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Zimmer excited about Murray's potential, several backs in NFL draft

Mike Zimmer will have to wait a few more months to see Latavius Murray in pads and won’t get to use him in a meaningful game until September, but the Vikings coach seems excited about what his big new running back could bring to his previously-underperforming offense.

“Obviously, he’s a big back [at] almost 6-3, 225 [pounds],” Zimmer said yesterday during a radio appearance on KFAN. “He’s got strength in his running game, power in his running game. He catches the ball well out of the backfield and he’s a good pass protector and a receiver.”

Zimmer talked about how Murray has the smarts in pass protection to determine which blitzer to block and the size and willingness to step up and stop a big linebacker or a speedy safety in his tracks.

He added that “not having to substitute him on third downs” will be “big.”

Zimmer did not mention Adrian Peterson during the interview, but one could not help but think of Peterson when Zimmer talked about Murray having the skillset to be an every-down back in Minnesota.

Peterson is one of the greatest pure runners the NFL has ever seen. But he was surprisingly limited as a pass-catcher and was not trusted to stay in and pass protect, which is why Matt Asiata played so much.

Murray will still share the load with Jerick McKinnon, who also struggled when asked to pass protect. But if Zimmer has his way, those two will have company in the Vikings backfield this season.

One of the noteworthy nuggets Zimmer dropped in his KFAN interview was that he still thinks there is a “good chance” the Vikings grab another running back at some point during next month’s NFL draft.

“I think there’s a lot of different kinds of guys,” he said. “Off the top of my head, I’m thinking about five or six of them that have a lot of big-play ability and I’m hoping that there’s a chance that we can get one.”

Might one be Joe Mixon, the talented running back who was not invited to the combine after video of him punching a woman became public? Zimmer met with Mixon at Oklahoma’s pro day earlier this month.

“I did meet with him,” Zimmer said. “We just wanted to get a feel for him, really. It was a good visit. We talked about a lot of things — a lot of things in his past, a lot of things about how he’s going to change.”

Zimmer welcomes Vikings' new players, ponders other possible changes

Captain Munnerlyn, Latavius Murray

Mike Zimmer appeared on KFAN this morning and in an interview with my friend Paul Allen shared a few noteworthy nuggets on the Vikings.

Zimmer, of course, was complimentary about the players the Vikings have added in free agency. He says new offensive tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers are “smart,” “tough” and “physical.” And he mentioned that running back Latavius Murray is capable of playing all three downs, which is something his predecessor, Adrian Peterson, was not trusted to do.

After officially losing Chad Greenway to retirement, Zimmer said again that he plans to keep Eric Kendricks in the middle, though he thought Kentrell Brothers, whom he called a “two-down” middle linebacker, had a good rookie year. Interestingly, Zimmer said he has given thought to using a hybrid linebacker/safety in Greenway’s old spot in the base defense.

As for replacing cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, the veteran slot specialist who signed with the Panthers, Zimmer said 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander will get the first shot.

“What he does with it is up to him,” Zimmer said.

Zimmer also acknowledged that the Vikings must add a wide receiver or two this offseason after Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson were allowed to leave in free agency. He mentioned that they wanted wideouts who can “stretch the field a little bit.”

Zimmer said that defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who has been sidelined since September, is still recovering from “this thing with his leg.”

“He’s trying to get healthy. He’s got this thing with his leg. I don’t know if I should get too specific with it,” he said. “We’re just waiting for it to get healthy and if that’s the case then I think he can have a good year.”

But the Vikings signed Datone Jones to cover themselves if he doesn’t.

Finally, Allen asked Zimmer a good question about Riki Ellison’s latest social media rant, the one that said the Vikings have “toxic leadership.” Zimmer said he tried to talk about that with the ex-NFL linebacker and outspoken father of former Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison. But…

“Unfortunately, he didn’t return my call,” he said. “So I tried to [find out why] his comments were made but he didn’t seem fit to call me back.”

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