Mike Zimmer finalizes Vikings defensive lineup

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 3, 2014 - 11:50 PM

Robert Blanton and Jasper Brinkley will start, for now.

Beating persistent reporters to the punch this time, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally named Jasper Brinkley and Robert Blanton as starters at middle linebacker and strong safety, respectively.

How long they remain that way beyond Sunday’s season opener at St. Louis could be another matter. Zimmer gave a lukewarm endorsement of Blanton and indicated that Brinkley hasn’t eliminated Audie Cole from further consideration as a starter or key contributor based on the matchup opportunities that future opponents present.

Blanton was Zimmer’s tentative No. 1 strong safety heading into training camp. Despite missing a significant amount of time because of a hamstring injury, Blanton still won the job when more experienced players also were injured or didn’t pan out, as apparently was the case with 34-year-old Chris Crocker.

“[Blanton] probably made less mistakes than anybody,” Zimmer said. “He’s got some cover skills. And all those safeties, we probably didn’t see them enough because of injuries or whatever. But Robert is a good kid, a smart kid. We’ll see how he does.”

Zimmer said he picked Brinkley as the starter this week because he expects the Rams to run the ball more. That fits his strengths better. Zimmer also indicated that Cole’s helpfulness on special teams was a factor.

As for next week’s starter in the middle, that’s to be determined.

“It’s a one-week deal; one week at a time,” Zimmer said. “If they play good, they keep playing.

“I think the defensive team feels comfortable with Jasper making the calls. He’s been lining up with the first group since the first day. In a game like this, it’s nice to be settling in. Everything nice and smooth and hearing the same voices and stuff like that.”

Sam didn’t match need

Yes, Rams coach Jeff Fisher was asked during his conference call with the Twin Cities media about defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team, the Rams, released by an NFL team, the Rams, and signed on Wednesday to the practice squad of America’s Team in Dallas.

“We had needs at other positions,” said Fisher, who has five solid defensive ends and injuries elsewhere. “We made a football decision.”

Healthy team

No starters are listed on the Vikings first injury report. Three players — fullback Zach Line (ankle) and linebackers Brandon Watts (knee) and Michael Mauti (foot) — didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice. Offensive tackle Mike Harris (shoulder) was limited, while cornerback Jabari Price (shoulder) and receiver Rodney Smith (neck) had full participation.

The Rams had only one starter, cornerback Trumaine Johnson (knee), miss practice Wednesday.

Peterson was ticked

The St. Louis media asked running back Adrian Peterson if he’s looked at the film of his 212-yard rushing performance the last time he faced the Rams on Dec. 16, 2012.

“I actually haven’t looked at it all,” he said. “But what I do remember about that game is that it’s first time in eight years, I’ve ever talked off to players. Those guys had me so hot, like I haven’t ever been that mad playing football.”

Peterson lost yardage on four of his first five carries and six of his first eight. After seven carries, he had zero yards.

“They were just yapping at the mouth,” he said. “I’m talking about from the defensive front to the second level to the secondary. Those guys were just yapping.”

On his ninth carry, Peterson went a career-long 82 yards for a touchdown.

“It got a little quiet then,” Peterson said.

Etc.

Safety Ahmad Dixon, a seventh-round draft pick of the Cowboys, has replaced tackle Mike Remmers on the Vikings practice squad.

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