Minnesota Vikings: 2014 NFL Training Camp Report

Vikings Camp Report: Day 15

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
7:30
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings will still be without safety Robert Blanton because of a hamstring injury on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals, and coach Mike Zimmer wants to use the exhibition game to get a long look at four safeties in particular: Chris Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman. It seems reasonable to conclude those four are the ones receiving the strongest consideration to start next to Harrison Smith (at least until Blanton comes back), and Zimmer said he hopes Saturday's game will help sort out the depth chart. "Right now, I am looking for the other safety. That is why I want to play these guys quite a bit this week. I want to see how it goes from there and then try to figure out the rest of the pecking order as we get going. Hopefully, this will be a big week for those safeties."
  • Injuries are also affecting the Vikings' plans at the cornerback spot opposite Xavier Rhodes, where the Vikings have indicated Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson are sharing the No. 1 spot on their recent depth charts. That seems a bit unnecessary, especially since Munnerlyn has been getting many of the first-team snaps in the base defense, but Robinson has been playing outside when Munnerlyn slides into the slot in nickel, and a third cornerback is essentially a starter in the NFL these days, anyway. Robinson, though, was out of practice with a lingering hamstring injury again on Thursday, and Zimmer indicated that's making it tough for him to nail down a spot. "Well, it’s hard to make the club in the tub," Zimmer said when asked if Munnerlyn was entrenched at the other cornerback spot. "I guess that would be a yes. I don’t know if he’s entrenched, but if you’re not going out there and proving it every single day and proving it in the games then it’s hard to know."
  • Zimmer has talked at various points about the advice he picked up from Bill Parcells when he was the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator for four seasons under the Hall of Fame coach. He said on Thursday he was planning an end-of-training-camp call to check in with Parcells and talk about the Vikings at the end of his first camp as the head coach. "I had Coach Parcells' number on my phone today but I didn’t push the button," Zimmer said. "I plan on calling either tonight or tomorrow, just to talk about things."
  • They've become good friends after two years of rooming together at training camp, and Cordarrelle Patterson went out of his way -- literally -- to stick up for Adam Thielen during a drill on Thursday. Both receivers were returning mock kickoffs, starting their runback with a ball in their hands as defenders tried to strip it away. Patterson was waiting in line for his turn when he thought players were trying to rip the ball away from Thielen a little too forcefully. "Get your hands off him," Patterson snapped. "That's a receiver. You don't touch my receivers like that."
  • In the final autograph session of training camp, things got a bit out of hand. Fans were leaning against a chain link fence to get Teddy Bridgewater’s autograph when it collapsed, leaving a row of kids trying to pick themselves up and stay in line for Bridgewater’s signature. St. Paul Pioneer Press photographer Ben Garvin has a fantastic photo of the scene here.
  • The Vikings will head back to the Twin Cities on Friday after a closed walk-through on Friday; Zimmer said the Vikings will go through a mock game, working through different situations and making sure they have the correct substitution packages for those situations. Then, they'll be back at the team facility in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, after Saturday's game. Asked how he thought his first camp went, Zimmer said, "I think it was productive. We were able to come out and work efficiently, work quickly, move to different spots. Hopefully I learned something every day about this team, but they haven’t disappointed me. They have been very willing to do whatever. I heard someone say, 'Buy in;' I guess, maybe. There hasn’t been any complaining, whether that is buying in or not. In training camp there is usually some complaining. I like this team; they are good guys and they work real hard. As long as we play together as a team, we play real hard, we do the things that we are trying to coach them to do, then we have a chance to be a good football team."

Vikings Camp Report: Day 14

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
7:40
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • After throwing three interceptions during Monday's practice, Teddy Bridgewater was picked off twice more on Wednesday afternoon, by Mistral Raymond and Gerald Hodges. Bridgewater finished the day 12-for-17 in full-team drills, including a pass he threw away and a deep ball Adam Thielen dropped with a step on the defensive back covering him. Matt Cassel, who was again listed at the top of the Vikings' depth chart on Wednesday and appears to be solidly at the front of the Vikings' quarterback race, hit 12 of his 14 throws, with his only incompletions coming on drops from Kyle Rudolph and Matt Asiata. Christian Ponder went 6-for-8, with Shaun Prater breaking up one pass.
  • Linebacker Dom DeCicco will have surgery on his hip on Thursday. He was one of three players not to practice on Wednesday, joining Robert Blanton (hamstring) and Chase Ford (broken foot). Blanton started doing some drills on the side, as he tries to get back in time to compete for the Vikings' starting safety spot alongside Harrison Smith. Ford was also doing some running on Wednesday. Josh Robinson, who has been battling a hamstring injury, also visited the trainer's tent early in practice.
  • Cassel connected with Greg Jennings on the play of the day, hitting a long throw down the sideline to the receiver, who was covered well by Marcus Sherels. The quarterback and the receiver connected on both of the passes Cassel targeted for Jennings.
  • Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, who has won praise from coach Mike Zimmer, defensive coordinator George Edwards and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, got some first-team snaps at nose tackle on Wednesday. He'll get a chance to make his case with Linval Joseph still out because of a gunshot wound, and it seems like Stephen has a good shot at a roster spot; Patterson said on Wednesday the former Connecticut tackle is much better than his seventh-round draft status would indicate.
  • Running back Chuck Foreman, who played on three Vikings Super Bowl teams in the 1970s and still has the third-most rushing yards in franchise history, was spotted on the sidelines watching Vikings practice on Wednesday.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 13

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
11:20
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Monday evening's practice was a rough one for Teddy Bridgewater. The rookie quarterback threw a pair of interceptions in 11-on-11 drills, to Audie Cole and Shaun Prater, and was picked off by Captain Munnerlyn in a 7-on-7 drill. Bridgewater's interception to Prater went off running back Jerick McKinnon's hands, and wide receiver Greg Jennings said the interceptions were partly a function of Bridgewater working on some new things in the offense, but Bridgewater had another pass that Derek Cox nearly picked off and misfired on a couple other throws. He finished the night 14-for-22 with two interceptions in full-team drills. Two of those incompletions were spikes to stop the clock in a two-minute drill. Matt Cassel was 14-for-23 (Adrian Peterson dropped one pass, and Sharrif Floyd broke up another), and Christian Ponder went 4-for-6, including a spike in a two-minute drill.
  • Chris Crocker began the night in the first-team defense alongside Harrison Smith at safety, and we could be seeing plenty more of him there; coach Mike Zimmer said Crocker might start in the Vikings' second preseason game on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals. "I've seen him for a few days," Zimmer said. "I haven't seen him enough to say he's ready to do this or ready to do that. He's very smart. He understands the system. He can help everybody else." Zimmer added "it's hurting (Robert) Blanton that he's not out there." The safety has been out since last week with a hamstring injury.
  • The Vikings used Anthony Barr as a defensive end in their nickel package on Monday night, lining him up at right end while moving Everson Griffen inside. Griffen often rushed from the tackle position on passing downs last year, and the Vikings' nickel defense had a front four of Barr, Floyd, Griffen and Brian Robison on Monday. It wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Vikings head into the season with that defensive line in nickel situations.
  • Six players were on both the Vikings' top kickoff and kick return units: Michael Mauti, Adam Thielen, Andrew Sendejo, Larry Dean, Rhett Ellison and Shaun Prater. Several of those players are in battles for roster spots, and if the Vikings keep the same special teams units in the weeks before the start of the season, it could have an effect on several roster decisions.
  • Blair Walsh connected on all eight of his field goal attempts during a drill on Monday night, hitting his final two kicks from 45 and 48 yards.
Tuesday's schedule: The Vikings will take their final day off in Mankato, giving players a break before returning for the last two days of camp on Wednesday and Thursday.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 12

August, 10, 2014
Aug 10
8:05
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings came out of Friday's preseason opener relatively healthy, but the Vikings were missing several players at practice on Sunday afternoon. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson and linebacker Dom DeCicco weren't on the practice field, and safety Mistral Raymond (who suffered a concussion during Friday's game) was doing work on the side with safeties Robert Blanton and Jamarca Sanford, who missed Friday's game with hamstring and back injuries, respectively. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, of course, was not practicing after a stray bullet struck him in the calf in a nightclub incident on Saturday morning. On a more positive note, cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels returned from hamstring injuries, and tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) was once again out of a walking boot.
  • The Vikings began their practice outside, but had to move indoors for the first time during training camp thanks to a jagged bolt of lightning off to the west of their practice field. That turned Sunday's session into a glorified walk-through, and the Vikings were only able to do so much work inside the Minnesota State field house. Zimmer said he hadn't written practice schedules for this week until after Friday night's game, and the Vikings will have to resume the work of drilling their mistakes once they get back outdoors on Monday.
  • Zimmer wasn't thrilled with the way the Vikings' secondary played the run, particularly on Darren McFadden's 23-yard burst at the end of the first quarter. Safety Antone Exum had a shot at McFadden at the Raiders' 29, but came down with inside leverage and couldn't fight through McFadden's stiff arm to bring him down until the Raiders' 43. "I tell our guys all the time that long runs are typically because of the perimeter run force," Zimmer said. "We did not do a good job when the safety was coming downhill on that play, so we ended up giving him 14 more yards on that run than we should have."
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen continued to win praise for his work on special teams, after returning three punts for 53 yards and making a tackle for a 4-yard loss on a punt at the end of the first half. Thielen was visibly upset he didn't score on his second return, which went for 26 yards, but special teams coach Mike Priefer said that was just a matter of Thielen making one more move. "He is probably disappointed that he didn’t score on the one, but that’s something that a young punt returner, that’s a mistake they are going to make," Priefer said. "He saw the seam and he just went for it full speed. He’s got to kind of dip and go to the outside or widen them and go back inside but it was a very, very well-blocked play." Priefer said Sherels is still entrenched as the Vikings' punt returner, but with Sherels fighting a hamstring injury, it's not bad for the Vikings to have another option they trust.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen did well in Friday's game, Zimmer said. He wound up with five tackles in the game and showed some nice push up the middle on a couple run plays. With Joseph likely to miss some time, the seventh-round pick could see some more opportunities.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 11

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
6:45
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • In the team's final practice before Friday's preseason opener, coach Mike Zimmer let the Vikings work without pads, and the team finished about 45 minutes early. The afternoon session had the feel of a dress rehearsal, with no 7-on-7 periods and some extra full-team work. The Vikings' starters will likely play a few series on Friday night, and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater could play as many as two quarters, with some of his work coming with the Vikings' first-team offense.
  • Bridgewater was intercepted for the fourth time in training camp when he threw a high screen pass that bounced off the fingers of running back Dominique Williams and landed in the arms of cornerback Kendall James. Bridgewater finished the day 6-for-10 in full-team drills, and Matt Cassel was 5-for-6. Third-string quarterback Christian Ponder, who figures to get plenty of playing time once the starters are out on Friday night, had one of his busier days of camp, throwing a total of 13 passes and completing nine. Ponder waited a beat too long on a downfield throw to Erik Lora, but fared better against the Vikings' first-team defense than he did on Tuesday.
  • Zimmer again spent plenty of time coaching cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who appeared out of position on a downfield pass. The coach said on Wednesday he's had to adjust his approach to Rhodes somewhat, trying to go a bit softer on him than he did early in practice. "That's about every player; you try to figure out what buttons to push," Zimmer said. "He's better when he's playing off (the receiver); that was one of his weaknesses early on. He's done that a lot better. He understands the coverages much better. He understands the alignments and where he's supposed to be. The press technique, we've still got some work to do, but he has great recovery speed. He's improved in about every area."
  • Safety Jamarca Sanford and cornerback Marcus Sherels didn't practice Wednesday, in addition to injured safety Robert Blanton and tight end Chase Ford. Sherels watched practice next to Blanton from the sideline, while Sanford sat out with a back spasm. His status for Friday's game is unclear.
  • The Vikings received a visit on Wednesday morning from Hall of Fame defensive end Alan Page, who addressed the team about what it takes to be great in the NFL. "He said he went to Notre Dame, and I was the only guy who clapped," said tight end -- and Notre Dame product -- Kyle Rudolph. "We've got to get these other guys up on their history." And in the afternoon, Minnesota Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders was on the sideline, chatting with general manager Rick Spielman. The Timberwolves have regularly held training camp at Minnesota State, where the basketball area is named after owner (and Minnesota State graduate) Glen Taylor. We know what you're thinking, and no, we didn't see Saunders on his phone, trying to complete a deal for Kevin Love.

Vikings camp report: Day 10

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
8:00
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Coach Mike Zimmer's fiery side was on display late in the afternoon practice after defensive end Everson Griffen jumped offsides in an 11-on-11 drill. Zimmer immediately called for the entire team to drop and begin pushups on the field. (I lost count but I believe it was 10.) "It was spur of the moment," Zimmer said. "The period before, a couple guys jumped offsides, and I got tired of it."
  • Veteran safety Chris Crocker, signed Monday, got some work with the first team Tuesday. Zimmer acknowledged he has long planned to bring in Crocker, who played for him during most of the past seven seasons, and envisions him as a facilitator of the defensive system to younger players. "I thought it would be good for him to be around," Zimmer said. "We've got a pretty young secondary, a pretty young defense. He knows the system well. I thought he would be in that defensive back room to help these guys understand exactly what I'm looking for. He's been with me for a little while."
  • That Crocker got work with the first team speaks to the Vikings' situation at safety opposite of Harrison Smith. Robert Blanton, who had been working with the starters, is trying to come back from a hamstring injury. Zimmer said Blanton's timetable appears more optimistic than once believed, but said: "Blanton's got to get back out here. He was looking good early. Now he had to get back out here and show what he can do."
  • The Vikings are beginning to prepare for Friday's preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium. Zimmer planed to speak with to the team Tuesday night about the value of a home-field advantage. Temporary digs have not usually been kind to NFL teams, but Zimmer said: "Maybe we can be the first." Meanwhile, Zimmer indicated that tailback Adrian Peterson won't play. That sounds like a good plan. Peterson is healthy and doesn't need preseason work, whether or not the Vikings are installing a new offense.
  • The Vikings are scheduled for a walk-thru practice Wednesday morning from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. local time. Their primary practice will go from 3 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. local time.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
8:05
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings quickly put safety Chris Crocker to work after signing him on Monday afternoon; the 34-year-old was in team drills right away, mostly working with the second team. Crocker said he's been working out, but will need a little time to re-acclimate himself to running with the extra weight of pads. Still, his familiarity with coach Mike Zimmer's defense meant the Vikings had no qualms about throwing him into their full-team work on Monday.
  • Linebacker Michael Mauti got some first-team work at strongside linebacker on Monday, and has been largely playing outside after working out at middle linebacker last season. Mauti said he's around 240 pounds, playing at a little lighter weight than last year because of all the running linebackers have to do in Zimmer's scheme (and have had to do in practice). He's now nearly two years removed from his last knee surgery, and said he feels great. Anthony Barr looks like the probable starter at strongside linebacker, but Mauti is trying to make a roster bid based on his versatility. "The more you can do, absolutely (it helps)," he said.
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks weren't asked to throw as much in full-team drills as they have been in recent days. Matt Cassel hit 6 of 9 passes in 11-on-11 work, while Teddy Bridgewater went 8-for-10, rebounding from a tough night on Saturday and finishing his day with some first-team snaps. He targeted his final three throws for Greg Jennings, hitting two of them. Christian Ponder worked with the third team, connecting on 4 of 7 passes, including a drop and two spikes in a two-minute drill.
  • In a practice-it-in-case-of-emergency moment, all three quarterbacks also got some work on pooch punts. Bridgewater was the best of the three there, hitting a couple punts with decent hang time.
  • Tight end Chase Ford, who is on the physically unable to perform list with a broken foot, seems to be recovering quickly; he was out of a walking boot and moving around without a noticeable limp on Monday, as he watched practice in athletic shoes. Safety Andrew Sendejo was back from the PUP list and went through his first practice, as well, as Zimmer tried to get a handle on his crowded safety situation. Tackle Antonio Richardson, however, left with a leg injury late in practice after his leg got rolled on a running play.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
8:20
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings had a hard, physical practice on Thursday, and Friday's high of 87 degrees made it the hottest day of training camp so far. Coach Mike Zimmer said he anticipated the team's practice level might drop off a bit on Friday afternoon, and he was correct. Asked to describe the day, Zimmer said, "Sloppy. I didn't think we were as precise as we've been on both sides of the ball. The effort was good, but we've got a lot of things in, so some of the stuff runs together for them. We're making way too many mistakes, though, for my liking, so we've got to keep working it, getting this stuff right."
  • Anthony Barr has continued to impress in practice, to the point where Zimmer said on Friday the rookie has a "strong" chance to start at linebacker. "I probably would have said that after the first minicamp," Zimmer said. "His alignments are just a tiny little bit off, so if he'll fix that, he's got good power when he punches, he did a couple nice things in that move-the-ball (drill). He's blitzing well. He's still got to learn some of the rush things in this league. But for the most part, he's advancing as well as expected."
  • The sloppy play certainly extended to the quarterbacks on Friday: Matt Cassel threw an interception to Kurt Coleman early in 11-on-11 work and had another pass batted down by Linval Joseph. Teddy Bridgewater went 10-for-17 (though one of his incompletions was called back for defensive holding) and was intercepted for the second straight day by Derek Cox, who stepped in front of a pass intended for Adam Thielen and returned it for a touchdown. "We gave them a lot of different looks on defense today, too," Zimmer said. "That's part of the evaluation. It's not to line up there in the same look every time, and they know where they're going before the ball (is snapped). It's great for a young quarterback like this to see some of the things we do on defense, because that's what people are going to do to him, early in the year anyway, if he's the guy. For me, if I'm the defensive coordinator, I'm going to give you a bunch of different looks." Christian Ponder went 5-for-5.
  • Zimmer unveiled a new toy on Friday: a siren he set to sound after five seconds at the end of every play near the conclusion of practice. He had used the tactic in Cincinnati to remind players they needed to go hard for at least that long on every play. "We can't block this guy and stop," Zimmer said. "Let's block him, keep blocking him, stay on him, stay on him, stay on him. Basically, finish."
  • Considering the overall feel of the day, it's appropriate that one of the Vikings' hydraulic camera cranes crashed into the chain-link fence at the back of their practice fields, leaving a sizable dent in the fence. After some effort, the Vikings were able to get the crane moved and in position to film the team's next drill. "Sloppy off the field, too," Zimmer deadpanned.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
7:40
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • For the first time in Vikings training camp, we've seen an interception in full-team drills. Actually, there were two of them on Thursday, both coming off rookie Teddy Bridgewater. First, Audie Cole made what might have been the play of the day, jumping in front of a pass to the flat and picking it off with what would have been a clear lane to the end zone. Then, Derek Cox snatched away a short pass intended for Adam Thielen in a 2-minute drill. Matt Cassel was nearly picked off, as well, when Xavier Rhodes made a nice play to drive on a sideline throw intended for Jerome Simpson. He got his hands on the pass, but couldn't bring down the interception.
  • Captain Munnerlyn returned to team drills on Thursday, and got some work in the Vikings' base defense opposite Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings will need to see if Munnerlyn can play in their base defense, as opposed to only the nickel package, but they were treating him like a member of their top base defense on Thursday. Cornerback Josh Robinson had also returned from a minor hamstring injury that caused him to leave early on Wednesday. Tight end AC Leonard, who left Wednesday's practice with a headache, did not return on Thursday.
  • Adrian Peterson got most of the day off, with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon getting most of the first-team work at running back. Asiata, to me, looks quicker through the holes than he was last year, when he averaged 3.8 yards on 44 carries. He could get some carries in relief of Peterson this year, and he's big enough to be a forceful downhill runner if he can do a better job of getting through the line with some speed this season.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson got his first work of camp on kick returns, after sitting out the first four practices with a minor foot injury. The Vikings have worked a number of other return men in his place -- Marcus Sherels, Thielen, Jarius Wright and McKinnon among them -- as they try to figure out who can take over if Patterson has a bigger role in the offense. But once he got back in his familiar position on Thursday, Patterson gave a brief reminder of what made him an All-Pro return man last year: He hit a hole on the left side of the Vikings' wall and surged down the sideline for a nice return.
  • Referee Carl Cheffers and his crew were in town for their first day of work with the Vikings on Thursday. They met with the media to outline rule changes this season and were scheduled to meet with the Vikings on Thursday night before doing some more work with the team on the practice field the rest of the week. In his presentation to the media, Cheffers spent a good deal of time covering the NFL's 2014 officiating points of emphasis: Cracking down on illegal hands to the face and taking a stricter view of contact between cornerbacks and receivers. He also covered the league's new replay policy, which will involved NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino in reviews. Officials will now be able to talk to the league office in New York, as well as other members of the officiating crew, via a "Janet Jackson headset," as Cheffers called it. Referees will still wear stadium microphones on their lapels, and both microphones will need battery packs. Of course, they'll carry a flag and a bean bag, and -- as everyone does in 2014 -- they'll carry a pager.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
8:35
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • It was just for a series, but Teddy Bridgewater saw first-team snaps for the first time in training camp. He threw on three of his four plays with the first-team offense, handing off to Adrian Peterson once, and spent the rest of the day working with the second team. Bridgewater finished the day 12-for-15 in full-team work, though many of his passes were checkdowns to the running backs, and coach Mike Zimmer wasn't as happy with his accuracy as he's been on other days. Matt Cassel was 8-for-13, getting a pass batted down at the line of scrimmage and another one nearly intercepted by Xavier Rhodes. Christian Ponder threw just one pass in 11-on-11 work, completing it to Joe Banyard.
  • Linebacker Anthony Barr also saw his first action with the Vikings' top defensive unit, working much of the day at linebacker. He hurried Bridgewater on one blitz, and was used as a pass rusher in sub packages, but Zimmer's report on him wasn't exactly glowing. "The only time I noticed him, he was late on a blitz," Zimmer said. "We talked about that."
  • Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd had one of his more impressive days in camp, batting down a pass from Bridgewater and rushing off the edge to hurry Cassel on a throw to Cordarrelle Patterson. Cassel had to step up in the pocket and lofted a pass too close to the sideline for Patterson to catch with both feet in bounds.
  • With Robert Blanton out because of a hamstring injury, competition for the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith is wide open. Mistral Raymond got most of the work with the first team, and Kurt Coleman also saw some snaps with the top defense. Blanton could miss several weeks, which would give others a chance to win the spot. It's telling, though, that safety Jamarca Sanford hasn't gotten a chance to work with the first team; Zimmer on Wednesday cited the injury that Sanford had during OTAs and minicamp, but the safety has been participating in practice since the start of training camp. Whatever the reason, it seems Sanford is behind several players at the moment.
  • The Vikings ran a large number of screen passes on Wednesday as they worked on installing their offense, and running back Jerick McKinnon was particularly impressive; he caught four passes from Bridgewater, and surged down the right sideline on one pass after cornerback Kendall James took a bad angle on him. McKinnon ran a 4.41 40 at the NFL scouting combine and has looked smooth as a receiver during training camp. He'll be fun to watch if he gets a chance to work in the open field during the preseason.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
11:58
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings have a day off on Tuesday, and coach Mike Zimmer will use it to meet with his staff and decide which players need more practice snaps and which ones might get less work. It's getting harder and harder to see the team's quarterback competition as anything other than a race between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel and Bridgewater got most of the work in the Vikings' night practice, which was heavy on playbook installation; Cassel again took the first-team snaps, while Bridgewater worked with the second team and Ponder with the third. Cassel hit 5 of his 9 passes and found a wide open Greg Jennings on a nice throw down the right sideline. Bridgewater went 12-for-13, and Ponder went 1-for-2. All three quarterbacks had a dropped pass, which means Bridgewater and Ponder technically didn't miss a receiver all night. But when the Vikings are giving Cassel the work with the starters -- and using much of their remaining time on Bridgewater -- it doesn't say much for Ponder's chances. Bridgewater hit 4 of his 12 completions to running backs, and had to be bailed out by his receivers on a couple throws, but he did a nice job stepping up in the pocket, made a solid throw to Rodney Smith on the run and again connected with Adam Thielen. He's continued to impress.
  • Blair Walsh got his first chance to kick during training camp, and made seven of his eight field goal attempts. His lone miss was from 44 yards out, and Walsh finished the session by drilling a 52-yarder.
  • First-round pick Anthony Barr showed his speed as a pass-rusher in a sack, so to speak, of Cassel during 11-on-11 work. Barr surged through the middle of the Vikings' line on a blitz, getting to Cassel as the play was blown dead (quarterbacks, of course, aren't allowed to get hit during training camp). He's mostly worked with the second team, but has had a handful of first-team snaps. He might have to get past Audie Cole for the starting strong-side linebacker job early in the season, but Barr's size and speed has the Vikings excited about what they're seeing.
  • The Vikings did their first goal-line work on Monday night, and it was easy to see why Zimmer wanted to keep Adrian Peterson out of the session. The Vikings were practicing at "thud" tempo, where defenders initiate contact without taking ballcarriers to the ground, but the drill featured some live hitting, like when Jasper Brinkley drilled Matt Asiata for a loss on the first snap of the drill and the third-string defense hammered undrafted free agent Dominique Williams.
  • The evening practice had a special guest: Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who is in Mankato for a summit with the team's ownership group, watched the session from the top row of Blakeslee Stadium, sitting with general manager Rick Spielman.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
8:00
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Robert Blanton's bid for the starting safety spot next to Harrison Smith continues to pick up steam; Blanton was again working next to Smith in the first unit on Sunday, while Jamarca Sanford -- who missed most of the Vikings' offseason program with a pulled muscle -- took second-team snaps. Coach Mike Zimmer said how impressed he was with Blanton's coverage skills on Sunday afternoon and wanted to see how the Notre Dame product fared in run support. Blanton came on strong at the end of last season after injuries forced a move to slot cornerback, and the coverage skills he flashed there could translate well to the safety position. The Vikings want to be able to put their safeties in man coverage at times so they can stay in their base defense and still handle three-receiver sets. "Robert has honestly impressed me with being in the right place all the time," Zimmer said. "He has really good ball skills, and he has made a couple really, really nice plays on the ball. He has been very solid and steady, he understands the checks and really the communication in the back end of where he is supposed to be."
  • Chad Greenway got some work at middle linebacker on Sunday, and it still seems possible he ends up there. The Vikings would be able to put Greenway in charge of their defensive huddle, knowing he'll likely stay on the field in nickel situations and could provide some continuity there. Greenway will have to earn the job, though, and he made a nice play in the Vikings' first padded practice on Sunday, driving Adrian Peterson back into Matt Cassel on the way to a sack. If the Vikings moved Greenway to the middle, they'd be able to put a couple of younger, athletic linebackers on either side of him. Gerald Hodges got some work at Greenway's usual weak-side linebacker spot, while Audie Cole continued to receive snaps on the strong side. Cole played in the middle last season, but if Anthony Barr isn't ready to grab the starting job, Cole could be a good option there.
  • It was another strong day for receiver Adam Thielen, who's easily become the darling of Vikings camp so far. Thielen, who went to college at Minnesota State and is going through training camp at his alma mater, has had a good connection with Teddy Bridgewater since this spring, and it showed again on Sunday, as Bridgewater hit him on a difficult deep out connection along the right sideline. Thielen said he spent his winter working out in the Twin Cities, trying to get faster and stronger, and he looks more impressive this year than he did last year. He also has some of the best hands on the team and has continued making the kinds of catches in traffic he was making during the Vikings' minicamp.
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks worked in the same order today, with Cassel running the first team, Bridgewater the second team and Christian Ponder the third. They started practice with a handful of screen passes, again setting up Peterson for a number of impressive gains, and didn't take many shots downfield on a windy and rainy day. In 11-on-11 drills, Cassel went 10-for-13, Bridgewater went 9-for-11 and Ponder went 6-for-7.
  • An odd day of weather made the Vikings' first padded practice feel more like October than July. The team started practice under a threatening sky, and the clouds opened up while the Vikings were still stretching, sending many of the fans and media members in attendance looking for shelter. Zimmer kept the Vikings on the field, though, and continued practice during a heavier period of rain later in the afternoon. In previous years, the Vikings have moved such practices inside, but it's worth remembering that the Cincinnati Bengals -- where Zimmer was the defensive coordinator the past six seasons -- are one of the only teams in the NFL without an indoor practice facility. Especially with the Vikings playing home games outdoors this season, the threshold for moving practices inside will likely be much higher.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 2

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26
8:00
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks were more efficient on Saturday than they were in the team's first practice on Friday, though we didn't see Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder take quite as many shots down the field. Cassel again took most of the first-team snaps, finishing the day 10-f0r-13 in 11-on-11 drills, while Bridgewater went 8-for-11 and Ponder was 6-for-7. Cassel had one pass broken up by Linval Joseph, who had also batted down a pass on Friday, but he did connect with Greg Jennings on a long throw that drew one of the day's biggest rounds of applause. Bridgewater and Adam Thielen, who seemed to click during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp, were in sync again on Saturday. Three of Bridgewater's last four passes were targeted for Thielen, and the two connected on a long play-action pass late in practice. Bridgewater mostly worked with the Vikings' second team, and Ponder's snaps were with the third team.
  • With Munnerlyn out, the Vikings tried several different players at the slot cornerback position; rookies Jabari Price and Kendall James got some work there, as did Shaun Prater. Price got some first-team snaps and handled himself well. He said he played the slot corner position as a junior at North Carolina before moving back outside as a senior, so as the Vikings try to identify players who can handle the job in the event Munnerlyn gets hurt, Price could make his case for a roster spot that way. "It's definitely a harder job, but you can't put it on the back burner," Price said. "Other teams get those fast receivers in on third down. It's definitely a change-up for corners, but it's something that's got to be done."
  • Nearly a third of the Vikings' 24 completions in team drills went to running backs, and they put a particular emphasis on setting up screens for Adrian Peterson. Peterson caught one from Matt Cassel, did a masterful job of letting his blockers get out in front of him and raced down the left sideline for a big gain. By my count, Peterson was targeted with four passes, catching three. "There are times where he'll double-catch it a little bit, but most of the time, he's pretty darn good," Zimmer said. "People are afraid of his speed, which gives him some areas to go underneath or beat people to the perimeter. I think he'll be a good weapon. I think when I was in Atlanta (in 2007), he caught a (60)-yard swing pass (in his first NFL game) for a touchdown. Once he gets the ball in his hands, if it's in the open field, it's bad news." Zimmer was also impressed with Matt Asiata, who's making a strong case at the moment to be the No. 2 running back. "He's elusive," Zimmer said. "He's got a little bit of shift, a sneakiness about him the way he goes. He's been good."
  • For the second day in a row, the Vikings used a nickel package with three safeties, and Zimmer said he also has a three-corner, one-safety base look that he'll unveil at some point. "We're introducing them, and we'll continue to add some," Zimmer said. "We'll get to some more exotic things, I guess you'd say, later on in camp."
  • It seems like Norv Turner's offense will employ pulling guards more often than Bill Musgrave's scheme did; the Vikings had rookie David Yankey pulling on a number of plays. There will still be some zone blocking, but it doesn't seem like the Vikings will be as married to that style of offensive line play as they were with Musgrave.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 1

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
7:35
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson missed practice with a foot injury, but is only expected to miss a couple of days. Patterson didn't take the team's conditioning test on Thursday because of the injury, and stood near the Vikings' receivers in a bucket hat on during Friday's practice. The injury isn't though to be serious, but the start of Patterson's highly-anticipated second season will have to wait a few days. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who started training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list, has a strained hamstring, though coach Mike Zimmer said he didn't think Munnerlyn's injury was serious.
  • The Vikings' quarterbacks got a chance to stretch the field on the first day of camp, but the session wasn't terribly impressive for any of them, as Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater and Christian Ponder all misfired on a number of downfield throws. Ponder threw an interception to Robert Blanton, and Jabari Price nearly intercepted a pass from Bridgewater along the sidelines. Cassel took the majority of the first-team snaps, as coach Mike Zimmer said he would, to start camp. In 11-on-11 work, Cassel finished the day 8-for-13, while Bridgewater was 6-for-9 and Ponder was 1-for-4.
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen, who gained some early praise from coach Mike Zimmer after his solid work during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp, got off to a strong start on Friday, making a diving catch on a throw over the middle. Thielen has a chance to make the team as one of the Vikings' final receivers, and has impressed the Vikings with his sure hands. "He works his rear end off, he runs his routes real hard, he catches the ball good," Zimmer said. He's got an opportunity to make this football team." Thielen, who was on the Vikings' practice squad last year, is practicing in front of a supportive audience. He played college football at Minnesota State, where the Vikings hold training camp.
  • Thielen, Jarius Wright and Kain Colter all got work as punt returners behind Marcus Sherels, who had his best season as a return man last year and got a two-year deal in the offseason. The Vikings love Sherels' reliability on punts, and it was easy to see why on Friday, as Wright muffed a punt from Jeff Locke.
  • A number of Vikings players were a little grumpy on Friday morning, thanks to a fire alarm that went off in the team's dorm around 1:30 a.m. and forced players outside. Cassel said he experienced a similar situation at one other training camp, "but I didn't leave the room that time," he said. "I smelled for smoke, I swear. I opened the door. I was trying to be sneaky." Zimmer, though, quashed a rumor he had pulled the alarm to keep players on their toes. "I told them they have to be aware of every situation that might come up, but no, that was not me," Zimmer said. "Now that I think about it I wish it was. I’ll have to use it next year."

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