Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has had some rocky moments in recent practices, throwing four interceptions in the past three days, including one tonight in the end zone. But he showed the loud crowd in the bleachers a glimpse of his promise in the two-minute drill at the end of the night.
After Matt Cassel was unable to lead the first-team offense to a touchdown in a situation in which a field goal wouldn’t cut it, Bridgewater coolly guided the second-stringers 60 yards for a touchdown. Not counting a spike to stop the clock, Bridgewater completed each of his six attempts for all 60 yards and the touchdown, which came on a 20-yard strike to wide receiver Rodney Smith.
Chatting with reporters after practice, Bridgewater acknowledged that the two-minute drill “went good.” But he was still stewing over the interception he threw in the red-zone drill moments earlier.
“I'm not so happy about the way it ended as I am [upset] about the interception I threw in the red zone. That's something I'll learn from,” Bridgewater said. “Coach Zimmer always stresses that we have to outsmart our opponent. If you have points, try to keep those points. I'm not as happy about the touchdown as I want to be.”
SETTING THE SCENE: Approximately 9,200 Vikings fans attended tonight’s practice at Minnesota State Mankato. The spirited practice lasted about two hours, and afterwards each of the 90 men on the roster tossed autographed footballs into the stands -- well, except for the unidentified player who cleared the entire bleachers and put one out into the parking lot. Now, as I type this blog, fireworks are popping outside the window of the media room. It had to be a fun night for the fans.
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORD: Bridgewater bounced back after a couple of shaky practices by completing 20 of his 25 attempts with one touchdown and one interception. Two of those incompletions were drops, and veteran outside linebacker Chad Greenway made one heck of a play on the pick, reading Bridgewater’s eyes and flashing in front of the intended receiver for an interception that left Bridgewater shaking his head. Meanwhile, Cassel was 18-for-27 with a pair of interceptions, both of them coming -- one from cornerback Xavier Rhodes and another from fellow corner Marcus Sherels -- on go routes down the sideline. “That's going to happen in camp,” Cassel said. “The thing is I'm confident in how I'm playing.” And then there is Christian Ponder, who didn’t even attempt a pass in team drills and appears to be nothing more than a camp arm at this point.
ONE MORE TEDDY TIDBIT: I was really impressed with a particular play from Bridgewater during 11-on-11 drills, and it was an example of the pocket presence that offensive coordinator Norv Turner and others have raved about. As the pocket collapsed on him from behind, Bridgewater climbed the pocket then made a strong throw between a pair of linebackers to wide receiver Donte Foster, who was well covered while running a deep in route across the field. Now that was an NFL throw.
THE PLAY OF CAMP SO FAR: Rhodes made an incredible play to intercept Cassel. Trailing wide receiver Jarius Wright down the left sideline, Rhodes laid out to make an over-the-shoulder grab of a well-thrown deep ball. “Xavier made a great play,” Cassel said. Rhodes landed on the ball and bounced off it like he was doing “The Worm,” but he turned out to be OK. Earlier in practice, he impressed in 1-on-1 drills, too, breaking up a slant to Cordarrelle Patterson with some physical coverage then running stride for stride with Patterson in a trail position on an incomplete deep ball.
GRIFFEN SPINS AND SWIMS: The 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive linemen are always fun to watch, particularly when (as Zimmer calls him, "eager") defensive end Everson Griffen is involved. After a stalemate with left tackle Matt Kalil, Griffen blew by him on the next opportunity, setting Kalil up with an outside rush then spinning inside to blow up an imaginary quarterback. A couple of minutes later, Griffen ripped right by rookie left guard David Yankey with a swim move.
HE’S GOT LEGS, AND HE KNOWS HOW TO USE THEM: The Vikings are trying to ratchet up Blair Walsh for the preseason games, and he is responding well. Tonight, they let him unload on a couple of 50-plus-yarders in front of the fans, and he connected from 51 then 53 yards. He was 8-for-8 on field goals. Afterward, he boomed four straight touchbacks before focusing on directional kickoffs.
INJURY REPORT: Rookie outside linebacker Brandon Watts missed practice with an undisclosed injury. He was shaken up yesterday after a collision with tight end Rhett Ellison. Also sidelined tonight were cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring), tight ends Chase Ford (fractured foot) and AC Leonard (head), and safeties Robert Blanton (hamstring) and Andrew Sendejo (back and ankle).