middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Draft selections of teammates Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti and the recent signing of former Green Bay Packer Desmond Bishop have all left questions for the starting squad.
With strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway a lock to start at the position, Erin Henderson and Bishop will likely contend for the remaining starting spots. Henderson opened training camp at the "Mike," while Bishop took second-team snaps at the "Will," adjusting to his new team.
Finally, Adrian Peterson added some fun and excitement to the first day of camp. He was strapped in with a helmet cam and microphone throughout practice.
Saturday's practice at Minnesota State University, Mankato, was a similar story as it relates to less-than-ideal weather conditions. Both Ponder and Cassel were inconsistent in delivering passes, with interceptions and poorly timed balls.
Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com commented that Ponder especially failed to impress as a starter with poor performances in both days. Linebacker Erin Henderson easily corralled an interception on a pass intended for Kyle Rudolph, one of Ponder's favorite targets in 2012.
We're willing to give both Ponder and Cassel a pass on their performance in both days of training camp, given the weather conditions and inconsistent timing yet with receivers.
The next week of practice should give a better indication of progress at the quarterback position, but decision-making skills need to improve nonetheless.
Stepping away from the offense, the defense appeared to be a step ahead in most drills. According to Mark Craig of the Star Tribune, defensive end Everson Griffen was especially explosive. He lined up at multiple positions and was quick off the snap, frustrating right tackle Phil Loadholt on different occasions.
Regarding special teams, Day 2 left off where Friday started, with winds reaching upwards of 30 miles per hour. The inclement weather offered opportunities for kicker Blair Walsh and punter Jeff Locke to prepare for the team's outdoor games this season, including four in the final two months of the year.
Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer also addressed Walsh's preparation heading into this season, as the Pro Bowl kicker attempts to avoid a sophomore slump, via Andrew Krammer of 1500ESPN.com:
"'[Walsh] kept a journal and continually refers back to it,' Priefer said after Saturday's morning walkthrough. 'He did it in the spring and will this season.'"
Walsh and Locke have been working together this offseason, as former punter and holder Chris Kluwe was released and signed by the Oakland Raiders. Quarterback Matt Cassel will serve as the backup holder.
On the injury side of things, the Vikings suffered their first setback late in Saturday's practice with nose tackle Letroy Guion injuring his elbow. He was scheduled for X-rays that same night and early reports indicate nothing serious, according to Wiederer.
MRI on Letroy Guion's arm came back negative. Injury sore but nothing serious.— Dan Wiederer (@StribDW) July 28, 2013
Finally, coach Leslie Frazier set the tone with wide receiver Greg Jennings and his comments made Thursday toward former quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Implying that Rodgers had become bigger than the team, Frazier confirmed he spoke with his new receiver, via Mark Craig of the Star Tribune:
"'Yes I did, and hopefully there will be no more reporting on that with Greg Jennings,' Frazier said. 'We had a little conversation about that, so we’re moving on.'"
Frazier continued, "We’re the Vikings and we want to talk about us and what we’re trying to get done here. He understands that. That’s where our focus has to be. We have so much work to get done. We don’t really want to be looking at and describing other teams, other teams’ players. It’s us. We got to focus on us. He’s good with that."
And on that note, the Vikings completed their first two days of training camp, days that were filled with unlikely summer weather, a combination of disappointing and highlight-reel plays, and a coaching staff determined to set a team-first tone.
We'll continue to keep you updated with all the major storylines and updates coming out of training camp in Mankato.
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