Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is impressed after he got a good look at not only his 10 draft picks, but about 10 other rookie free agent signings and 50 additional players who came in for a tryout for the team’s rookie minicamp.
“The top two picks obviously, [cornerback] Trae Waynes came in and he did a nice job, and we still have a lot of things to do with teaching them all, but [linebacker] Eric Kendricks did a good job,” Zimmer said. “I think as we keep looking, [offensive lineman] T.J. Clemmings looked very, very good in the rookie minicamp. We’re starting to get them going in the second phase of our program now. They are all doing a good job, really.”
Early on, the Vikings targeted rookie free agent quarterback Taylor Heinicke out of Old Dominion. He threw for 3,476 yards his senior year with 30 touchdowns and only 16 interceptions while completing 63.2 percent of his passes.
“Taylor Heinicke, he has done a nice job,” Zimmer said. “He throws the ball well and seems to be smart in making decisions and things like that.”
Zimmer also expressed some addition thoughts on Kendricks, who was selected in the second round.
“I have been [impressed], he’s very, very instinctive,” Zimmer said. “He reminds me of some of the guys that I’ve had play for me in the past. He’s quick, he can accelerate and run. He does a good job in coverage. We’re excited to have him. Hopefully we can continue to upgrade at the linebacker spot and continue to get better up front defensively.”
Another free agent rookie the team targeted was cornerback Justin Coleman of Tennessee, who had four interceptions and 42 tackles in his senior season. Zimmer said he was smart and is a quick reactor, but has to get bigger and stronger. Coleman is missing some time because of a shoulder surgery.
Zimmer produced some fresh news on the offensive line when it comes to replacing guard Charlie Johnson.
“We are looking at a few guys right now,” he said. “Obviously [veteran] Joe Berger has a chance to fit in with the mix. We have actually been looking at Brandon Fusco moving over to left guard and T.J. Clemmings playing right guard. Also the kid [tackle] Carter Bykowski] that we took off of San Francisco’s practice squad has looked good as well.”
Fusco and tackle Phil Loadholt both missed time because of torn pectoral muscles last season. “Fusco is pretty much up to full speed,” Zimmer said. “Loadholt is not quite there, but he’s getting closer.”
Zimmer said the team is more stable than last offseason, with fewer holes in the roster. He said staying healthy is important and added that there is a lot of excitement with the team’s progress.
He said second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has to improve, as he did in the second half of last season, and the team has to pass protect better and improve on stopping the run and in end-of-game scenarios.
Veterans coming on
And it isn’t just rookies that Zimmer is watching in the early part of the offseason. A number of veteran players have been around Winter Park.
“[Tackle Matt Kalil is] going well,” Zimmer said. “He told me the other day that he feels great. He has been coming and getting everything he needs to get done. I think he is excited about the season and has a little chip on his shoulder.
“[Wide receiver] Cordarrelle [Patterson] is doing a good job in this offseason. He has been in better shape coming in, and he is doing a better job of running routes, of competing each and every down. I look forward to him coming on and I’m a big fan of his. We’re just trying to get him to realize all the little intricacies you have to do offensively in the NFL in order to be a great player.”
As for other receivers, Zimmer is familiar with Mike Wallace, who was acquired from Miami and regularly played against Zimmer when Wallace was in Pittsburgh and Zimmer was with the Bengals. Wallace has a reputation for having baggage, but Zimmer described him as a “great kid” who runs routes hard and is extremely fast and explosive. He also said offensive coordinator Norv Turner has opened up the playbook to give the receivers more chances to get the ball and make explosive plays.
“Wallace looks good, Charles Johnson continues to improve, we talked about Cordarrelle already, Adam Thielen has been coming in and competing every day,” Zimmer said.
Lastly Zimmer was asked if he thinks star running back Adrian Peterson will report any time soon.
“Well I’m hoping so,” he said. “It’s really kind of up to Adrian at this point in what he decides to do, but we’re excited to get him back here and get him playing and be a part of the football team. I know everyone in the locker room is excited to get him back, and you know he’ll add a lot of value to our offensive football team.”
• The Twins are 21-17 through 38 games, compared to 18-20 last season. The biggest difference has been pitching. Last year at this time, the team ERA was 4.73 and they were hitting .248 with 180 runs scored and 165 RBI. This season their ERA is nearly half a run lower at 4.26, and they’re hitting .260 with 171 runs scored and 161 RBI. … The Twins have only seven free agents to negotiate with after this season: Blaine Boyer, Tim Stauffer, Shane Robinson, Torii Hunter, Mike Pelfrey, Brian Duensing and Doug Bernier.
• Kevin McHale can thank his former Gophers teammate Flip Saunders for trading Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer to McHale’s Houston team last December, because Brewer played perhaps the best quarter of his basketball career Thursday night when the Rockets outscored the Los Angeles Clippers 40-15 to rally and force Game 7 that they won Sunday to advance to the Western Conference finals. Brewer scored 15 of his 19 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including going 2-for-3 on three-pointers, and added five rebounds and one assist in the quarter. Brewer has averaged 11.9 points per game after he was traded and played tremendous defense. He has averaged 12.5 points in the playoffs and in Sunday’s Game 7, he scored 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting.
• Former Vikings QB Pat Devlin has signed with the Chicago Bears. … Former Vikings defensive end Corey Wootton and wide receiver Erik Lora signed with the Lions. … Seattle has not renewed the contract of ex-Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who played last year, and the Saints didn’t sign him after a workout.
• Ten current or former Gophers wrestlers placed at the junior and senior level at the 2015 Open Wrestling Championships last weekend in Las Vegas. Tommy Thorn was one of six current members who competed, and he won the national championship at 63 kilograms. Other current Gophers placing included Ethan Lizak finishing sixth at 55 kilograms, Colin Carr was seventh at 79 kilograms, and Chris Pfarr was eighth at 84 kilograms.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. email@example.com