Takeaways from the Vikings night practice

EAGAN — The Minnesota Vikings held their annual night practice on Saturday. It has traditionally been an evening to show off for fans and thus give an opportunity for players on the bubble to make a mark. This year’s edition was no different. Here are our takeaways from the night practice…

Vikings airing it out, receivers stepping up

Last week Mike Zimmer called out his young receivers, saying they needed to get their “rears in gear.” Well, they were in gear on Saturday night.

The practice opened with a deep catch by seventh-round pick Dillon Mitchell on a stop-and-go route down the sideline. His act was followed up by Alexander Hollins nabbing a long throw into double coverage from Sean Mannion and then Jeff Badet catching a sideline bomb from Jake Browning.

Deep shots weren’t the only impressive plays by receivers. Bisi Johnson and Brandon Zylstra made strong grabs in the end zone during red zone drills. Chad Beebe added a solid sideline catch.

You can see several of the receptions in the Vikings’ video below:

The takeaway: While they may not have gotten off to a strong start in camp, the Vikings have enough talented players to make the race for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots very interesting, assuming Beebe is locked in behind Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.

On Saturday night, Badet probably helped his cause the most.

“I think the coaches see that I’m progressively getting better every day,” Badet said. “Everybody knows I’m a speed guy but I work on my route running now so I can get open.”

Hollins will be a long shot to  earn a roster spot but he will be in the mix for practice squad positions along with Badet, Davion Davis and the seventh-rounders Mitchell and Johnson.

“When the head coach says something like that… you have to be able to show him that you are able to respond to things, and go out there and make plays,” Hollins said. ”

Dan Bailey’s strong night

The Vikings decided they were confident enough in Bailey to have him as the long kicker in camp. Overall Bailey has been accurate in practice. On Saturday night on the turf inside the stadium at TCO Performance Center, he was on target hitting 8-of-9 field goals, including one from around 50 yards.

Following practice Bailey talked about his approach.

“The attention to details, you don’t want to overthink it but making sure you are keeping yourself honest and working on something every day and try to make all your kicks,” Bailey said. “We have had a lot of rotation of guys and it’s been good working with all the guys. I’m just trying to get that rhythm back, that’s the main thing.”

Sean Mannion decidedly No. 2 

The Vikings came into camp with a legitimate competition for the backup quarterback spot — and it is far from over considering we have four preseason games to play — but at the moment there is no question that the veteran Sean Mannion is QB2. He took all or nearly all the second-team reps and made a number of strong throws like the one below.

***(Correction on the tweet, Alexander Hollins caught the pass from Mannion)

Mannion was also able to execute successfully in the red zone.

Kyle Sloter and Jake Browning both had ups and downs during practice, as has been the case since Day 1 of camp. It will be interesting to see whether Browning sees reps in the first preseason game.

Diggs upset 

The intensity level was high throughout practice. At one point receiver Stefon Diggs became irate, taking off his helmet and yelling toward the defensive backs. Adam Thielen had to hold him back and eventually Zimmer walked Diggs off the field. It appeared that cornerback Mackensie Alexander gave him an extra push. Diggs has consistently been one of the most impressive training camp performers for three years running. He made a terrific contested catch on a bomb from Cousins.

“Seeing Stefon go out there and grind makes everybody grind harder,” Hollins said.

Additional notes

– The Vikings should be happy with the offensive line’s performance. At times during camp they have allowed sacks (in which the whistle is blown) but that did not happen often Saturday night despite the team throwing deep often.

– Stephen Weatherly lined up over the guard and blew up a run play. Don’t be surprised if he takes the old Brian Robison role in passing situations.

– Cousins took off and ran for a first down during a situational drill. Zimmer mentioned last season that he would like to see more of that from his QB.

– It isn’t easy to evaluate all the corners in practice but it appeared seventh-round pick Kris Boyd had a strong showing

– Dalvin Cook, Kyle Rudolph, Jalyn Holmes and Aviante Collins did not participate. Collins was hurt this week in practice but did not appear to be sporting any brace on his leg. There was no indication exactly why Cook and Rudolph didn’t practice. Alexander Mattison took first-team reps in the backfield.