Minnesota Vikings: Andrew Sendejo

Vikings Monday practice report

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A few observations from the Minnesota Vikings' Monday practice:
  • Safety Robert Blanton was back at practice, but the Vikings were still using Chris Crocker as their first-team safety alongside Harrison Smith. Blanton is listed atop the Vikings' depth chart, but he'll have to earn his way back into the race for a starting spot after missing time with a hamstring injury. Coach Mike Zimmer said Crocker didn't see enough action in Saturday's preseason game for the Vikings to evaluate him properly, but the Vikings seem to want to take a longer look at the 34-year-old. Zimmer said on Monday he's evaluating players like Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman as much for what they do in pass coverage as what they're able to do near the line of scrimmage. That'd explain why Crocker is getting a long look, and why Blanton had put himself in the mix for a starting job before his injury. We'll see if he can reassert himself now that he's back.
  • Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught a 51-yard touchdown pass during the Vikings' preseason game on Saturday night, was back at it on Monday, snatching passes away from Crocker and Michael Mauti in tight coverage over the middle. At 6-foot-5, Rudolph is already an inviting target for quarterbacks, and he's shown several times already how much it helped him to drop 15 pounds in the offseason in an effort to be a bigger downfield threat in Norv Turner's offense.
  • In 11-on-11 work on Monday, quarterback Matt Cassel hit 8 of 11 passes, getting one batted down at the line of scrimmage and throwing one away downfield. Teddy Bridgewater went 8-for-10, with his only misses coming to Rodney Smith and Jarius Wright -- who sustained a left ankle injury while trying to catch Bridgewater's sideline pass in tight coverage. And Christian Ponder, who didn't play at all on Saturday night, didn't throw a pass in full-team work during Monday's practice.
  • The Vikings made one roster move on Monday, cutting linebacker Dom DeCicco, who had hip surgery last week, and claiming linebacker Justin Jackson off waivers from Detroit.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As the Minnesota Vikings continue to try and establish a pecking order at safety, it appears they'll give Chris Crocker every chance to wind up at the top of it.

The 34-year-old, who signed with the Vikings earlier this month and came out of retirement to play his eighth consecutive season for coach Mike Zimmer, will start alongside Harrison Smith on Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals. Zimmer said the Vikings want to take a long look at four safeties -- Crocker, Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman and Andrew Sendejo -- on Saturday, in hopes of sorting out the position.

That Crocker will start, however, speaks to what could eventually land him the starting job; he's more familiar with Zimmer's defense than anyone else on the roster, and can lend some stability to a position where no one has established a firm hold on the job next to Smith.

Robert Blanton, who is still listed at the top of the Vikings' depth chart at strong safety, will miss Saturday's game with a hamstring injury. Cornerback Josh Robinson -- who's still battling a hamstring injury and appears to be ceding ground to Captain Munnerlyn in the race for a starting cornerback job -- will also sit out. Tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) and defensive tackle Linval Joseph (bullet wound to calf) are the other Vikings players who won't dress.

Fred Evans will start at nose tackle for Joseph, and Matt Asiata will again start at running back in place of Adrian Peterson, who will sit out for a second consecutive week.

W2W4: Minnesota Vikings

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
The Minnesota Vikings (1-0) and Arizona Cardinals (1-0) square off for their second preseason game on Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium.

1. Starters to play more: Coach Mike Zimmer said quarterback Matt Cassel "has a chance" to play the entire first half on Saturday night, which would suggest the Vikings plan to give their first-team offense much more playing time than they saw last Friday against Oakland. Zimmer said this week he's never placed as much importance on the third preseason game as many seem to do, so it's possible the Vikings treat this week's game as more of a dress rehearsal than next Saturday's game against Kansas City. Adrian Peterson still won't play, but if Cassel -- who seems like the favorite to win the Vikings' quarterback job -- gets two quarters of work with the first-team offense, we'll get a good sense of how he's handling offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme against one of the league's best defenses.

2. Safety dance: The Vikings are still trying to sort out a crowded competition for the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith, and Zimmer said he wants to take a long look at four veterans on Saturday night: Chris Crocker, Andrew Sendejo, Jamarca Sanford and Kurt Coleman. With Robert Blanton still out because of a hamstring injury, and rookie Antone Exum having played 60 snaps last week, it stands to reason the Vikings will use the four safeties for much of the night on Saturday. It's hard to envision a scenario where all four veterans are on the roster, and Zimmer said he's hoping Saturday's game will help the Vikings establish a pecking order at the position. That pecking order could have some important consequences for a number of players.

3. Cleaning up pass protection: Zimmer wasn't happy with the Vikings' pass protection last week, after the Raiders sacked the Vikings' quarterbacks six times and Teddy Bridgewater nearly lost a fumble deep in Raiders territory. The Vikings spent plenty of time focusing on protection schemes this week in practice, and though some of the blitz pickup work from their running backs looked better, the linemen were responsible for many of the sacks anyway -- especially the three that came late in the game on Christian Ponder. Particularly from younger players like David Yankey and Antonio Richardson, the Vikings will be looking for better results this week.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 15

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
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."
MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' stretch of injuries, particularly at the safety position, might soon be coming to an end.

Coach Mike Zimmer said safeties Mistral Raymond (concussion), Jamarca Sanford (back spasms) and Andrew Sendejo (lower back/ankle) will practice on Monday night, and are expected to be available for Saturday's exhibition game against the Arizona Cardinals.

The only safety who won't be available this week is Robert Blanton, who's still dealing with a hamstring injury. Chris Crocker, whom the Vikings signed last week, will also play on Saturday, giving the Vikings their first real chance to assess the majority of the players competing for a spot next to Harrison Smith.

"It's difficult, because guys aren't practicing as much," Zimmer said. "In the ballgame the other night (last Friday), we had three safeties who weren't playing. We'll sit down and we'll try to get a much better evaluation of the guys who we think need more on tape. This will be a good test with these guys (the Cardinals). They play with four wide (receivers), and they throw the ball around pretty good."

Cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels will return from hamstring injuries, and tight end Chase Ford could return from a broken foot in the next 10 days, possibly clearing the way for him to start the season on the active roster instead of the physically unable to perform list.

"He's close," Zimmer said. "He's probably 10 days, maybe, I'm guessing. We'll see how he runs."

The timetable for the return of defensive tackle Linval Joseph isn't quite as clear; Zimmer said he'd like Joseph to play before the end of the preseason, if his calf is recovered from a gunshot wound he sustained in a nightclub shooting early Saturday morning. "We still have to find out where he's at," Zimmer said. "I don't know that 'Sug' (trainer Eric Sugarman) has dealt with this kind of an injury much. There's no booklet on it."

Vikings Camp Report: Day 9

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
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.
MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' safety situation just got more complicated. Or, possibly, a bit simpler.

The Vikings announced they signed 34-year-old safety Chris Crocker, who has played the last seven seasons with Vikings coach Mike Zimmer while he was the defensive coordinator in Atlanta and Cincinnati. Crocker played 12 games for the Bengals last season, starting three, and ran one of his two interceptions back for a touchdown.

He'll join a Vikings roster that currently has 19 defensive backs and a handful of players competing for a starting safety spot alongside Harrison Smith. Robert Blanton looked like the front-runner for that job until he hurt his hamstring last week, and Andrew Sendejo will practice for the first time today after returning from lower back and ankle injuries that kept him out since the Vikings' offseason program. Crocker should know what Zimmer expects from his safeties better than anyone, and if nothing else, he'll be able to impart some knowledge on the players competing for the spot.

But the Vikings' willingness to add another safety to their roster might send a message about how comfortable they feel with the rest of their group. Crocker had come out of retirement the last two seasons to play for Zimmer when the Bengals had injury issues in their secondary and credits Zimmer with helping him "put it all together," as he told ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey in January. There's little doubt Zimmer trusts Crocker to help him in a pinch, and the decision to sign Crocker again on Monday might imply Zimmer believes he's in one now.

We'll see what the coach and the safety say in the coming days about Crocker's role. But the decision to sign Crocker certainly adds an interesting wrinkle to the safety situation.
MANKATO, Minn. -- For the first time on Monday, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer will get to see safety Andrew Sendejo on the practice field.

The Vikings activated Sendejo from the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list on Monday, bringing him back from lower back and ankle injuries that had kept him out since the start of the team's offseason program. Sendejo started 10 games last year when injuries decimated the Vikings' secondary, but it had become apparent in recent days that he needed to get back on the field sooner than later to make an impression on Zimmer and assert himself in a crowded race for the starting safety spot opposite Harrison Smith.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Vikings ease Sendejo back into practice for a day or two, but once he's up to full speed, it bears watching how the team will use him. Robert Blanton seemed to have the inside track on the starting spot until he strained his hamstring last Monday, and a league source said last week Blanton could miss several weeks with the injury. In his absence, Mistral Raymond has gotten some first-team work, and Jamarca Sanford has gotten a longer look after missing time with injuries of his own. Those two, plus Kurt Coleman and rookie Antone Exum, present plenty of competition for Sendejo.

The Vikings are back on the practice field on Monday afternoon, following a day off on Sunday. The team shortened its morning walk-through to special-teams work only, so Monday afternoon will be the first chance to see where Sendejo fits.


MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings got Cordarrelle Patterson on the practice field for the first time since the start of training camp on Wednesday afternoon, while cornerback Captain Munnerlyn did some side work after returning from a strained hamstring that had him on the physically-unable-to-perform list. While those two players returned -- and two others made progress in their recoveries from injury -- the Vikings had several other players miss practice on Wednesday.

Safety Robert Blanton strained his hamstring during a blitz period in Monday's practice, coach Mike Zimmer said, and didn't practice on Wednesday. Cornerback Josh Robinson left with a tight hamstring, which didn't seem to concern Zimmer as much as Blanton's injury did. The safety has seen significant playing time with the first team since the start of the Vikings' OTAs in May, and his injury could alter the team's picture at the safety position opposite Harrison Smith.

A league source said Blanton could miss a few weeks, though his hamstring injury isn't believed to be serious and he could return by the end of the preseason under that timetable. Blanton's absence, though, could open the door for others at the position; Mistral Raymond got some first-team work on Wednesday, and Andrew Sendejo, who hasn't practiced in 2014 while dealing with back and ankle injuries, is nearing a return, Zimmer said.

"I believe he will be starting to come back Monday, when we come back to practice (after an off-day Sunday)," Zimmer said. "That's what I've been told. That's what we're shooting for."

Patterson, who missed the Vikings' first four practices with a minor foot injury, lined up at wide receiver for the first time on Wednesday afternoon. "He looked good," Zimmer said. "He was running good."

Tight end Chase Ford, who broke his foot before training camp, was off crutches and walking in a boot on Wednesday, but Zimmer said he wasn't sure when Ford might be able to return. Tight end A.C. Leonard also left early, but Zimmer said it was simply because of a headache.

Vikings wake-up call: Day 3

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
MANKATO, Minn. -- Setting up the day at Vikings' training camp:

Today's schedule: The Vikings' first padded practice under Mike Zimmer gets underway at 3:30 p.m. They'll practice at "thud" tempo, where players will make contact without taking ball-carriers to the ground. Zimmer wants to work on tackling fundamentals now that the Vikings have pads on, and he plans to make sure players are getting in proper position to tackle as though they'd be finishing the hit; they just won't get a chance to complete the tackle. "Adrian [Peterson] won't get tackled," Zimmer said.

The team will have its customary morning walk-through from 10:30-11:30.

More observations from Saturday's practice:
  • The Vikings are still mixing and matching linebackers in a number of different spots, and it'll probably be a little while before we get a sense of what they're thinking for a lineup. They've used Anthony Barr in the nickel with Chad Greenway on a number of occasions, but they've also given Audie Cole a chance to play the strong-side linebacker position. Jasper Brinkley has been getting most of the first-team snaps in the middle, but we'll likely see Michael Mauti and Cole get a chance there, too, and Greenway has seen some work in the middle, like he did in minicamp. "Seeing the different skill sets, we think we have a good group of 'Mike' linebackers," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "We just want to see who is going to come to the top competition wise and win out the position."
  • Robert Blanton continued to get first-team work at safety, and it's getting harder to think he won't make a strong push to start alongside Harrison Smith. Andrew Sendejo's lingering injury is costing him valuable time to make an impression on Zimmer, and the time Jamarca Sanford missed this spring has afforded Blanton an opportunity.
  • With Cordarrelle Patterson still nursing a foot injury, the Vikings are taking the opportunity to work out backup kick returners, and had Marcus Sherels, Jarius Wright and Jerick McKinnon taking reps there on Saturday. Coach Mike Priefer has said he wants to find a second return man, in the event Patterson's increased role in the offense prevents him from returning as many kicks.
What I'm watching: Xavier Rhodes had a tough day on Saturday, getting beat on a post route from Greg Jennings and giving up several other completions. Zimmer spent a little extra time with him on Saturday, and now that the Vikings have pads on -- allowing Rhodes to play press coverage -- he should be more in his element. Like many young corners who rely on pressing receivers, though, Rhodes still has to learn about playing the position with his feet and his instincts, not just his hands. The Vikings expect him to be a major part of their defense, so it's worth watching to see how quickly he corrects mistakes in camp.

Programming notice: Today is the Vikings' turn in the 'SportsCenter' spotlight, as ESPN continues its 10-day tour of all 32 NFL camps. I'll be on at various points during the day with interviews and analysis, starting in the 10:00 hour in the Central time zone.

They said it: "He’s like the nicest, meanest coach ever. He’s like, tries to be so mean on the field and then a couple plays he’ll come by and he’s like the coolest guy you’ve ever met. So, I love it. He’s definitely going to get the best out of every player that’s out there and every play that we are to execute; he’s expecting the best result every single time." -- wide receiver Greg Jennings on offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
MANKATO, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he's still optimistic about a quick return for wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson from a minor foot injury, and added he thought cornerback Captain Munnerlyn would return to practice from a hamstring strain in short order, as well. The prognosis for safety Andrew Sendejo -- who has been out since the Vikings' spring program with lower back and ankle injuries he sustained last season -- is less certain.

Sendejo still hasn't made much progress in his recovery, Zimmer said on Saturday afternoon. He was working out with Patterson during the Vikings' Saturday practice, but still hasn't had a down of practice time since Zimmer became the Vikings' coach in January.

"It's a concern," Zimmer said. "I haven't seen him one day, so I don't know really anything."

Patterson informed Zimmer about his foot injury the day before the Vikings reported to training camp, and was held out of the Vikings' conditioning test on Thursday. He's been improving since the start of camp, Zimmer said. "It won't be long," he said. "I'd be surprised if it was long [before he practiced]."

Munnerlyn, Zimmer said, should be back "in a couple more days."
MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings will put cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Andrew Sendejo on the physically-unable-to-perform list at the beginning of training camp, but coach Mike Zimmer said he doesn't expect either player will be out long. Tight end Chase Ford, who has a broken left foot could miss significant time.

Munnerlyn, Zimmer said, has a hamstring injury, while Sendejo is still dealing with the lower back ailment that kept him out for most of the Vikings' spring program. Ford showed up to camp in a walking boot on Thursday, and Zimmer said the tight end had surgery on his foot. He didn't have a timetable on Ford's return, but it's worth noting that tight end Kyle Rudolph missed the last two months of the season with a broken foot last year.

Zimmer made it clear he wasn't happy with Ford tweeting about his injury, adding he'd stressed the importance of discretion on social media in his opening remarks to the team on Thursday evening. "We actually had that meeting last night and then it gets tweeted last night or today," Zimmer said. "They must not have been paying attention in the meeting. So I will fix those things."

The Vikings also had one player not pass their conditioning test on Thursday, Zimmer said. That player won't be participating in the Vikings' first practice on Friday afternoon, though the coach wouldn't say who it was on Friday morning.

The Vikings also released receiver Josh Cooper and tackle Matt Hall on Friday morning, signing receivers Ty Walker and Andy Cruse to take the two open spots on the roster.
In the last few weeks before the Minnesota Vikings begin training camp, we're going to take a look at a number of players on their roster with something to prove this season, excluding rookies. We will focus primarily on veterans or players being asked to assume a larger role this season. Today: safety Jamarca Sanford.

Why he has something to prove: Sanford missed three games last season and struggled through hamstring and groin injuries for a good chunk of the season, and Andrew Sendejo played well enough in Sanford's absence to make the safety position opposite Harrison Smith an open question heading into this season. Sanford took a pay cut this offseason, and wasn't able to make much of an impression during the Vikings' organized team activities and minicamp because of a muscle pull that kept him out of team drills for most of the spring. That meant Robert Blanton got plenty of work alongside Smith, and with Sendejo, Kurt Coleman and rookie Antone Exum in the mix, Sanford will have plenty of competition for a starting spot.

What he must do: Sanford has been one of the Vikings' best safeties in coverage, and that could come in handy this season as the Vikings toy with the idea of putting their safeties in man coverage more often. That would allow them to stay in their base defense instead of bringing in a nickel back, and Sanford can make a case there if he's healthy enough to keep up with receivers this season. He gave up just 0.33 yards per snap of pass coverage last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Though Sendejo was just behind Sanford, ranking 10th in the league with 0.34 yards per coverage snap, Sanford has a longer resume. If he's able to fare well against receivers in training camp and the preseason, it might help him make his case.

Projection: It wouldn't be surprising to see Sanford bumped out of a starting spot, as much competition with as there will be at safety and as interested in Blanton as the Vikings seemed to be this spring. But the guess here is Sanford will win the job to begin the season by a narrow margin, and get a chance to work toward his next contract, whether it's with the Vikings or someone else.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A look at the highlights from the first day of the Minnesota Vikings' mandatory minicamp on Tuesday:

1. Loaded for Barr: The Vikings got first-round pick Anthony Barr on the field for the first time with their full team on Tuesday, after he graduated from UCLA over the weekend, and head coach Mike Zimmer didn't hesitate to try out some of the different ways he wants to use the linebacker. Barr was at the strong-side linebacker position the Vikings expect him to play, but he also lined up as an edge rusher on some third downs. At 6-foot-4, he's taller than defensive ends Brian Robison and Everson Griffen, and if he can rush from the line of scrimmage, the Vikings can present a number of different looks to confuse opposing offenses, especially when Griffen's versatility enters the equation.

[+] EnlargeMinnesota's Anthony Barr
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsFirst-round pick Anthony Barr participated on the field on the first day of Vikings' mandatory minicamp.
2. Robinson returns: Cornerback Josh Robinson was back on the field on Tuesday, after missing the Vikings' organized team activities with a muscle pull. He was also back at an outside cornerback position, following last year's failed experiment at slot cornerback. Robinson got plenty of snaps in the Vikings' first-team defense on Tuesday, and could wind up playing in the nickel package once Captain Munnerlyn moves inside.

3. Quarterbacks look sharp: The Vikings ran plenty of play-action and bootleg plays on Tuesday, and all three of their quarterbacks had a successful afternoon practice. Matt Cassel missed just one of the nine throws he attempted in 11-on-11 and was 5-for-5 in 7-on-7 work. Teddy Bridgewater was 13-for-15 in 11-on-11 action and 4-for-5 in 7-on-7, and Christian Ponder hit all four throws he attempted. Ponder again got fewer snaps than Cassel or Bridgewater, but he looked good in what he was asked to do. "Everyone's getting reps with the ones and twos," Ponder said. "I'm not getting as many reps as the other guys, but I'm trying to take full advantage, and we'll see what happens. I don't know how long the evaluation process is going to be. I'm hoping it goes into training camp and preseason games, but we'll see."

4. Jennings impresses: Wide receiver Greg Jennings, who missed the Vikings' open OTA last week because of a charity event, caught four balls on the first day of minicamp, and saved his best for last, reaching out for a one-handed grab over the middle on a throw from Cassel in 7-on-7.

5. Middle linebacker plan emerges? The Vikings used Jasper Brinkley, Chad Greenway and Michael Mauti at middle linebacker on Tuesday, noticeably keeping Audie Cole on the outside after Cole played the middle at the end of last season. Brinkley has gotten more first-team work than anyone else in the middle, so far, but Zimmer cautioned not to read too much into that. "We have to line them up somewhere when we go, but I don't look at this guy is the favorite or that guy is the starter," he said. "(Brinkley)'s lined up with the first team right now, but I don't know, once we get him in practice and games and the things that prepare us for games and for the season, that will determine who lines up there on Sept. 7."

6. Safeties still limited: Jamarca Sanford was able to do a little more work after missing OTAs with a muscle injury, but the Vikings were mostly using Robert Blanton, Mistral Raymond, Antone Exum and Kurt Coleman, with Blanton often pairing with Harrison Smith in 7-on-7 drills. Safety Andrew Sendejo was still limited with a back injury. Tight end Allen Reisner sat out, and running back Joe Banyard was a limited participant. Matt Kalil and Linval Joseph were again limited after knee and shoulder surgeries this offseason, but Zimmer said he expects both to be ready for training camp.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings begin the final -- and probably most significant -- event of their offseason program on Tuesday, when they convene at the team facility for a three-day minicamp. It will be the final team event before training camp begins in late July, and it will give coach Mike Zimmer his best barometer of where the Vikings stand before the end of the offseason.

As the Vikings get started, here are four things we're watching:

1. Barr gets started: Linebacker Anthony Barr, the Vikings' top pick in the 2014 draft, will finally get to practice with the full team after graduating from UCLA on Saturday. The Vikings plan to use him at strong-side linebacker, at least in their base defense, but it seems likely Zimmer will develop a number of different ways to use the rookie. He might try to keep those under wraps as long as he can, even into the preseason, but the Vikings clearly see Barr bringing a unique element to their pass rush. Zimmer said he plans to bring the Vikings' three late-arriving draft picks -- Barr, third-rounder Scott Crichton and fifth-round David Yankey -- along a little slowly at first, but the minicamp will provide Barr's first opportunity to show how much he can handle.

2. Safety shuffle:The Vikings have been rotating several safeties through their No. 1 defense alongside Harrison Smith, with Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo sitting out because of injuries, and it will be interesting to see if they get closer to settling on anything over the next few days. It would help to see Sanford and Sendejo on the field, though there's far too little at stake to rush anyone back. Still, the absence of both players has left open some valuable opportunities, and players like Kurt Coleman, Robert Blanton and rookie Antone Exum could get more chances to make an impression.

3. OpportuniTEs: With Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator, the Cleveland Browns lined up with two or more tight ends on 466 snaps last season -- the fourth-most in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That means plenty of work for starter Kyle Rudolph, which we knew, but it also leaves a chance for players like Rhett Ellison and Chase Ford to carve out bigger roles. The Vikings had plenty of two-tight end sets last year -- they were 12th in the league with 369 snaps of two or more TEs -- but with John Carlson gone, Ellison and Ford can move up. Ellison's previous success as a run blocker might give him the upper hand.

4. QB derby continues: Rookie Teddy Bridgewater looked good during the Vikings' organized team activities that were open to the media, but the minicamp should offer a more complete picture of where Bridgewater is at this point, especially as he compares to veteran Matt Cassel. The Vikings might wait until training camp to decide on a starter -- or at least to announce one -- but the guess here continues to be that the job is Cassel's, unless Bridgewater is good enough to beat him out. Both players can keep making their cases this week. Christian Ponder, meanwhile, needs to turn things around after a poor set of performances during OTAs; he's talked about having leverage heading into free agency next year, but he needs to convince the Vikings not to cut their losses before then.