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Taylor Heinicke Making His Case for Vikings’ 53-Man Roster

The Vikings announced Tuesday that they have waived QB Mike Kafka with an injury designation. The move drops Minnesota’s roster to 75 players, which means there are still plenty of cuts that will need to happen for the final 53-man list.

Waiving Kafka also leaves just three quarterbacks on the roster, but there’s been much speculation as to whether Minnesota will carry just two for the season.

Back in July, Star Tribune writer Master Tesfatsion said the following:

“It’ll be interesting to see whether the Vikings keep three quarterbacks on the roster like they did last year, which I highly doubt [will] be the case.”

Since the NFL expanded the practice squad allotment from eight players to 10 last summer, teams have a little more leeway with how they use those slots. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Vikings keep just Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill on the active roster and consider hanging onto Heinicke via the practice squad.

However, Heinicke hopes that’s not the case.

It’s probably safe to say that each preseason game has proved nerve-wracking for Heinicke, but now that Kafka is out of the picture, Thursday will be his last chance to make a case for the Vikings carrying a third quarterback.

Heinicke is showing some real potential. His training camp performance had some definite rocky points, but the rookie’s game action has been fairly strong. Thus far, Heinicke has completed 30 of his 41 preseason pass attempts for 237 yards with one interception; against Dallas Saturday, Heinicke was 11-for-11. He’s looked a little more confident each game.

“The first snap against the Steelers, it was a little jittery,” Heinicke said. “I just wanted to get my first completion and get hit for the first time, and I think that happened both on one play. So I got that out of the way, and I’ve felt pretty good since.”

Heinicke said his dad taught him to focus on getting better each day and to not get overwhelmed or carried away by looking too far ahead.

He’s just taking it one game at a time.

Making the active roster would be the icing on the cake for Heinicke, who went undrafted in 2015 after graduating from Old Dominion. Although some may say playing for a small school—with a football program that didn’t even exist before Heinicke attended—would be a disadvantage. But for the young quarterback, he knows that playing for a smaller-market school gave him four years of game experience he probably would not have gotten elsewhere.

That game experience is paying off now.

Head coach Mike Zimmer hasn’t given any strong indication as to the team’s plans—or lack thereof—for a third quarterback, but he has acknowledged Heinicke’s progress.

“(Heinicke’s) still a young quarterback trying to find his way in a lot of things, but he made plays the other night, and he’s done a good job this camp,” Zimmer said recently. “So we’ll just have to see where everything unfolds.”

Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner also commented on Heinicke during a press conference Tuesday.

“Just getting a feel for playing and understanding the speed. He’s gotten a lot better with his feet, gotten the ball out quicker,” said Turner of Heinicke’s progress. “In the second half, the coverage isn’t as good, the defenses aren’t as sophisticated, but we can’t control that. But he’s made plays that show he’s got a chance to develop into a guy that could be on our roster.”

One knock against Heinicke has been his size. He’s listed at 6’1″, on the smaller side for an NFL quarterback, and plenty of critics have pointed that out.

The rookie doesn’t want to hear it.

When I asked Heinicke about the height critique at training camp, he chuckled and shook his head; his body language said, “I’ve heard this before; it’s not an issue.”

“Whenever I hear people say things like that, I just tell them to look at guys like Russell Wilson or Drew Brees,” Heinicke said. The two successful quarterbacks are listed at 5’11” and 6’0″, respectively.

“If they can make it, why can’t I?”

Anyone will probably tell you that Taylor Heinicke is one of the kindest guys in the locker room. When it comes to the field, however, the rookie plays with a [healthy] chip on his shoulder. Maybe, at the end of the day, criticism has only helped drive Heinicke to prove people wrong. He wants to be part of the Minnesota Vikings, and it shows.

Come Thursday evening, no one will be more hungry for a big performance than Heinicke. After all, his career may depend on it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lindsey Young

Lindsey Young (Featured Columnist) is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report, KSTP.com, and Fox Sports North. In addition to her work with VT, Lindsey is a contributing writer for Canis Hoopus, runs a bi-monthly fan feature for Timberwolves.com and is a freelance writer for Vikings.com. You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter.

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18 Comments

  1. I like the look in this kid’s eye, despite small school free agent status, he doesn’t seem overwhelmed by his new surroundings

  2. I’m starting to think about teddy and heinicke as 1 and 2 let hill go. For one thing their style of play is very similar so the offense doesn’t have to change for another thing Hill is really old and fragile why keep him around

    1. LOL. really old he says. He’s 35. I’m not saying you’re wrong about it in football years, but imagine what that makes ol’ Frans…

      1. I’m 36 and I know how much longer it takes to heal then when I was 25 can’t imagine getting hit by 300 some lbs of lineman ouch

        1. Man, I don’t wanna hear that. Im 25 and feel like it takes so much longer than 18… Hangovers are worse than even 21

  3. I know heinicke isn’t ready yet but it is not like he has to be able to fill in day one

    1. I would like to see Heinicke stay on the roster, but I don’t think he’s ready to be the backup. I see what you’re saying about Hill being older and a different style of QB, but the problem is … what if we DO need a backup on Day 1? You never know what will happen (exhibit A: last season).

      1. HEY! Cut with the negative vibes Lindsey!
        Nothing happens to Teddy!
        Worth repeating;
        Nothing happens to Teddy!

        I like Heincke too but agree, he’s just not ready for backup duties yet.

  4. A bit of pressure on the kid this weekend, it’ll be telling to see how he responds. I’m hoping for a couple bombs to Diggs.

  5. Even if we did need a backup week one I think Heinicke could get us through a couple weeks and if you remember Lindsey Hill didn’t make it to week 2 last year we knocked him out in the 3rd or 4th quarter besides it would be xp for Heinicke the rest of the team is gearing up for the future so let’s do the same at qb

  6. I would like to keep him on the practice squad and groom him for future back up or possible future trade. But I am afraid he has been alittle too good in preseason games. Someone would claim him of waivers.
    Then again, why three QBs on 53? There is no point cause if we need that the game would be lost anyway.

  7. Keep Taylor Heineke, and let Hill go. that is what I predict, and I think that is what the coaches are seeing also. this week will tell alot, and I have confidence that Taylors 4 years of experience will show that he is ready to be a back up. SKOL

  8. Heineke and Edmund Robinson are the two guys I’m worried about getting through waivers. Robinson has flashed potential lately and Heineke has made good decisions. I agree that he and Teddy have similar skill sets, but I don’t see them releasing Hill this year.

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