MANKATO -- I spent the past two days at Vikings training camp after returning from vacation. Every NFL team talks with optimism in camp before actual games are played, and the Vikings are no different.
Here are my observations after watching practice and talking with players, coaches and team officials the past few days.
-- The No. 1 takeaway I got from offensive players and coaches is that Norv Turner's offense will be more versatile and less predictable than what we've seen from the Vikings in years. Adrian Peterson made headlines earlier this week when he admitted that the Vikings have been too predictable on offense in his career. Some of that stems from shaky quarterback play. But a handful of players told me that Turner's offense should keep defenses off-balance if they execute it properly.
-- I've thought all along that Matt Cassel was a slam dunk to start the season and that the Vikings didn't need to rush Teddy Bridgewater. Now, I won't be surprised if Bridgewater is the starter in Week 1. I don't know if it's 50-50 odds but this coaching staff clearly has confidence in Bridgewater and they don't sound opposed to starting him right away if he wins the job in camp and preseason games.
Bridgewater threw two interceptions in practice Thursday, but I like the fact that he's not hesitant when he drops back. He gets the ball out quickly and has good arm strength. He doesn't look overwhelmed running the first-team offense when he gets the opportunity.
The preseason games will be critical for both quarterbacks. Cassel won't just be handed the job. He has to win it and play well to keep it. This competition will be fun to watch unfold.
-- The coaching staff and front office love rookie linebacker Anthony Barr. The first thing that jumps out about Barr is his size. He is massive for a linebacker. Coach Mike Zimmer is moving Barr around in different spots, including using him as a defensive end in some packages. Barr's versatility gives the staff some flexibility in how they use him.
-- I have no idea how the linebacker position will shake out. Chad Greenway is one starter and Barr presumably will win another spot. After that, who knows? Audie Cole made a nice play to intercept Bridgewater in a team period today. It's jumbled right now with Jasper Brinkley, Cole, Michael Mauti and Brandon Watts in the mix.
-- The secondary also has some uncertainty at safety beyond Harrison Smith. Robert Blanton had a nice start to camp but now he's hurt. Andrew Sendejo remains on the PUP. Mistral Raymond is getting his chance because of injuries, but he's struggled in the past. Jamarca Sanford is working with the backups. That second safety spot remains a big unknown right now.
-- Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon will find a role in Turner's offense. He is very fast and looks fluid as a receiver out of the backfield. He's a guy you just notice when he's on the field. I'm interested to see how Turner uses him as a complement to Adrian Peterson.
-- Everyone I talked to -- players, coaches and personnel officials -- believe Cordarrelle Patterson is ready to take a huge step as a receiver this season. Greg Jennings gushed about Patterson's potential and improvement from his rookie season.
That's it for now. I'll be at the Gophers first practice Friday and then back to Mankato on Monday.