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Receiver Bohringer still struggling with Vikings in second training camp

One of the last Vikings players to leave the practice fields here in Mankato yesterday afternoon was second-year wide receiver Moritz Bohringer, whose most memorable play on that day was fighting to break up a would-be INT after he and his quarterback were not on the same page.

Even during a couple of early camp practices that have been attended mostly by rookies, Bohringer has not done much to distinguish himself and may have gotten fewer snaps yesterday than the five other receivers on hand, including 2017 draft picks Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley.

Still, coach Mike Zimmer said today that Bohringer is “much improved” from where he was a year ago, when the wide-eyed German arrived in Mankato for his first real taste of NFL football, when players were in pads and cornerbacks were finally permitted to press him at the line.

Zimmer says Bohringer has a better understanding of the offense. He is running better routes, though Zimmer said it is important that Bohringer shows improvement in accelerating out of breaks at the top of his routes. And he says he is catching cleaner after bobbling balls last year.

“The transition from the top of the route to accelerate out, to me, that’s going to be the biggest thing. He’s a little bit of a high-cut guy. He needs to be able to sink his hips and accelerate out,” Zimmer said. “He didn’t catch the ball great last year so that’s obviously [another emphasis].”

And Zimmer senses that Bohringer is more comfortable outside of the white lines. This time a year ago, the German was understandably timid when speaking in English with coaches, teammates and media.

“These three days have been good for him and he’s helping the younger guys a little bit now, which is something he couldn’t do before,” Zimmer said. “The communication with the language is much better.”

There is no denying the 23-year-old’s athleticism. Before last year’s draft, Bohringer, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds, recorded a vertical leap of 39 inches and a 10-foot-11 broad jump, and he completed the three-cone drill in 6.65 seconds.

Those numbers, at that size, put him in the 99th percentile in athleticism among NFL receivers. So he was definitely worth a late-round flier.

It was obvious right away, though, when Bohringer practiced with Vikings veterans last spring and summer that he had a long, long way to go. He looked stiff, couldn’t separate and had trouble tracking the football, so his exceptional athletic attributes rarely translated into on-field success.

The Vikings obviously agreed that he wasn’t ready to contribute. He spent his rookie year on their practice squad and couldn’t even get a call-up for their meaningless season finale. Isaac Fruechte was promoted instead.

It’s a new season now and there is opportunity for the young receivers on the roster, with Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson departing in free agency and Michael Floyd being suspended for the first four games. There are probably two roster spots up for grabs at that position.

Right now, it seems unlikely that Bohringer will seize one of them.

Zimmer admitted yesterday that “he is still a ways away,” before adding that “he’s got a chance” to become a contributor at some point.

Zimmer to test handing off play calling duties during preseason game

MANKATO — Whichever football team has employed Mike Zimmer for the past 17 seasons, he’s called their defensive plays on Sundays.

There’s still a possibility of that ending this season. The Vikings head coach says he’ll likely let defensive coordinator George Edwards call a preseason game next month to see if that frees up Zimmer to better manage games in his fourth season at the helm.

“I’llprobably have [Edwards] call one in a preseason game and see how it goes,” Zimmer said Tuesday. “I have not decided yet, no, totally for the season, but I think it’d be good practice in the preseason to see how it goes. See if it helps me help other areas of the game, so I’m kind of thinking that way.”

In three years under Zimmer, the Vikings defense has gone from one of the league’s worst to one of the best. He inherited a last-place scoring defense. They’ve since ranked 11th, fifth and sixth in points allowed each of the past three seasons.

However, Zimmer has openly discussed this offseason his thinking on how he could be a better head coach and manager on game days after the Vikings went 3-8 down the stretch last season with many close losses.

Giving Zimmer’s idea more credence was how Edwards fared in the game vs. Dallas, when Zimmer couldn’t coach due to emergency eye surgery. The Vikings lost, but limited the potent Cowboys to 264 yards and 17 points. Edwards last called plays full-time as the Bills defensive coordinator in 2011.

The Vikings’ first preseason game is Aug. 10 in Buffalo.

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