“How’s Teddy look?” might be the most popular question asked of reporters shadowing the Vikings through this year’s Vikings mini-camp.
“Hey, what about Anthony?” might be an appropriate response.
Maybe I’m wrong, or reading too much into this for the sake of feeding the NFL beast with another blog post. But I can’t remember a time when the buzz around a rookie selected ninth overall – linebacker Anthony Barr -- at a position of tremendous need has been this relatively quiet.
Apparently, that happens when the team trades back into the first round to select a quarterback – Teddy Bridgewater – at a position of even greater long-term need, quarterback.
The talk after next week’s preseason opener will no doubt be heavy on Teddy. But, to me, the linebacker situation will deserve equally close attention because, like the quarterback position, things are very much unsettled and we’re a month away from the regular season.
Barr moved onto the first team at strong side linebacker on Wednesday. Expect him to stay there because it appears he’ll be able to compensate fairly well physically with speed, size and strength when he makes the inevitable mental mistakes that rookies tend to make.
Early on, look for the Vikings to take particular advantage of his edge-rushing abilities. But don’t rule out the team using him to cover those pesky tight ends that run well. Although Chad Greenway is the middle backer in the nickel defense, Barr currently is the No. 1 middle backer when the Vikings go with only one linebacker in the dime defense.
“His coverage is great,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “He moves well. He’s got a good idea. Somebody was telling me that he takes copious notes in the meetings. He’s got pages and pages of them as we talk so he’s very, very into trying to learn what we’re trying to do and teach.
“He’s got a lot of raw, athletic ability that helps in the coverage aspect of things. There’s times when he may pull off of somebody a little bit too soon that he’s got to do better at. But for the most part, I’ve been very pleased with [his coverage].”
Zimmer said the coverage savvy will come in time. Right now, the team is still installing different coverages each day.
“We still have to keep fine tuning these techniques, because everything is new for really everybody on the football team, other than the special teams,” Zimmer said. “Each day, you can see them getting a little bit better and understanding the technique a little bit more, and the problem you run into a little bit during training camp is like we are installing another coverage [on Thursday].
“So now they have to learn that coverage, and then they have to remember what the other coverages were, and all of the different techniques out of that. The same thing offensively, a different shift or different motion, different plays. The more you put in, the more it runs together a little bit sometimes, we will start backing it down and they will get a little bit more fine tuning from there.”