With big things expected of Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater this coming season, coach Mike Zimmer was asked where the 2014 first-round draft pick needs to improve.
“The big thing with Teddy is he needs to add a little bit more strength, a little more weight on him,” Zimmer said. “He’s about 210 pounds, we’re trying to get him around 218, somewhere in that range. But he has to continue to develop with the receivers we have.
“I know he’s spending some time with those guys. I believe it’s this week he has a bunch of guys coming down to see him [in Miami, his hometown]. That stuff I feel good about, the way he progressed throughout the season. We anticipate that he’ll continue to progress at that pace. He has to continue to make the right decisions and take the plays that are there for him. All of those things are going to lead to his development. The great thing about him is he wants to work and get better every day. I feel really good about him. He’s the quality of guy that we really want to have here.”
The addition of talented wide receiver Mike Wallace, acquired in a trade from the Dolphins, is expected to make Bridgewater all the more effective.
“Well, you know I love Teddy and love the way that he prepares, everything he does. Teddy makes a lot of people around him better,” Zimmer said. “The more weapons we can put around Teddy, the more explosive I think we’ll be offensively. That will continue to help us in all areas of the team, defense and special teams as well Mike Zimmer.”
Zimmer, like General Manager Rick Spielman, is very high on Wallace after coaching against him for years when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals and Wallace was a deep threat for the Steelers.
“Mike is a guy I competed against for a number of years when he was in Pittsburgh, and he was a guy you always had to pay special attention to, a guy that can open up a lot of different areas,” Zimmer said. “If they’re not using two guys on him, then you have a chance to create some big, big plays in the passing game. He does a good job of running after the catch, does a good job on reverses, some of the screens he does, and getting in and out of breaks.”
Zimmer was asked about the future of running back Adrian Peterson, and he repeated what Spielman recently said.
“Well Adrian is under contract with us and we’re excited to get him back here with his teammates and get him back playing,” Zimmer said.
Likes Asiata signing
Zimmer was happy to see restricted free agent Matt Asiata, one of the running backs asked to fill in for Peterson last season, sign to return in 2015.
Asiata played in 15 games last year, rushing for 570 yards on 164 attempts. He also had nine rushing touchdowns, including three against Atlanta in September.
“Matt is a great kid. He loves to compete. His attitude, the way he brings his attitude to work every day and the way he runs down by the goal line is a big asset,” Zimmer said. “That’s what we’re trying to develop with this football team, that kind of mindset, that kind of mentality, the toughness and besides being good guys off the field. That’s really the kind of guy we’re looking for.”
At Winter Park last season there was a feeling that second-year cornerback Xavier Rhodes may have been the most improved player on the team.
“Rhodes seemed to really do that improvement last year,” Zimmer said. “He had a very good year, he really enjoyed the system that we’re playing on the back end and I think he has developed quite a bit throughout the course of the year, especially toward the end of the year I thought he played really well.
“He’s a tough guy, a smart guy, a lot of athletic ability and great length. I really anticipate that he’s going to continue to grow as a football player. There’s so many little things he can do so much better, and he’s the type of kid who wants to do those things and continue to get better. If he can continue to do that and learn more about understanding the NFL game, I think he has a chance to have a very, very bright future.”
Acquiring good players
With free agency going on and the draft coming up, Zimmer has to realize that the Vikings have a lot of holes to fill, if they are going to compete with the Packers and the Lions and the rest of the NFC’s elite teams.
“What we’re trying to do is, I just want to get as many good football players in here as we can, whether it’s in the offensive line or the secondary, a tight end, it doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “Obviously we have some holes. We have to find a left guard and shore up some things in the secondary and we want to continue to look at guys who can score touchdowns and guys that can pressure the quarterback. So we’re not turning on our back on anybody, but we’re going to try to fill as many holes as we have and also load up on as many good football players as we can. This is a survival-of-the-fittest game.”
• The Wild roster features six Minnesota natives, with many playing a big part in the team’s bid for the Stanley Cup. Star forward Zach Parise leads the team with 56 points, including a goal in Saturday’s 6-3 victory over St. Louis. The other five are Jordan Schroeder, Nate Prosser, Jordan Leopold and the injured Ryan Carter and Keith Ballard. In addition, Europeans Thomas Vanek and Erik Haula played for the Gophers, and Canadian Justin Fontaine played for Minnesota Duluth.
• Asked about the future of linebacker Chad Greenway, Vikings GM Rick Spielman said: “I never talk about our business, but everybody I’ve spoken to here, we definitely want Chad Greenway back here, and we’ll continue to work through that. But Chad Greenway is a very important part of this organization and this football team. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Chad can finish out a Minnesota Viking.”
• The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority continues to seek national events for the Vikings stadium. It is bidding for the 2017 version of WrestleMania, the premier pro wrestling event that drew 75,167 fans to the Superdome in New Orleans last year.
• Champlin Park standout Theo John got his first big scholarship offer from the Gophers after Richard Pitino and his staff saw the 6-9, 225-pound sophomore play at the state tournament. John told GopherIllustrated, “It’s a blessing and means so much for offer No. 1 to come from my hometown.” Speaking of the Class of 2017, Hopkins sophomore Simon Wright has an offer from Providence of the Big East.
• As poor a record as the Gophers posted, you have to wonder if it would have been worse if Joey King hadn’t transferred from Drake. The Eastview product played the second-most minutes on the team while averaging 9.7 points per game.