Mike Zimmer wouldn’t give away his plan at quarterback for Thursday’s preseason finale because he hadn’t told his players yet.
The Vikings coach, however, gave a few hints Tuesday. Not only will rookie Teddy Bridgewater play at Tennessee, but Zimmer said there’s a “good chance” he’ll start.
“If he does start the game, it’s good for us to see how he takes the beginning of the game,” Zimmer said.
Bridgewater hasn’t received a snap in the first half since the preseason opener against the Raiders in his only game with the first-team offense. Matt Cassel played the entire first half over the past two preseason games, and remained in the game for the first drive in the third quarter against the Chiefs on Saturday.
The Vikings also will get a look at Christian Ponder, who hasn’t played in the past two games. Zimmer wants Ponder’s performance to reflect what he’s seen at practice.
“He made like three great throws today and just had the poise when he’s getting rushed to make the right throws,” Zimmer said. “He’s got all the talent in the world to do those things. That’s really what you want him to do is really what he’s doing in practice.”
Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr will be one of seven players who will not play against the Titans because of injury, with an additional two players questionable. Barr has been sidelined because of a sprained ankle.
Along with Barr, linebackers Michael Mauti (ankle) and Brandon Watts (leg), safety Jamarca Sanford (quadriceps), cornerback Jabari Price (arm/shoulder), offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (calf) will miss the preseason finale.
Zimmer said linebacker Gerald Hodges (knee) and wide receiver Rodney Smith (back/neck) might play. Smith landed awkwardly on his neck recovering an onside kick against the Chiefs on Saturday.
“He’s just really sore,” Zimmer said. “I’m not a doctor, but [it’s] kind of like a whiplash thing.”
Zimmer has a good idea who will start at middle linebacker between Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole, and he’ll use the fourth preseason game as confirmation in the final evaluation.
Brinkley started against the Chiefs and received 27 snaps, while Cole had 33 snaps. Zimmer said he slid Brinkley into the nickel in certain situations but could stay in the 4-3 base defense against the Titans as part of the evaluation process.
“Both did well in a lot of situations,” Zimmer said. “I think we got sloppy at the end of the game a little bit with both of them, maybe fatigue or whatever it was. They’ll get a lot of plays this week.”
Vikings fans probably didn’t know who offensive tackle Austin Wentworth was … until he replaced Loadholt at right tackle and allowed a safety on his first snap against the Chiefs.
Wentworth received praise from Zimmer during training camp, but he misjudged defense end Jaye Howard’s alignment to allow a strip sack in the end zone.
“Obviously not my best,” Wentworth described the performance. “There are some good things you can take away from it, but a lot of stuff, being a rookie, that you can work on.”
Wentworth will get his final tryout to make the team, hoping that he won’t make the same mistake against the Titans.
The undrafted rookie is competing for the team’s backup tackle spot with Antonio Richardson and Mike Remmers. Wentworth began the offseason receiving reps at left guard but transitioned to tackle at the start of training camp. He played both spots during his four seasons at Fresno State.
• The Vikings got their roster to the required 75 players by cutting tight end Mike Higgins.