By Chris Serri
Today marks the beginning of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) for the Mininesota Vikings. The beginning of OTAs marks another early step towards the start of the NFL season, following the rookie and voluntary minicamps. They are important for NFL coaches, especially so for rookie coach Mike Zimmer, with this being another early opportunity to get some work done with his players. OTAs aren’t particularly too exciting, however, this year’s will be slightly more entertaining, mainly due to the position battle at quarterback. It will also be interesting to see our team’s rookies hit the field again after the conclusion of their mini-camp ending less than two weeks ago.
The quarterback competition this offseason begins with this year’s OTAs. These next couple of days will be an early chance for each quarterback to impress their new coaches. The competition is a wide-open race, and while there have been suggestions as to who the favorite is to win the job, each of the team’s three quarterbacks will be given a fair shot, as it has been reported that the three of them will split first-team reps.
As of now, it looks as though rookie Teddy Bridgewater or veteran Matt Cassel will be the starter week 1. The majority of fans are dissatisfied with Christian Ponder, and many are shocked that he is getting a chance to compete. While there have been ongoing rumors since prior to the draft of Ponder being traded, he is here to stay, at least for now, and he is looking to prove to Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer that he is their man. It will have a major uphill battle for Ponder, as he is seemingly the least-expected to win the competition.
The beginning of the quarterback competition will not be the only thing we’ll have our eyes on at the start of OTAs. With rookie mini-camp having recently ended, it will be exciting to see them on the field again. Teddy Bridgewater and Anthony Barr have drawn the most buzz of the entire group, as they were both top draft prospects selected in the first round. They will be exciting to watch for sure, however, there are several other rookies to keep an eye on that could potentially make an impact both during and season and in the years that are to come.
Defensive end Scott Crichton is an important player to watch. He has a very strong motor, and while he may not be the most athletic defensive end to have been selected in the draft, he is certainly one of the smartest. His natural football instincts are clear when watching him on tape, and they also translate to his stat line. Crichton had a college-career high 74 tackle in 2011, and while his tackle numbers were slightly lower in each of his next two years, he still had 22.5 sacks total over the course of his three seasons, averaging 7.5 sacks per season, which is a solid number. The most impressive number when analyzing Crichton is his 51 total tackles for a loss. This is where his strong motor comes into play. Scott Crichton has all the tools to be a very good defensive lineman in the NFL, and having the chance to work with a great defensive mind in Mike Zimmer will certainly help his development.
Running back Jerick McKinnon is another rookie that Vikings fans should have their eyes on. McKinnon was drafted out of Georgia Southern, and while he was originally an option-quarterback in college, his switch to tailback proved to be a smart move. McKinnon rushed for 3899 yards and 42 touchdowns over the course of his Georgia Sournern career, with his most impressive season being 2012, when he rushed for 1817 yards and 20 touchdowns. McKinnon is a freak of an athlete. He had one of the most impressive combines of any prospect in the 2014 draft, running a 4.41 40 yard while also bench pressing 32 reps. He also happened to be a top performer in the vertical jump, broad jump, 20 yard shuttle, and 3-cone drill.
Overall, his speed and versatility are superb. There are still several concerns with him, however. Many analysts believe he is a raw running back, having little experience as a traditional tailback. There are also concerns with him in the pass game, as he has little experience catching the football and his pass protection is not considered impressive. These perceived flaws can be fixed with proper coaching, as McKinnon has all the talent in the world world to become a very good running back in the NFL.
OTAs aren’t the most exciting part of the NFL offseason, but they are a good first step towards the NFL season. They give the coaches a chance to get some work done with their players, and it is also fun for the fans, as they get an early glimpse at their team’s position battles, as well as a chance to see the rookies in action. There are several important players to keep an eye on for Vikings’ fans, so it is time to get busy!