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Rookie WR Justin Jefferson working with second unit but Vikings ‘very encouraged’

Adam Thielen is Minnesota’s top receiver. Competition for the next three spots also will include Tajae Sharpe and Chad Beebe.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) catches a pass at training camp at TCO Performance Center Friday, Aug. 14.. Brad Rempel / USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings haven’t made rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson an immediate starter, but they like what they’ve seen so far.

“It’s very encouraging,’’ offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak said Sunday. “He’s exactly what we drafted. We knew he’s a very talented young man that had a comfort zone in the slot. … A long way to go, but very encouraged by his work.’’

Jefferson, taken with the No. 22 pick out of LSU, is running second team behind Bisi Johnson at one receiver spot. Kubiak called him “very knowledgeable” with “understanding schemes,’’ but declined to speculate on Jefferson’s chances of starting the Sept. 13 opener against Green Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“We’ve got a month,’’ Kubiak said. “So, we’re going to find out. We’re going to let these guys compete.’’

Jefferson did get some work with the first team Sunday in three-wide receiver sets. Kubiak expects the Vikings to regularly use four receivers and plans to consider “all of them as starters.’’


Adam Thielen is Minnesota’s top receiver. Competition for the next three spots also will include Tajae Sharpe and Chad Beebe.

Elfein's 'comfort zone'

The last time Pat Elflein started at right guard, his team was pretty darn good.

Elfein started the last 12 games at that spot for Ohio State in 2014, and the Buckeyes won them all en route to the national title. Then he started all 13 in 2015 and the Buckeyes went 12-1.

Now, the Vikings are hoping to roll up some wins with Elflein at that position.

After being Ohio State’s center in 2016, Minnesota’s center in 2017 and 2018 and the Vikings’ left guard in 2019, Elflein has been moved to right guard.

“That’s somewhere that Pat has had a comfort zone before in his football life,’’ Kubiak said. “A decision was made through some talking through the process, talking to Pat.’’

O-line battles

With Elflein having moved over, there is plenty of competition at his old spot. Dakota Dozier and Aviante Collins are splitting reps now with the first team and rookie Ezra Cleveland also could be in the mix to start.

“We have a lot of football practices this week, a ton of reps, so everybody is going to get a good, hard look,’’ Kubiak said.


Head coach Mike Zimmer has said he wants his starting offensive line in order after about three padded practices, and the first one is Monday. Left guard appears to be the only position up in the air.

The other starters are Riley Reiff at left tackle, Garrett Bradbury at center and Brian O’Neill at right guard. Brett Jones got some snaps Sunday with the first team at center but Bradbury missed some time during the workout before returning with his wrist taped.

More position battles

Rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney returned Sunday after missing practice Friday and got some work in the slot.

Mike Hughes and Holton Hill again started out as the first-team outside cornerbacks, and Hughes also played some in the slot. Rookie Cameron Dantzler also got some first-team work as an outside cornerback, and tweeted after the practice that it was “God’s plan.”

Defensive end Danielle Hunter missed practice with an undisclosed ailment. He was replaced on the first team by Jalyn Holmes, who has been moved to defensive end after playing inside his first two seasons.

Mild-mannered Ham

C.J. Ham is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, but the 5-foot-11, 235-pound Vikings fullback and Duluth Denfeld graduate said he’s still not very recognizable in public.

“I don’t think so,’’ Ham said. “I’m 5-11. I’m a big guy, but when I’m walking around, it’s not like they see an NFL player out there, but it’s nice to know we’ve got some true fans out there who recognize me. I appreciate that.’’

Ham has worked his way up from being undrafted in 2016 out of Division II Augustana (S.D.) University.



  • Running back Dalvin Cook only took a few reps Sunday. Despite not having signed a contract extension, Cook has said he will compete in Monday’s padded practice. “His commitment to his team and his team is tremendous,” Kubiak said.
  • Asked about running back Tony Brooks-James being waived Aug. 8 and re-signed Saturday, Kubiak said such things might be common during training camp with teams having 80-man rosters and the coronavirus pandemic limiting player movement. “It’s a chess match Zim’s got to playing throughout the whole camp.’’ he said.
  • Kubiak is looking forward to the first day in pads. “That’s when the game gets real,’’ he said. Fans can’t attend camp due to the pandemic, but Monday’s practice will be simulcast at 2:15 p.m. on Vikings digital and social platforms (You Tube, Facebook and Twitter) and shown on KMSP-TV, channel 9.

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