Linebacker Gerald Hodges was one of a few players that stood out to head coach Mike Zimmer after Friday’s preseason opener against the Raiders. He built off that performance with an interception during Wednesday’s practice.
Hodges made a nice play, leaping to make the catch on a poor decision by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in 11-on-11 period. Bridgewater attempted to throw the ball after he was sacked by defensive end Corey Wootton in the middle of the field next to a receiver where nobody could make a play on the ball. Well, Hodges did.
“He is doing a lot better,” Zimmer said on Wednesday. “Last week, he’s doing much better. He’s got good athleticism, he’s got physicality when he strikes you, he can run and I’m hopeful for him.”
SETTING THE SCENE: It was 81 degrees during practice but definitely felt hotter. Defensive linemen were drenched in sweat during individual drills at the start of practice and quenching for water before the 11-on-11 periods. There were brief moments where it cooled off due to some cloud cover, but it didn’t last long.
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBOARD: Bridgewater threw two more interceptions during practice. That’s five interceptions in the last two practices, for those keeping track at home. Along with Hodges, safety Mistral Raymond picked off Bridgewater separate 11-on-11 periods. The rookie did receive a few reps with the first team in 11-on-11, however, unlike Monday night’s practice. He did a nice job selling a play action with running back Adrian Peterson to hit Cordarrelle Patterson in stride on a big gain. Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder didn’t concede a turnover on the other hand. Cassel had a nice deep pass to Greg Jennings for about 45 yards with cornerback Marcus Sherels in coverage for the play of the day.
STEP-HEN UP: With nose tackle Linval Joseph recovering from a leg injury, rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen received first team reps at nose tackle. He also received praise Zimmer for his performance against the Raiders and got some valuable extra reps for a rookie continuing to develop. Stephen, who can play both the nose and three-technique spots, still mixed in with the second team as well.
CROCKER EMERGING: Safety Chris Crocker received the majority of the first team reps at strong safety alongside Harrison Smith. The newly-acquired safety did not play in the preseason opener after he signed with the team last week. Crocker is very familiar with Zimmer’s scheme, which was the main reason why he signed with the Vikings.
MR. MANKATO UPDATE: Wide receiver Adam Thielen has made some difficult catches at training camp. He made another one on a rollout play with Bridgewater. Thielen did a nice job adjusting to a small window Bridgewater had to throw. He maintained possession of the ball while sliding before rolling out of bounds. Thielen had a rare, would-be touchdown drop however that caused him to spike the ball in frustration. The Minnesota State alum bobbled a nice ball from Bridgewater on a vertical route after beating cornerback Shaun Prater off the line of scrimmage.
RUDOLPH UNFAZED: Tight end Kyle Rudolph is probably on a short list of players you probably wouldn’t want to try and lay out over the middle given his size. While Hodges had an interception at practice, he tried just that during an 11-on-11 period. The linebacker popped Rudolph after he completed the catch with a legal, but hard, hit. Rudolph hardly moved, while Hodges went stumbled back a few yards after the contact. Lesson learned.
INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) was dressed but did not participate in team periods. He would not disclose the reason why he was limited, but Robinson has dealt with a nagging hamstring injury throughout training camp. Marcus Sherels filled in for Robinson the nickel. Safety Robert Blanton (hamstring), tight end Chase Ford (foot) and Joseph (leg) were sidelined again. Linebacker Dom Decicco (hip) will have surgery on Thursday, Zimmer announced.