Observations From Minnesota Vikings Training Camp – July 31, 2014
The Minnesota Vikings are wrapping up their first full week of training camp under new head coach Mike Zimmer, and optimism among players and fans continues to run high. The latest voice to chime in on the optimism is Adrian Peterson, who clearly stated he was discontent with how last year went and is excited to play under the new staff's more aggressive and creative scheme.
While optimism is high, there is still plenty that needs to be accomplished before the team breaks camp and heads into the 2014 season. Here are my observations from camp on Thursday.
Former first round pick Christian Ponder has effectively been eliminated from the competition to be this year's starting quarterback, leaving Matt Cassel (entering his 10th year) and rookie Teddy Bridgewater.
Cassel and Bridgewater split snaps pretty evenly in scrimmage drills and both seem to be on a pretty even plain in terms of quality of play and decision-making at this time. While this bodes well for rookie Bridgewater, it also means that Cassel is playing on the same level as a rookie in camp.
Outside of one interception thrown by Bridgewater, both quarterbacks looked decent (read: had a nondescript day with no flashy or extremely impressive plays). While Teddy did throw a pick, it is encouraging to see how he handled the situation. He seemed to take the situation in stride and was ready to move on quickly and learn from his mistakes, which is exactly what is wanted from a quarterback. Whether or not that is his approach in an actual game is, of course, yet to be seen on a pro level.
Earlier in the week, Rhodes was beaten pretty obviously by practice squad standout wide receiver Adam Thielen. This is one of a handful of instances where the cornerback hasn't looked as dominant as a former first round pick should.
While that is definitely something to note, it is most definitely not time to write Rhodes off as another Chris Cook-like bust.
Rhodes most definitely has the size and skillset to be successful at cornerback, but it seems as though he is unsure or hesitant, which could be holding back a player that will likely be matched up against NFC North studs like Calvin Johnson and Jordy Nelson.
After slowly being flexed into the defense last year, Rhodes has shown flashes of promise. With the help of Coach Zimmer, the hope is that the cornerback can be a dominant figure in the Vikings secondary.
Norv Turner loves using tight ends in his offense. Antonio Gates in San Diego and Jordan Cameron in Cleveland are just a couple examples of high production in Turner's system.
Kyle Rudolph got plenty of looks in practice, and he will definitely play a bigger role in the offense this year. As a big player with soft hands, Rudolph will prove to be a great target for either Teddy or Matt this season.
The bigger role and expectation of higher production and involvement follows news that Rudolph and the team agreed to a long-term deal that makes Rudolph one of the 5 highest-paid tight ends in the league.
According to Kyle, even before the coaching staff change, he was excited to stay in Minnesota and was pleased not only to see Norv join the coaching staff, but also that he was able to stay with the team. He went on to comment that he is excited about the direction the team is going, and he looks forward to showing off what the team has in store.
The laid-back attitude of the Frazier regime is long gone. Coach Zimmer and his crew certainly let a number of "f-bombs" fly as they worked with the team.
When Zimmer was hired, it was well-published that he is a loud individual on the field that isn't afraid to get in a player's face if necessary. While he and his staff did have their share of outbursts, they were all in appropriate situations and seem to make sense as a part of their coaching style.
The analogy that I've heard is that the loud coaching style is more father-like than just angrily yelling, and I can certainly see how that makes sense.
There is a lot of excitement about the possibility that the Minnesota Vikings might have found a long-term solution at quarterback. While that has yet to be proven, there really isn't any reason to believe Teddy can't be that guy at this point.
Following a trend through camp so far, Teddy was a fan-favorite in the autograph line. Chants of "TEDDY! TEDDY!" fired up as he crossed Stadium Street from the field toward the locker rooms after practice.
Cordarrelle Patterson playfully pushed Bridgewater over to the fans, where he spent at least 10 minutes signing autographs and greeting fans before he needed to head back to the locker room.
Probably the most obvious statement and observation from camp is that Cordarrelle Patterson is going to continue to become something special for the Minnesota Vikings.
First, Patterson has an awesome attitude, and hopefully that doesn't change. He is a very playful and goofy individual with some of the swagger of a star wide receiver, but he seems to take the game in stride and is looking to learn and improve.
Furthermore, how he gets used this season will impress fans and frustrate opposing defenses. While there were no flashy plays during my camp visit (everything was pretty vanilla through the whole practice), he made his catches and looked good. With guru Norv Turner looking to cook up plays to feature the star, he will definitely see a lot more of the field this year and it will be exciting to watch.