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2014 Minnesota Vikings: OTA Recap Heading into Minicamp

I haven’t posted as regularly as I have liked to, and that’s mostly my fault. I’ve lagged turning in this terrible computer into Lenovo and I’ve been watching too much of the World Cup. Recently, I did publish a piece on Mike Priefer and his impact on special teams but other than that have been quiet. Hopefully more coming soon.

As the Minnesota Vikings enter minicamp, the round of offseason training activities hasn’t revealed much—as it usually doesn’t. Still there are a number of offseason storylines that are worth catching up on as Minnesota enters the next phase of its offseason program.

The quarterback picture is clearing up. As Christian Ponder has pointed out, Teddy Bridgewater has started taking significantly more first team reps than he has, and it seems like Matt Cassel has taken the role of the starting quarterback heading into the preseason.

David Yankey has finished his year at Stanford, and had attended the most recent round of OTAs. Both Scott Crichton (Oregon State) and Anthony Barr (UCLA) still had to finish out their year and were unable to join their teammates, though they have been visited by Vikings coaches and learning the defense from hundreds of miles away.

In coming back, Yankey evidently took the red eye to Minnesota.

We’ll be able to see both of them in this upcoming minicamp, and Barr’s transition from running back to edge rusher to off-ball linebacker will be one of the more fascinating storylines in camp.

With Xavier Rhodes’ impressive showings in multiple OTA sessions, there are rumors that the Vikings are interested in recently cut cornerback Brandon Flowers, though it may be just a way of keeping files up to date, and not genuine interest.

The offense is becoming easier to understand for everyone. Regardless, everything will be re-taught at training camp.

Norv Turner’s offenses use a lot of freaking tight ends, so maybe Kyle Rudolph is not enough. On the other hand, the second tight end is usually primarily a blocker and Rhett Ellison is superb at that sort of thing.

Jasper Brinkley is pretty excited to return to Minnesota, and admits he was only “OK” with Arizona. He’s glad to have recovered from a minor groin tweak, too.

Xavier Rhodes is being encouraged to play by feel and trust his instincts.

Jerome Simpson is surprised he needed to take a pay cut from last year. Even though he should expect not to start, I understand it from an on-field perspective—he was the second-leading receiver for the Vikings last year. Obviously, the off-field stuff and inconsistency is kind of a big deal and he should have considered that.

From the most recent OTA:

  • In the secondary, Marcus Sherels took some reps with the first team in nickel packages as the slot corner (with Munnerlyn and Rhodes on the outside).
  • With the corners was Robert Blanton, starting alongside Harrison Smith because of injuries to Jamarca Sanford (muscle pull) and Andrew Sendejo (back).
  • Those defensive backs did well enough against the quarterbacks in OTAs. Rhodes picked off Cassel, and Cassel had a few more bad throws with that. Teddy Bridgewater was picked off by Dom Decicco and overthrew a number of passes. Christian Ponder’s limited reps were good, evidently. They finished with a two-minute drill that connected to Kain Colter on a run-and-catch touchdown over Jabari Price.
  • Gerald Hodges took a few reps with Chad Greenway in the nickel package.
  • On the lines, Kevin Murphy filled in for Matt Kalil (knee), Joe Berger for John Sullivan (marriage), and Fred Evans for Linval Joseph (unknown).

Availability roundup:

  • You got a good sense of who was or wasn’t available based on the previous category of things, but it’s sometimes easier to read things broken down individually.
  • Matt Kalil, who suffered from a knee injury for most of 2013, is recovering from a minor surgery performed in April. He performed fully in team drills earlier, but “pushed himself a little too hard” and scaled back. He’s expected to be 100 percent by camp.
  • John Sullivan got married! Congratulations.
  • Linval Joseph had a “procedure” performed that the Vikings knew would limit his offseason availability when they signed him. Don’t know what it was, but the smart money is either the knee or the ankle (he had an ankle injury last year and was listed for knee issues—probably—in two games between 2012 and 2013). He has sat out OTAs.
  • Jamarca Sanford has had a muscle pull from two weeks ago that he hasn’t recovered from (or more likely, the Vikings are being cautious). The same was true of Josh Robinson.
  • Andrew Sendejo underwent a back procedure earlier in the offseason (first reported by the Star Tribune in late May) and is still not cleared to practice.
  • Everson Griffen suffered from a back strain at the same time as Sanford’s muscle pull but it is evidently not a problem right now.
  • Chase Baker was held out. Don’t know why.
  • Joe Banyard was held out. Don’t know why.

Hooray offseason!

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  1. Arif, any idea how the 53 will break down by position? Think we would keep 3 or 4 TEs? Would love to see if AC can become a tweener weapon.

    Would love to see if Line could beat out Asiata to backup Jet and AP. Asiata is a totally in exciting player.

    We must have the most white WRs of any team in camp. Seems Thielen, Kolter and Lora have some skills tho.

    Also, word is that Flowers is more comfortable in zone, how do you see that working with Zim’s D? I remember you had somewhat high hopes the Vikes would trade for him earlier this Spring.

    1. My guess is that the Vikings will keep 4 TEs, but that’s tentative. The more I think about Leonard, the more bearish I am on him; he’s short for a tight end and has been very inconsistent throughout his career. Given that he’s not really much of a blocker, it’ll be hard to buy him for his promise as a passer.

      Line is super interesting. Playing him as an RB may be better than as a FB for sure.

      With Cooper instead of Lestar Jean, you may be right on the white WR count, but I’d never count out New England (though checking on Ourlads they “only” have three, unlike other years).

      I’ll write up something on Flowers late if I get the chance. He’s not a scheme fit, but that much talent may be worth a look.

  2. There is nothing in the linked article that shows anything about Brinkley admitting he was “poor in Minnesota”.

    1. Sorry PurpleDude. I accidentally misread the quote “Brinkley added that he wasn’t surprised that the Vikings wanted him back, despite the fact that he had a difficult year last season.” to mean more than last year and my head combined that with his soft comments about his play under Cover/Tampa-2 (here:

      Will fix.

  3. Wright, Simpson, Patterson and Jennings might think differently about the Vikings WR core being the weightest in the NFL.

    1. Howdy Real Thor, pardon me, I was simply referring to the number of white wideouts currently in camp. Only one or perhaps two will make it onto the 53, depending on whether Norv carries 5 or 6 receivers. I can foresee Thielen being WR5 and either Rodney Smith or Kolter/Lora/Cooper being #6 if he carries 6.

  4. Arif, do you think Zim would mix zone and press to accommodate Flowers? I confess I don’t have my head wrapped around the different schemes so am speaking from ignorance here.

    Seems Flowers suffered last year by being asked to play more man-press and also more slot, neither of which he is a good fit for.

  5. “On the lines, Kevin Murphy filled in for Matt Kalil (knee), Joe Berger for John Sullivan (marriage), and Fred Evans for Linval Joseph (unknown).”
    Poor Sully!
    … jk

  6. Any reasons for Kalil to wait so long after the season to have surgery? It hints of a Sidney Rice/Percy Harvin attitude about their offseason vs being ready in time?

  7. Kalil could have had advice from doctors to do a rest and see if it gets better. Meny doctors are loathe to recommend surgery as a first recourse, so delaying surgery may have had nothing to do with attitude.