Bye weeks tend to be a time when teams make changes. The Vikings have kept that tradition moving along by trading their starting middle linebacker, Gerald Hodges, to San Francisco for a sixth round draft pick and rookie center Nick Easton.
That was last week. Might we see another change this week? After all, it’s obvious that coach Mike Zimmer isn’t satisfied with the strong safety position.
Zimmer’s press conference earlier today led off this way:
Q: How do you feel about the safety position?
A: “I feel good about Harrison [Smith].”
Q: What about the other side?
A: “It’s fluid. Just keep working them.”
Q: Is it just a lack of consistency?
A: “Pretty much.”
Q: Has Antone Exum made progress?
A: “Some. We’ll see how he does this week.”
Q: Is he a candidate to get more playing time?
A: “Potentially. If I feel good about him.”
The Vikings haven’t had a solid situation at strong safety in the 20 games that Zimmer has been the head coach. Blanton has started 14 of those games, including 13 last year. Andrew Sendejo has started the other six, including the final three last year and the first three this year before a knee injury sidelined him at Denver in the game right before the bye.
Zimmer isn’t going to come out and say he’s making a change to Exum this week. But changes like this do tend to take place coming out of bye weeks.
Other highlights from Zimmer’s press conference …
— On whether the coaches focused more on pass protection during the bye considering Teddy Bridgewater was sacked seven times at Denver: “A lot of those [sacks] were mental errors, but we spent a lot of time on that. We’ll have to see how that unfolds.”
— When asked if it was important to be more balanced offensively considering the Vikings are No. 2 in rushing and No. 32 in passing: “Where are we in scoring points per game. That’s all I care about. Wins and scoring points per game.” (For the record, the Vikings are 2-2, 23rd in scoring (20.0) and sixth in scoring defense (18.3).
— On what he expects from the Chiefs’ screen game without running back Jamaal Charles, who is out for the season with a torn ACL in his right knee: “They’ve got a terrific screen game and it’s not all [Charles]. It’s not always with him. Sometimes, it’s with [receiver De'Anthony] Thomas. Sometimes, it’s with [tight end Travis] Kelce? They average about six screens a game. They do a great job there. The running game, I assume, who knows, but I think they will be similar to the things they’ve done with the bellies and the counters and stutters that they run. They may go in and start running some presses and some of the things we’ve seen in the past. The backs, they’re good backs. I don’t want to take anything away from Jamaal Charles, because he’s amazing. But [Knile] Davis has had some good games. [Charcandrick] West hasn’t had a lot, but I know they like him a lot. He’s averaging four yards a carry. I assume they’re going to do a lot of the things they do.”
— On the uncertainty of not knowing what the Chiefs will do without their best offensive player: “There’s always the uncertainty. They have a lot of tight ends. They could always line up with all tight ends like San Francisco did. They could try that. Part of it is the uncertainty. When they got all their guys, you kind of know what they’re going to do.”
— On Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith: “He can make all the throws. I remember playing against him last year in the preseason. He makes some really good throws. I think the tight end and [Jeremy] Maclin are both very good security blankets for him. They do a good job of getting the ball out quick. They have a lot of five-outs. I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re a protection-based team. They’re going to get the ball out, get five receivers out. There’s a possibility they may go five wide receivers or four receivers and a tight end because of things they’re trying to do. Or put Thomas in the backfield and use him as their screen guy.”