Dan Bailey and Matt Wile were already on the practice field for the Vikings’ Sunday training camp practice when the team finalized a deal for Kaare Vedvik, the player who could replace one of them on the 2019 roster.
Two days after the move, as Bailey kicked and Vedvik punted in team drills while Wile (who sliced his left thumb during Friday’s game in New Orleans) worked on his own, there was still little clarity about how the Vikings’ special teams group will ultimately look.
Coach Mike Zimmer said he plans to take a look at all three players in the Vikings’ second preseason game on Sunday night against the Seahawks, indicating Vedvik could work as both a kicker and a punter before the end of the preseason.
With so much still unsettled about the Vikings’ special teams situation, Bailey and Wile — who were made available to reporters on Tuesday for the first time since the move — did their best not to jump to any conclusions.
“I mean, there’s 32 of us [in the league],” Wile said. “So [is there a high] likelihood that more people are going to be trying to do it? Of course.”
Bailey was perfect on field goals for the first time in training camp on Tuesday, hitting all seven of his attempts and drilling a 54-yarder with Austin Cutting snapping to wide receiver Chad Beebe.
“Austin had a great day today,” Bailey said. “We’ve taken longer than we needed to get this thing on track, but I thought today was really positive.”
Wile’s work as a holder has come under scrutiny since last season, and he figures to remain out of the role until his thumb heals from a bizarre accident during Friday’s game, when he sliced it on a kicking device on the sideline.
The Vikings’ medical staff applied gauze to his thumb so Wile could punt for the first time, and he went to the locker room for stitches afterward.
It could be his progress as a holder, as much as a punter, that dictates whether Wile makes the Vikings’ final roster.
“I’ve definitely been working at it and getting better, just working with Dan every day and with Austin now,” Wile said. “I thought I was doing well, and I just want to get better.”
Zimmer praises linebacker depth
In Zimmer’s first five seasons as the Vikings’ head coach, the team has often stockpiled pass rushers and cornerbacks while trying to make do with its options behind Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks at linebacker. Before the coach’s sixth season, that paradigm could be changing.
Zimmer called the Vikings’ linebacker group on Tuesday the team’s best “since I have been here, depthwise,” adding there’s a possibility of the team keeping as many as seven and having all of them active on game days this fall.
The secondary’s depth, on the other hand, has flagged as Mike Hughes recovers from knee surgery and Holton Hill faces an eight-game suspension this fall.
“I don’t know that we’re real deep in the secondary,” Zimmer said.
“So that might lend itself to [keeping an extra linebacker]. We may keep an extra defensive lineman, less in the secondary and maybe keep one less running back.
“It will all work out.”
Thielen: QB chemistry takes a long time
Perhaps the Vikings’ biggest highlight during Friday’s preseason opener was the 34-yard pass Kirk Cousins threw to Adam Thielen on the team’s opening drive, putting the Vikings on the Saints’ 1-yard line as Thielen reached back for the throw while going to the ground.
The play was somewhat reminiscent of the late touchdown throw Cousins made to Thielen in last year’s Week 2.
The process of building the framework for such plays to happen, Thielen said, takes longer than you’d think.
“There’s so many things that come up throughout practice, games and all that,” he said.
“You really have to be on the same page as far as the leverage that DB’s are giving you or how they play a certain route, and what you are going to do as a receiver and getting on the same page. It usually takes a couple, I guess, incomplete passes to really get on the same page.
“You are always still working on it, but it is definitely better to be in a second year with a quarterback than a first year, obviously.”