Sunday, April 26, 2015
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adrian peterson

It’s been a couple of days since we’ve had a training camp update here on VT. I’ve scoured the internet and curated it below. I will be in Mankato Friday and Saturday at Vikings Training Camp and will have more content to share with everyone at that time. I’ll also be tweeting furiously so make sure to follow me (@brettAnderson87) if you aren’t already.

Quarterback Trio - Vikings Training Camp 2014
Photo courtesy of Chris Price

Injuries

Let’s get the injury related news out of the way starting with Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson, dealing with a foot injury, was a full participant today for the first time this training camp. The injury is not believed to be serious and Patterson’s absence comes off as precautionary. Still, it’s a good sign he’s back with the team.

Captain Munnerlyn, who is dealing with a minor hamstring injury, was activated off the PUP list but was not a participant in team drills. Like Patterson, the injury is not believed to be serious.

Unfortunately, Robert Blanton got added to the injury list today. Blanton pulled his hamstring during blitz drills. Zimmer did not share with media how long Blanton would be out but it’s bad news for Blanton who had been taking most first-team reps alongside Harrison Smith.

Andrew Sendejo, who had offseason back surgery and hasn’t participated in practice to date, could return as soon as Monday, per Zimmer.

Other injury casualties include Josh Robinson who cut practice short with hamstring tightness and AC Leonard who had a headache. Zimmer did refer to Josh Robinson’s early departure as “preventative.”

Quarterbacks

Alright, let’s cut to the chase. Everyone wants to know about how the quarterbacks are faring so far. Everything I’ve heard or read is that Teddy Bridgewater has been super impressive and slowly closing (bridging?!) the gap separating himself and Matt Cassel. During last night’s team practice, Bridgewater dazzled many fans and members of the media going 12-for-13 with his only incompletion coming from a drop at the hands of UDFA AC Leonard. Bridgewater’s performance earned him first-team reps in today’s practice.

I returned to Mankato this morning for the team’s first practice in full pads. The intensity of the afternoon session was certinally taken up a notch and you can start to see some players starting to stand out.

I’ve summarized some of the major talking points that I think will continue to evolve through out camp.

Mike Zimmer Press Conference:

  • During the head coach Mike Zimmer’s press conference, he mentioned today’s afternoon practice would be telling and would be the start of another part of the progress in terms of building the 2014 team.
  • Zimmer went on to say he was excited to see the defensive backs in 1 on 1 drills where they would have to use press coverage against the wide receivers.  We saw this early in the practice with corner back Xavier Rhodes going up against wide receiver Greg Jennings. Rhodes maintained good coverage through the play, but lost his footing on the wet turf and Jennings came through with a reception on a hitch route.
  • Zimmer called offensive coordinator Norv Turner an innovative mind and smart play caller who is wise about when he takes his shot at big plays.
  • Zimmer was asked about rookie Scott Crichton and Zimmer commented that Crichton was a ‘try hard guy’ and today’s afternoon pratice would be telling about his readiness for the NFL. Later in the afternoon, I noted Crichton coming across the defensive line to blow up a running play. That has to help catch the coaches eye.
  • Zimmer said Tuesday would be the day he would sit down with his coaches and discuss who would start getting more reps than others. Zimmer added:

    These guys are competing against everyone in the league for a spot. We’re looking at the waiver wire.

  • Zimmer also discussed Robert Blanton, saying he likes how Blanton is able to close on the ball while in coverage, and was interested in seeing how Blanton can evolve in terms of run support.

 

Offensive notables:

  • Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson participated in the morning walk through, but did not suit up for the afternoon practice. I did see Patterson running routes with a trainer on the far field while the team was doing individual drills. Zimmer mentioned Patterson was a possibility for tomorrow evenings practice.
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen received more praise from Zimmer during his press conference and continued to make plays while on the field. As I mentioned last night, the Vikings are giving Thielen an opportunity to prove himself, and Thielen continues to make the most of the opportunity.
  • Thielen spent more time with the 2nd team offense as did rookie tight end AC Leonard. If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably noticed Leonard has caught my eye as someone with potential for making the final 53 man roster. I was able to speak with Leonard after practice and will elaborate on that story later.
  • Jarius Wright is getting a lot of looks, including in non passing plays. I wonder if this is because of Patterson being out, but Wright himself can be a versatile play maker in his 3rd year.
  • Rhett Ellison seems to get a lot of praise from coaches, including while on special teams. Ellison also spent time with the 1st team offense when in two tight end formations. You have to like his ability to play either tight end and full back and as someone who can motion around and help with blocking in either running or passing downs.
  • Teddy Bridgewater looked great at times, but still had a few rookie hiccups. That said, there always seems to be more good than bad. Bridgewater connected on nice passes to Thielen and rookie Kain Colter.
  • The offense ran a lot of screen plays to all 3 running backs, Adrian Peterson, Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon. It clear Turner is emphasizing getting these running backs used to catching from the backfield.

 

Defensive notables:

  • I saw more 3 safety sets with Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton and Mistral Raymond all in at the same time with the 1st team defense. Smith continues to spend a lot of time near the line of scrimmage.
  • Second year line backer Gerald Hodges spent time with the 1st team nickel package with Sean Prater serving as the nickel corner back while Captain Munnerlyn continues his time on the PUP list.
  • Brian Robison spoke with reporters and commented on how new nose tackle Linval Joseph reminds him of former Viking Pat Williams. Obviously high praise, but Robison noted that Joseph has the type of explosiveness that commands attention and double teams from an opposing offense. Robison mentioned this allows defensive ends to play under Joseph and get to the quarterback.
  • Josh Robinson made two very nice plays. Robinson picked off a pass early during 1 on 1s and knocked another loose on a nice back shoulder throw by Matt Cassel to Thielen. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray has been coaching Robinson ‘not to see too much.’ I think he wants Robinson to focus on his responsibility and not worry about doing too much.
  • I saw defensive end Everson Griffen drop back and cover a shallow drag route by Greg Jennings. That is impressive athleticism and Zimmer loves that type of versatility.
  • Robison has been impressive during drills and got to Cassel during 11 on 11. Would have easily been a sack.
  • 9th overall pick Anthony Barr spent time with each defensive unit and even played some in nickle. I haven’t seen a lot of Barr just yet, but he’s made some flashes, but also gets lost at times.

All in all, I think today’s practice carried the type intensity Zimmer is looking to carry through out camp and I expect we’ll be hearing plenty after tomorrow’s practice. I will be heading back to Mankato next Saturday for the teams under the lights scrimmage and I’ll have plenty of talking points after.

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The 2014 Minnesota Vikings are coming together.  Well, as much as possible for the 2nd day of training camp.  I’ve tried to summarize the major talking points from today’s practices.

Norv Turner Press Conference

  • Turner spoke extensively about wanting the Vikings to have an explosive offense.  Of all the words Turner used in his 20 minutes at the podium, explosive was likely used the most. There is no doubt that he intends to stretch the field and this offense will look very different from years past.

“We want to pick up first downs on 1st and 2nd down. We want to be a team that runs a lot of plays” Turner noted.

I found this pretty telling.  Since drafting Adrian Peterson, the Vikings have traditionally run the ball on 1st and 2nd down.  I sounds like Turner wants to keep defenses on their toes.

  • Turner also mentioned he thinks Peterson can hold his own not only catching the ball out of the backfield, but also in pass protection.  Turner did note, however, that defensive ends are bound to give any running back trouble in terms of pass protection.
  • On that topic, Turner went to great lengths to explain that Matt Asiata has really shown what he can do not only catching the ball, but also in pass protection.  Turner added, that Asiata is a great athlete and can be a running back who can really “pound it.”
  • Turner noted that the Vikings want to be a physical football team, and that will extend to the offense. Full back Jerome Felton is going to ‘block, block, block’ Turned commented and added that he will get Felton carries as well.  Something Felton saw very little of in Bill Musgrave’s offense.

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I realize it is mid-July and the dog days of summer are still ahead of us. Yet, with training camp opening a week from today, we’re approaching the 2014 season rapidly.

There are a lot of new faces with the Vikings entering this season. Coupled with a nearly entirely new coaching staff, the Vikings have a slew of new draftees and free agents added to mix.

Adding to that is the transition from playing inside the former Metrodome to an outdoor field at TCF Bank Stadium. Although the Vikings spent two decades playing outdoors in the 60s and 70s, the thought of bearing the winter elements for the next two seasons provide reasons for concerns.

There aren’t many examples of teams who have traditionally played indoors only to move outdoors for the construction of a new stadium. This is likely because most teams don’t construct the new stadium in the exact same location of the previous stadium. The closest example I can think of is when the University of Minnesota moved from the Metrodome to TCF Bank Stadium. That comparison seems unfair, though, because the Gopher program was terrible at the time.

Because there is little historical precedence for comparison, it is difficult to gauge how well the Vikings will make the transition outdoors. We can however, look at their performance in outdoor stadiums over the last handful of years.

Generally speaking, the Vikings have struggled when playing in outdoor stadiums posting a 2-14-1 record during the 2011-2013 seasons when playing in open air. There is no doubt the Vikings are a better team at home than on the road, however, you have to wonder how they will fair after the leaving the comfort of dome.

The Vikings do have some advantages when looking to play outdoors, however.

Firstly, this is still very much Adrian Peterson’s run first football team. A team that is designed to excel in running the ball with power will find more success playing in the Minnesota climate than trying to play a finesse offense.

I realize this seems counter intuitive when we’ve watched teams like Green Bay, Chicago, Denver and New England thrive outdoors in similar climates. However, I think it’s safe to say that the running game is important to those teams as it is to the Vikings. There is a reason the Packers have drafted a handful of running backs recently (including 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy) and power running back LeGarrette Blount had such an impact on New England’s run in the playoffs last year.

When the wind is blowing or the temperatures dive into single digits, there is nothing better than having a trusted running back to help move the chains.

Most Viking fans remember how poorly the first Vikings game at TCF Bank Stadium went. The Vikings were dominated by the Chicago Bears on turf so frozen it essentially ended Brett Favre’s career. Thankfully the Vikings and University of Minnesota agreed to add technology that would heat the field and keep the turf clean and forgiving.

This should come as a relief for a team who has a workhorse running back who will soon be turning 30 years old.

Something that might be over looked that could certainly be used to the advantage of the Vikings is the fact that teams will likely not be able to strategize against kick returner and do it all wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. When playing in the Metrodome, teams eventually stopped kicking it to Patterson, opting to boom it through the back of the end zone.

Viking fans should be hopeful that the elements make this strategy more difficult to employ. One would think it would be difficult for a team to kick the ball out of the back of the end zone with the wind and temperatures that will likely come hand in hand with TCF Bank Stadium. As we’ve seen, Patterson isn’t afraid to take the ball out from 9 yards deep.

109td
GIF courtesy of SI.com

Speaking of Patterson, and the other wide receivers on the roster, they seem to all excel at making plays after the reception and are great at amassing yards after the catch. Essentially this means if the weather is horrid, the offense won’t have to rely on deep passes for big gains.

There is something to be said about the mentality of a team playing outdoors, as well. Head Coach Mike Zimmer is on record saying his defense will be geared to stop the run.

“That’s because we’re going to play the run,” Zimmer told KFAN.com. “It’s just what I believe in.”

Looking at the moves the Vikings have made in free agency and the draft, an aggressive and physical front seven will help enforce this mentality.

My final note that I believe suits the Vikings well for playing out doors is the quarterback. I do believe Matt Cassel will start the season behind center. Although everyone is eager to see Teddy Bridgewater in action, Cassel presents a very nice option for the team to rely on. Cassel has the type of arm strength that will thrive in an outdoor environment where extra zip on passes might be necessary to combat the elements.

casseltojennings

Cassel obviously played outdoors in both Kansas City and New England and had arguably one of his best seasons of his career while playing in the cold weather in New England. Notably, Cassel posted a 105.1 QB rating while playing at Buffalo in late December.

Because of all of this, I think the Vikings are poised to become the type of team that can have success while playing in cold environment where the weather can be bipolar. If they can prove to be true to their identity of a hard nosed team who runs the ball with power and uses the pass wisely, they can prove to be equally dangerous offensively no matter the environment. I think playing outdoors will only help our defense, and will allow us to embrace the type of intense mentality Zimmer is installing.

In the meantime, I’m looking for a Vikings jersey lined with a fleece hoodie. The team might have to embrace the cold weather, but I’m not going to.

Skol.

It has been too long. I won’t bore you with reasons for my absence as none of the excuses are legitimate. Instead, I want to jump right back into being a more involved writer here at Vikings Territory. There have been quite a few things happening behind the scenes here at VT. We’ve definitely evolved in the quality and quantity of content. Above and beyond that, a complete redesign of the entire site should be making its way to all of you soon.

Enough of that, though.

We’re going to start a new reoccurring post here at Vikings Territory. It’s a pretty simple concept. Every week or so I will host various people out there on the interwebs and ask them a series of questions for them to respond to. The questions may be regarding a recent Vikings news talker. It might be an off-the-wall question that has nothing to do with the Vikings. Sometimes there may be a theme to the questions. Other times there won’t. Who knows? Quite honestly, it’s going to be whatever I think is fun and interesting that particular week. I do know that I will try and keep the questions light hearted and the responses blunt.

It won’t always be the same people. And it won’t always be writers from here at VT. We will try and mix it up and have an array of different people join in on the fun. And after our guests have provided their responses, I will end each question with a response of my own. There are two rules to make things more interesting:

  1. Responses must be less than 140 words. If the responder goes slightly over this boundary, they aren’t disqualified or anything. This isn’t a contest. Really, the restriction is to simplify things a little big and get a straight-forward answer.
  2. There are “Unacceptable Answers.” I will decide what these are on a case-by-case basis. Typically, I will try and think of answers that I deem unworthy. (Primarily because they don’t really answer the question.)

With that being said, let’s get to it. As it is the first installment of this post, I wanted to keep things in house. This week our guests are everyone’s favorite Vikings blogger Adam Warwas and our beloved Vikings super brain, Arif Hasan.

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