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.
The Vikings have released their first “unofficial” depth chart, and there are no major changes from the one that we projected yesterday afternoon.
As expected, Matt Cassel is the first-string quarterback, the five-man offensive line from 2012 and 2013 remains intact, top pick Anthony Barr is the starter at strong-side linebacker and Robert Blanton is listed as the starter next to Harrison Smith despite being out with a hamstring injury.
The only thing that qualifies as a major surprise is that Greg Jennings has apparently been cloned.
But there are a few things worth noting on this "unofficial" depth chart. Rookie Jabari Price is listed ahead of veteran cornerbacks Derek Cox and Marcus Sherels. Audie Cole is the second-string middle linebacker and Michael Mauti is listed as a third-stringer at the weak-side linebacker spot. And Matt Asiata is the primary backup to Adrian Peterson for now, not rookie Jerick McKinnon.
Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw his third interception in training camp during Saturday night’s practice in a red zone situation. All three turnovers occurred within the last week, while he went through OTAs, minicamp and the start of training camp without an interception.
To some, Bridgewater’s interceptions might a sign that he’s struggling. To offensive coordinator Norv Turner, he has a different perspective.
“I think he’s playing at an awfully high level,” Turner said when asked about Bridgewater’s interceptions.
Turner said he’s placed Bridgewater in situations he won’t be faced with in a game to figure out what exactly the rookie can do. Both Bridgewater and Cassel have thrown over 150 passes with three interceptions each, according to Turner. He said each had an interception on a bad read, a wide receiver mistake and a great play defensively.
“There’s no full speed rush like a game, but I’m excited about what Teddy’s doing,” Turner said. “I’m really excited about how Matt’s playing. We’re not going to win every play. If we had not thrown an interception, you guys would be wanting to know what’s wrong with the defense and why aren’t we intercepting any balls.”
Turner said head coach Mike Zimmer has a plan in place to play Bridgewater with the first team during the preseason. Bridgewater has been mixed in with the first team offense during 11-on-11 periods over the last week in an open competition with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder for the starting quarterback position. Turner did not mention whether Bridgewater would be involved with the first team offense during the preseason opener against the Raiders on Friday, but he wants to see Bridgewater management skills in his first game.
“He doesn’t have to be sensational, he just has to make good decisions,” Turner said. “He needs to protect the ball, get our group in and out of the huddle, get in the right play, get in the right protection. That’s the biggest thing about managing the game. He’s going to make plays. When he had an opportunity out here, he’s made plays. He’s made big plays throwing the ball up the field, and he’s made big plays checking the ball down.”
Because most of us can't remember ... what were we talking about?
Here is a reminder from the Vikings about he do's and don'ts for those attending Friday night's preseason opener at TCF Bank Stadium:
VIKINGS REMIND FANS NFL’S ENHANCED PUBLIC SAFETY POLICY WILL BE IN PLACE FOR SECOND SEASON BEGINNING WITH FIRST PRESEASON GAME THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 8
Eden Prairie, MN (August 5, 2014) – With the Vikings first preseason game set for this Friday, August 8, the team is reminding fans of the NFL policy that limits the size and type of bags allowed in the stadium on game day.
The league-wide policy, which will be in place for the second straight season at all NFL stadiums, is designed to provide a safer environment for the public and significantly expedite fan entry on game day. The Vikings strongly encourage fans to not bring any type of bags, but fans will be able to carry the following style and size bag, package, or container at stadium plaza areas, stadium gates, or when approaching queue lines of fans awaiting entry into the stadium:
Prohibited items include, but are not limited to: purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage of any kind, seat cushions, computer bags and camera bags or any bag larger than the permissible size. For additional information, go to NFL.com/allclear.
Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
--- GM Rick Spielman has made this roster young again.
--- Chris Crocker's arrival is not a good sign for the team's safety depth.
--- The Vikings activated S Andrew Sendejo from the PUP list.
--- Here's our best guess at what Mike Zimmer's depth chart would look like.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Packers haven't picked which game they'll honor Favre in 2015. Some free advice: maybe don't choose the Vikings as opponent— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) August 4, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
--- Brett Favre is "truly honored" to be heading into the Packers Hall of Fame.
--- Marquess Wilson, the Bears’ No. 3 WR, fractured his clavicle in practice.
--- Lions RB Reggie Bush is determined to stay productive.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings are back to their normal routine, with a 10:30 a.m. walkthrough and a padded practice that starts at 3:30 p.m. Coordinators Norv Turner and George Edwards are scheduled to talk.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
As the folks at Football Outsiders pointed out in this recent ESPN piece, at least one team has gone from worst to first in its respective division in each of the past 11 seasons. So what are the odds the Vikings can do it in 2014? Based on their simulations, Football Outsiders says they have a 12.9 percent chance, the third-worst odds among the eight last-place finishers from 2013. Of course, as their projections show, anything is possible. Even the Raiders winning the Super Bowl.
The dog days of training camp have officially arrived here in Mankato.
With head coach Mike Zimmer and the Vikings nearly two weeks into training camp and just four days away from their first preseason game against the Raiders at TCF, you definitely get the sense that the players are ready to start smashing helmets with someone in a jersey of a different color.
That’s not to say that today’s practice was chippy. We have yet to see anything that could be remotely described as a skirmish or an altercation during Zimmer’s first training camp. Honestly, I’m a little bummed out I haven’t been able to write the word brouhaha. Well, until now, that is.
But after nine long days in the sun, you can feel that the anticipation for an actual game is building. Zimmer will be challenged to keep his players focused on the now, as monotonous as these summer practices can become once you flip the calendar to August, instead of looking ahead to Friday.
SETTING THE SCENE: At the start of practice, the sky was overcast and a little ominous with a stiff breeze. But the nasty weather held off, and soon the sky was blue. The temperature was in the high 70s. Zimmer had the Vikings practicing in full pads for the sixth time in their past seven practices.
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORD: After throwing a bunch of passes in team drills Saturday night, the quarterbacks weren’t asked to throw much in 11-on-11 situations today. Matt Cassel, who worked mostly with the ones, completed eight of his 10 attempts. Teddy Bridgewater completed eight of his nine attempts, including three of four in a stint with the first-team offense. And after he didn’t throw a single pass in team drills Saturday night, Christian Ponder got a chance to run a two-minute drill early in practice. He completed four of his seven attempts to third-stringers, but one of the incompletions was a drop and the other two were spikes to stop the clock. That was it for Ponder in 11-on-11 drills, though, as once again Cassel and Bridgewater hogged the huddle.
TEDDY CAN PUNT, TOO: Zimmer doesn’t fall into coachspeak as often as his peers, but he does talk a lot about situational football. During about every practice, he prepares his team for some rare and random occurrence. Today, he had quarterbacks practice pooch punts. Bridgewater can apparently punt a little bit, too. He booted both punts high into the sky. The latter of the two had a hang time of about four seconds. Jeff Locke need not worry about his job, but that was impressive.
CROCKER ISN’T EASED IN: The new guy, veteran safety Chris Crocker, wasn’t just limited to individual work and the occasional cameo during his first practice with the Vikings. Crocker was part of the safety rotation, usually with the second-team defense. Credit his familiarity with Zimmer and his defensive scheme for that. Crocker has played for Zimmer in each of the past seven seasons, and he said after practice that he wouldn’t have come out of semi-retirement for any other coach.
SPEAKING OF SAFETIES: With Crocker on the field and fellow safety Andrew Sendejo activated from the PUP list, the secondary was crowded with eight safeties, though Zimmer did let Harrison Smith take it easy, perhaps to get a better look at the other guys. Zimmer checked out a bunch of different combinations, and everyone from Jamarca Sanford and Kurt Coleman to Crocker and rookie Antone Exum got looks with the ones or twos. This camp competition gets murkier by the day.
TALKING ‘BOUT PUNTS: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who returned punts for the Panthers, got a chance to field a few of them today, though the only thing I would take away from that is that his hamstring is healthy enough for him to practice without limitations. No, the Vikings won’t need him if they keep Marcus Sherels, who broke a punt return for a long gain down the left sideline at the end of practice. The only one standing in his way was Locke, and I wouldn’t have liked his chances.
INJURY REPORT: Rookie left tackle Antonio Richardson left practice after his left leg got rolled up on a run play. Linebacker Brandon Watts (hamstring) and cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) returned to practice. Remaining sidelined were safety Robert Blanton (hamstring) and tight ends Chase Ford (foot) and AC Leonard (head). Ford is no longer in a walking boot -- a good sign.
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