NFL Most Valuable Player. Perennial All-Pro. Potential Pro Football Hall of Famer. All Day. Purple Jesus.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been called a lot of things for a lot of years. But good pass protector hasn’t been one of them. Until Saturday, that is.
“He’s an outstanding pass protector, when you keep him in his element,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said.
That seemed to be Turner’s way of saying his pass protection schemes are different.
“We don’t want him blocking defensive ends,” Turner said. “We don’t want him blocking 280-pound outside linebackers. When he’s blocking the people he should be blocking, he’s very good in pass protection.”
Turner also has talked about incorporating Peterson into the passing game more than he has been.
“Some of the things, he does well, and some of the things he doesn’t do as well,” Turner said. “We’re going to try not to ask him to do the things he’s not comfortable with, but there are enough things he does well as a receiver that I feel like he’s going to make big plays in the passing game.”
Turner said Peterson’s third-down role is yet to be determined.
“We want to be a team that runs a lot of plays,” Turner said. “The way you do that is you get first downs, to me, on first and second down. If he’s getting a bunch of carries and playing a bunch on first and second down, we have the ability to use Matt [Asiata] or potentially Jerick [McKinnon] on third downs. But we’re certainly getting Adrian ready to play on third downs. Obviously, that includes two-minute [offense] because you want his presence on the field.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is on board. He was Atlanta’s defensive coordinator in 2007, when Peterson caught a swing pass and ran 60 yards for a touchdown in his NFL debut.
“Once he gets the ball in his hands and it’s in the open field, it’s bad news” for the defense, Zimmer said.
Praise for As-i-a-ta
Turner still can’t pronounce Matt Asiata’s last name, but that didn’t prevent him from heaping unsolicited praise on the backup running back.
With a pronunciation assist from a reporter, Turner said, “One of the guys who has been as impressive to me as anyone is [Asiata]. Matt finished the season strong and is in great shape. He gives you that big pounder, but he’s also an excellent athlete. He catches, he’s got good change of direction, he’s a good pass protector.”
Asiata stepped in for an injured Peterson late last season and ran for three touchdowns in a victory over Philadelphia and 115 yards on 14 carries in a victory over Detroit.
Patterson return close
Second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (foot) didn’t practice for the second consecutive day, but unlike Friday, he did conditioning work with the athletic trainers on a separate field during Saturday’s practice.
“I’d be surprised if it’s long [before he returns],” Zimmer said.
Zimmer also said Patterson won’t have to take the conditioning test that the rest of the team took Thursday.
“He got out of it, I guess,” Zimmer said. “But he’s working pretty hard on the rehab. They work probably harder than the guys on the field do.”
Finding a backup
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who is on the physically unable to perform list because of a hamstring strain, probably will be sidelined only a “couple more days,” Zimmer said.
Zimmer said Munnerlyn’s absence has helped Vikings coaches better evaluate candidates to back him up as the slot corner in the nickel defense.
“We’ve had Jabari Price in there, we’ve had Kendall James in there, we’ve had Shaun Prater in there,” Zimmer said. “They’re getting a lot of good reps, which is good because it’s such an important position.”
As for safety Andrew Sendejo, who is on PUP because of back and ankle injuries dating to last season, Zimmer was less optimistic.
“Obviously, it’s a concern,” Zimmer said. “I haven’t seen him [practice] one day, so I don’t know anything.”