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Vikings notebook: New offense spins heads

  • Article by: Master Tesfatsion
  • Star Tribune
  • May 1, 2014 - 1:55 AM

The first play of the Vikings’ team session during Wednesday’s minicamp practice was a clear sign Bill Musgrave isn’t the offensive coordinator anymore.

Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner called an end-around to receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who quickly proved to be a dynamic threat even in last year’s stale offense.

The Vikings’ offensive scheme is one of the most drastic changes about the new regime, with a playbook that already has receiver Greg Jennings dazed.

“My head is spinning,” Jennings said, “even though the offense is coming, and it’s starting to sink in. Just with all the different changeups we can present to the defense, the different looks, the different formations we can run the same play, the different variations that comes within the same play. Your head is spinning at all times until you have it down.”

Musgrave’s offense, famously compacted into a nice little index card, was often bland and predictable. It doesn’t seem as if that will be the case under Turner.

Jennings described Turner’s offense as complex but not complicated. The offense ran different combinations of personnel packages on just the second day of the voluntary minicamp.

“The variations from one play to the variations of how we can get to that one play is a lot,” Jennings said. “I’m being a little sarcastic with this statement, but it almost equates to what we had last year — just one play. It’s a lot.”

Looking to improve

Patterson had a strong finish last year, scoring six total touchdowns, which earned him NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month in December.

But he’s hardly satisfied, and rather critical, of his rookie year.

“I don’t think my work ethic was good enough last year,” Patterson said. “This year my whole mind-set is remember everything, do better than you did last year. I think I was kind of bad last year. This year will be way better.”

Patterson said he was watching film and wasn’t impressed with how he finished and felt he needed to improve his work habits, especially with new coach Mike Zimmer.

“Coach Zimmer set the tempo high yesterday,” Patterson said. “My work ethic from last year to this offseason has improved.”

Patterson served as Jerome Simpson’s backup at the “X” receiver position to start the year and eventually developed into the starter. He wants to continue developing now to where he can be comfortable playing any receiver position rather than just the “X” position.

“I want to come in totally different this year with my knowledge,” Patterson said. “I want to learn everything this year.”

Different look

Though it’s only a three-day minicamp, safety Harrison Smith finds value beyond establishing a comfort level with the coaches. It gives him a chance to watch himself in Zimmer’s defense on film rather than watching the Bengals last year or flipping through a playbook.

“That’s nice and everything, and you kind of get the gist of it, but actually putting your body there and going against people is totally different,” Smith said.

Smith not only can understand the defense better with his own film, but he also can recognize necessary tweaks in technique.

Zimmer stresses footwork and hands on defense. He spent a fair amount of time at practice working with the defensive backs, which Zimmer considers his area of expertise. Smith said on film he can tell if his toes stick up, meaning he’s on his heels.

“Small things like that will give you that fraction of a second out of your break that maybe I can get an interception instead of a [pass breakup] or make the play I wouldn’t make,” Smith said.

© 2014 Star Tribune