Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Anthony Barr still has a lot of room for growth

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated: May 13, 2014 - 10:24 AM

Pac 12 conference quarterbacks probably couldn’t tell whenever Anthony Barr crashed into them that the UCLA outside linebacker had just started lining up on defense in his junior season.

His inexperience makes it all the more surprising that Barr had 23.5 sacks in his final two seasons at UCLA and that he had more tackles for a loss than South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Buffalo's Khalil Mack over that span. Not bad for a 6-foot-5 running back turned star outside linebacker.

Still, despite two successful college seasons, Barr has a lot to learn to make that kind of impact in the NFL.

“He has above average physical and athletic traits,” CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler said. “But the technique, hand use and consistency needs to catch up before he's a complete football player. Barr needs to prove he's more than just a one-trick pony and grasp defensive concepts, but he adapted quickly to the defensive side of the ball, moving over from offense two years ago.”

Asked what he needs to work on to succeed in the NFL, Barr also mentioned his mitts.

“Using my hands is what I need to improve on most, getting off blocks and using counter moves are things that are still new to me because I’ve only done it for such a short amount of time,” he said. “But I believe if I continue to work at it and continue to dedicate myself to it I’ll be OK.”

General manager Rick Spielman said Thursday that Barr has “very good football instincts” for a kid who only played outside linebacker for two years. And he thinks that Barr not only has the athleticism to rush off the edge, but also drop into coverage, whether he is buzzing the flats or running with tight ends down the seams. He said Barr’s technique needs refinement, though.

“Where he is going to have to get better, more likely, is just technical things. With the history of Coach Zimmer and his staff that is something that is right in their wheelhouse,” Spielman said. “That is one thing they do a great job with. We are already seeing the results in a lot of the things with our current players right now.”

Enter the Fixer. In Cincinnati, Mike Zimmer was able to develop Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, turning them from projects into productive pass rushers. Barr isn’t as tall or as heavy as those two defensive ends, but Zimmer says he has never coached a pass rusher who had Barr’s size and speed combo. No wonder he is so excited to take this hunk of clay and try to mold him into a star.

 Barr sounds excited to get to work, too, knowing Zimmer’s reputation as a defensive teacher.

“These are very technical coaches, very detail oriented,” Barr said. “I’m a very detail- oriented guy myself, so I’m looking forward to getting with these guys and improving my game.”

There is still a lot of potentiantal for growth, but it's up to him to put in the time and effort.

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Houston 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Denver
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 6:00 PM
Cleveland
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Washington
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
New York
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Atlanta
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
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Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
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Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
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Tennessee
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(5) Auburn
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(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
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Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
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2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
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