The first day of joint practices between the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars pitted two of the top defenses in the league against each other in Eagan. As expected, the Vikings offensive line struggled against a stout Jaguars defensive front. On the other side of the ball, the Vikings secondary flustered Blake Bortles throughout the afternoon. Players stood out in both positive and negative ways for the Vikings, but the Vikings should expect a stronger performance overall tomorrow afternoon following their additional reps against their AFC South foil.
Winners and Losers from Day One of Vikings/Jaguars Joint Practices
Chad Beebe, Wide Receiver
When Beebe was signed following a tryout in rookie mini camp, most focused on the superficial elements of his joining the team; namely that he is the son of former Bill Don Beebe and the audacity of the team to give an unknown wide receiver the jersey number 84.
Over the first few weeks of camp, by all accounts Beebe did nothing to separate himself from the crowded back end of the wide receiver room. Then, in the first preseason game in Denver, the 5’9 receiver caught a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and forced himself onto fans radar. Since that game, Beebe has stood out in practice.
Today in one-on-ones, despite his 165 pound frame, Beebe one consistently on underneath and intermediate routes in one-on-ones and other drills. Beebe even took some reps with the second team, and was able to come away with a contested catch in 7-on-7’s. His quickness in and out of his breaks, his route running, and his toughness stood out among the backup receivers. Beebe has made the most of his opportunities with Stacy Coley and Brandon Zylstra battling injuries. If Beebe continues to stack days like today, he should be a strong candidate for a practice squad spot.
Brian O’Neil, Offensive Tackle
Despite discussions that rookie right tackle would need a red shirt season, O’Neil has been thrust into the starting right tackle spot with Rashod Hill battling illness and injury. On a day when many of the Vikings offensive linemen struggled, the Pitt product stuck out in a positive way.
O’Neil was inconsistent, but won the majority of his one-on-one reps, and also had success in both pass and run blocking against a talented first unit for Jacksonville. His performance against the likes of Yannick Ngakoue certainly reinforces the idea that he could be ready to start sooner than later.
Vikings Defensive Backfield
Although they struggled with dropped interceptions throughout the day, the Vikings DBs made their presence felt against Blake Bortles and the Jaguar’s wide receivers. Harrison Smith nearly came up with two interceptions, Anthony Barr and Xavier Rhodes dropped one a piece. Veteran Terence Newman was able to pull in an interception during 11’s.
Additionally, rookies Mike Hughes and Holton Hill stood out. Hill broke up a pass intended for DeAndre Smelter. Mike Hughes continues to live up to the hype throughout the day, blanketing receivers in coverage and coming up with a PBU in one-on-ones.
Daniel Carlson, Kicker
Carlson was not abysmal today, but his performance next to that of Kai Forbath was certainly disappointing. While Forbath went three for three on field goals, Carlson went 2/3, just missing from 44. Carlson, whose strength is supposed to be kickoffs, also had a kickoff go out of bounds.
While his performance in Denver last weekend, along with his status as a fifth round rookie, should give Carlson a strong edge in the competition, missing field goals and giving the other team the ball at their own forty at the start of drives are both great ways to help Forbath keep his job.
Trevor Siemian, Quarterback
Siemian, in person, was simply not impressive. Beyond basic issues like a lack of arm strength, which affects his mechanics and leads to some wobbly passes, Siemian had issues with overthrows and egregious inaccuracy.
Among the worst mistakes were a overthrow of almost twenty yards to an open Cayleb Jones. On another play, after a fantastic blitz pickup by CJ Ham, Siemian under through Tavares King, who had bested the defender on a go. Siemian was also overly cautious, wasting a free play by checking the ball down to Tyler Conklin after drawing a defender offside.
The other challenge for Siemian is that Kyle Sloter impressed today, following a strong showing in the first preseason game. If both continue playing as they did today, Sloter could end up the second string quarterback.
Vikings Offensive Line
Both individually and in team work, the Vikings offensive lineman had some strong moments, but they were overshadowed by very poor play against a talented Jaguars front four. On a day when the Jaguars’ own offensive line held up the the Vikings’ defense despite some injuries, the Vikings offensive line could not match.
From the first snap, the Jaguars set the tone with a run stop by Calais Campbell that was frankly embarrassing to watch. Throughout the afternoon, Vikings quarterbacks did not have clean pockets and running backs were met around the line of scrimmage. For the most part, the backs still did impress, but this was more a results of remarkable agility and athleticism than blocking.
Check back tomorrow for a recap of day two of joint practices between the Vikings and Jaguars.