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Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


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Vikings 4 Downs: Bridgewater vs. Manziel, Faciane, Simpson, Felton

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated August 11th at 3:14pm 270795731

I’d give the edge to Johnny Manziel, but not by much. Here’s how each fared in the box score.

Manziel vs. the Lions: 7/11, 63 yards, 79.0 QB rating; six carries, 27 yards
Bridgewater vs. the Raiders: 6/13, 49 yards, 56.2 rating; two sacks for 16 yards, one fumble.

Both Teddy Bridgewater and Manziel showed flashes of what we were accustomed to see in college. Each had a smooth play-action, rollout pass (Bridgewater to his right and Manziel to his left) that was negated by either a penalty or an incompletion. Manziel was able to do more with his feet, including a 16-yard scramble on third down. Bridgewater was elusive, displaying some of his athleticism to escape pressure in the pocket and extend plays and did a good job selling play actions, draws, fake tosses and counters.

Bridgewater’s fumble on his first drive was the biggest mistake made by the two rookies. Left tackle Matt Kalil got beat by rookie defensive end Shelby Harris. With the pocket collapsing, Bridgewater spun to his right to avoid pressure up the middle and was hit by Harris to cause the fumble. Kalil recovered the fumble, but Bridgewater must protect the ball better in those situations. The 12-yard loss made it 3rd and 19 at the 20. They settled for a field goal on the drive.

photo6 (1)

On 3rd and 16, Manziel drew a delay-of-game penalty. Following a quick screen pass that gained 20 yards, Manziel scrambled for a first down on a bootleg play. He stiff armed a defender and gained just enough to move the sticks, but Manziel had fullback Ray Agnew open. It’s a throw he has to make now rather than relying on his athletic ability.
photo5 (1)

Comparing Bridgewater and Manziel in the preseason though would be like analyzing a sparring session when the fight is less than a month away. There’s some information you can take away from it, but avoid jumping to conclusions one way or the other.

I’d be shocked if wide receiver Adam Thielen didn’t make the team. He’s earned it up to this point and even could be used as more than just a special teamer (more on that later).

I’ll go with undrafted free agent defensive tackle Isame Faciane. He had 20 snaps with 17 against the pass, per Pro Football Focus. Faciane recorded a pass deflection and brought pressure up the middle a few times to stand out along the defensive line in the second half. He’s listed behind Kheeston Randall as the third defensive tackle on the depth chart. His college defensive line coach at FIU was Andre Patterson, the Vikings defensive line coach. The familiarity definitely does help Faciane’s case if he can build off Friday’s performance.

Yes he does, but to what extent and for how long is still unknown. When the Vikings went three wide on the opening drive, Simpson was on the field for both plays. He was lined up outside with Greg Jennings shifting to the slot.

Based off practices, offensive coordinator Norv Turner can always use as many wide receivers as possible with all the different alignments incorporated in the scheme. Simpson is still a productive player, though at times drops have still been a problem, and stretch the field.

Cordarelle Patterson and Jennings are clearly the top two receivers. Wright, like Simpson, can also spread the field with his quickness. Thielen’s stock keeps rising with every rep he gets in practice and will be interesting to see how many reps he gets on offense at the start of the season.

Pending any discipline from the NFL, Simpson will probably begin the season as the third receiver, followed by Wright and Thielen in four and five-wide packages.

It’s a possibility. Fullback Jerome Felton received 10 reps in the preseason opener, though he’s been involved with the offense for a decent amount during training camp. Turner’s offense features a good dose of plays with two running backs, whether split or in the “I” formation. Felton is limited to just a blocker though, where someone like running back Matt Asiata, who looked good on the first drive, can do it all and give Turner more options. Felton is a good blocker, but he doesn’t benefit much from the new scheme as a traditional fullback.

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