Eric Nordquist - @ericnordoKFAN
The second-to-last Minnesota Vikings practice in FANkato is in the books! Here is my latest “data dump” of notes from this afternoon’s drills.
Watched them a lot today. On the #92Noon show this morning, I referenced an article from Sports Illustrated about the most overrated defensive players in the NFL. Chad Greenway was on the list. SI provided stats about how although he’s a tackling machine, that he was allowing far too many receptions in coverage in comparison to other LBs at his position. For this Vikings defense to improve, Greenway has to be better in that department with pass breakups and creating turnover opportunities (3rd down in particular). With that said, Chad looks great out on the field. Saw him matched up on faster WRs today and on more than one occasion he was in the perfect position to knock balls down and force incompletions. The Vikings need a big year from the veteran.
As for the Linebacking Corps in general, the base starters appear to be Greenway and Anthony Barr on each side, with Jasper Brinkley in the middle. The thing about Jasper, though, is that he hasn’t been great in pass coverage for the balance of his career. Earlier today, for instance, he was absolutely smoked on a route by TE Kyle Rudolph who dropped a low pass down by his knees. Rudy would’ve taken it to the endzone easily. Jasper is great at downhill run defending, with the term “thumper” being used to describe him. Audie Cole has a chance to steal the starting spot away from Jasper if the coverage doesn’t improve, and Head Coach Mike Zimmer was quoted today, praising Audie’s technique and reads.
Robert Blanton is still injured, so Chris Crocker was getting most of the first-team FS reps today. Crocker played in Cincinnati and probably knows Zimmer’s defensive schemes better than any other player on the field. Because he knows what’s expected of him already, Crocker should be favored to start the season alongside Harrison Smith if Blanton doesn’t get healthy soon. Kurt Coleman was impressive last Friday night against the Raiders and a couple of people around the team have told me that his ball skills are better than Crocker’s. In the end, Crocker may be the overall better tackler in coverage, and will get his first game action Saturday night when the Arizona Cardinals come to town for preseason game 2. That should tell us who Zimmer and DC George Edwards like more.
Teddy Bridgewater threw another couple of interceptions today during 11-on-11s. The first one was an inaccurate throw over the middle that dropped into the arms of Mistral Raymond. He tossed a 2nd pick when he held onto the ball too long and then threw it behind the receiver, to LB Gerald Hodges’ benefit. Frankly, this is not a concern to me at all in terms of Teddy being an NFL quarterback. He made great throws on the run, looked unphased by pocket pressure and came back with great plays after each mistake. What it means to me, though, is that Matt Cassel is almost certainly going to be the starting QB.
The offense looked smooth today with Cassel behind center. He has tremendous Chemistry with Greg Jennings, who looks fantastic in camp so far. Cassel is also enjoying the fruits of OC Norv Turner’s game plan. Cordarrelle Patterson is looking better in his routes every day, and Turner is getting Patterson a lot of opportunities to run after the catch. Tight End Kyle Rudolph is catching balls with space in front of him as well, which makes Cassel’s job infinitely easier.
The #92Noon presentation will be live here in Mankato tomorrow where we’ll discuss all of this and more. Ben Leber co-hosts with PA, Mike Wobschall visits and we’ll be sure to execute some drive-by interviews with players at some point in the show as well!