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.
Cornerback Josh Robinson, a valuable reserve, is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers after leaving yesterday’s practice with an ankle injury then sitting out today’s practice.
The injury happened during individual drills at the start of yesterday’s practice. Robinson wasn’t going full speed when he rolled his ankle, which he hopes will help with the recovery process. He said his ankle injury was doing better today and was optimistic about his chances of playing.
“It got rolled up a little bit yesterday in individuals but thank God it’s not too bad,” Robinson said.
Still, that he basically missed the last two practices means he is legitimately questionable to play.
Guard Vlad Ducasse (knee) and safety Antone Exum (ankle) are also listed as questionable. Linebacker Gerald Hodges (hammy) is doubtful despite limited practices the past two days.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph (sports hernia surgery) has been ruled out for Sunday’s game.
The rest of the Vikings on the injury report, including center John Sullivan, are all probable.
Quarterback Josh McCown, wide receiver Vincent Jackson, left tackle Anthony Collins and safety Dashon Goldson were among those officially listed as questionable for the Buccaneers.
The Vikings could be considering a switch at right guard but certainly aren’t being up front about it.
Joe Berger, who filled in for injured center John Sullivan in last week’s loss to the Bills, confirmed what we have seen in practice this week: that Berger has gotten some reps with the first team. And it’s not just because Vlad Ducasse is dealing with a knee injury. He practiced yesterday and today.
But asked what his role might be Sunday against the Buccaneers, the veteran lineman played coy.
“I may or may not know that,” said Berger, who has been a member of the Vikings since signing as a free agent back in 2011. “If you guys don’t know that, I’m going to let the coach tell you guys that.”
Head coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t giving anything up either. Asked if we could see Berger start at some point, Zimmer, responded, “I don’t know. We’ll see. Vlad practiced today, so we’ll see.” That wasn’t exactly an endorsement for Ducasse, who has started at right guard since Week 4.
Pressed for praise, Zimmer obliged with Berger, the backup at all three interior spots.
“He’s a smart guy,” Zimmer said after practice. “He’s been doing everything that he’s supposed to do. He’s been able to play multiple positions and he [brings] good chemistry in the room.”
Berger also feels he has good chemistry with his fellow linemen and that it would be advantageous.
“I would hope so,” he said. “I have been with these guys, with Sully and Charlie [Johnson] and Phil [Loadholt]. I haven’t played with them a whole lot, but I’ve been in the room with them for four years. I would like to think that with that time we would understand each other a little bit.”
As Berger said that, Sullivan, who was sitting at the next locker over, emphatically nodded his head.
Cornerback Josh Robinson was not spotted out at practice during the portion of today’s practice open to media, and one would think his status for Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay in serious doubt.
Robinson left yesterday’s practice early after injuring his ankle during individual drills and was not able to go today. We will talk to head coach Mike Zimmer in a little bit, any absence on a Friday is not a good sign for Sunday. If Robinson is indeed out, rookie Jabari Price would likely replace him.
Center John Sullivan and right guard Vlad Ducasse were both practicing again. But while we were watching the practice, it was Joe Berger who was lining up next to Sullivan with the first-team unit.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph was the only other Vikings player who did not practice today. He was out there again doing conditioning work, but he won’t play this weekend against the Buccaneers.
With a new week brings another edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” For the Vikings’ Week 8 road trip against the Bucs, we spoke to beat writer Greg Auman, who covers the team for the Tampa Bay Times. Here are five questions we asked Auman about Sunday’s game.
1. The Bucs spent so much money in free agency but have just one win. What hasn’t gone right?
GA: Those free agents are a good start to what hasn’t gone right. Michael Johnson hasn’t gotten pressure at defensive end, Anthony Collins hasn’t been the reliable answer they needed him to be at left tackle. Evan Dietrich-Smith and Logan Mankins haven’t been able to get the offensive line together on the same page to be an effective run-blocking unit. [Cornerback] Alterraun Verner’s gotten beaten for three touchdowns, and [quarterback] Josh McCown, of course, struggled badly before a thumb injury turned things over to Mike Glennon. To find a success story in the free agents, you have to go to a league-minimum guy like Louis Murphy, who actually got cut here before coming back and scoring two touchdowns.
Beyond that, the defense hasn’t gotten consistent pressure on opposing QBs, who have been able to find the holes in Tampa Bay’s coverage. No consistent running game, and terrible starts on offense — just 4.5 points per game in the first half.
2. Who can the Vikings expect at quarterback?
GA: It’ll be Mike Glennon. He’s played much better than Josh McCown did in the first three games — let team to wild last-minute win at Pittsburgh and played well against Saints. McCown is just getting back to throwing a football this week — he might be able to move ahead of Mike Kafka as the backup, but I’d think it’s still Glennon at quarterback this week for sure.
3. Where has the rookie version of Doug Martin gone?
GA: The current version won’t be confused with 2012 Doug Martin, who had such success both running and catching the ball. He’s back physically from the shoulder injury that cost him 10 games last year, but he just hasn’t had any kind of burst or moves to shed that initial tackler. The line will tell you he’s been great and they haven’t opened holes for him, but Martin has to show something this week, because promising third-round rookie Charles Sims is eligible to play next week after missing the season thus far with an ankle injury. Perhaps that urgency sparks Martin, but his average per carry is among the league’s worst.
4. What has been the biggest issue with the worst defense in the NFL?
GA: Two things: a Lovie Smith defense is built around takeaways and pressure from the front four, and the Bucs haven’t had either. Part of that is injuries – [defensive tackle] Gerald McCoy’s playing with a broken hand, [defensive end] Adrian Clayborn was lost for the year and Michael Johnson’s been limited by a sprained ankle. But the secondary hasn’t been opportunistic at all — four INTs, two by LB Danny Lansanah — and more than anything, they’ve struggled to understand the intricate Tampa 2 defense that Lovie Smith brought back here. Players still look lost, six games into the season, and until they master those fundamentals, opponents will be able to find seams and exploit them.
5. What do the Bucs need to do to win?
GA: This week, it’s fairly simple: Get sacks against an offensive line that’s given up 27, and get turnovers from a young QB who has thrown five interceptions early in a promising career. They must get their offense going earlier than they have — it does no good to average 15.5 points a game in the second half if half those games are already out of hand at halftime. So if they can score early, get a lead and show something defensively, it’s a good opportunity for their first home win of the season. Lose here, they have five of their next seven on the road.
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— So far DE Everson Griffen has rewarded the Vikings for that big contract.
— CB Josh Robinson limped off the field yesterday with an ankle injury.
— C John Sullivan and G Vlad Ducasse both practiced yesterday.
— Offensive coordinator Norv Turner talked about QB Teddy Bridgewater’s growing pains.
— Former Vikings coach Leslie Frazier praised both Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Vikings PR (@VikingsPR) October 23, 2014
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— Will the Buccaneers even activate QB Josh McCown against the Vikings?
— Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson says he does not want to be traded.
— Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy thinks the Buccaneers defense is soft.
— Things could get messy when the Buccaneers play the Vikings.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings practice at 10:50 a.m. Head coach Mike Zimmer’s press conference is at 12:30 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
It’s easy to look at the 24-yard completion that OLB Chad Greenway was beaten for on fourth down Sunday and say that he struggled in coverage. But Greenway actually fared well in his return from a three-week layoff. On 45 snaps in coverage, Greenway was targeted just three times, allowing two catches for 29 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. Of course, one of those completions was the beginning of the end for the Vikings, but judge his whole body of work.
|Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie||3||FINAL|
|San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson||2|
|Detroit||10/26/14 8:30 AM|
|Buffalo||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|St. Louis||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Houston||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Minnesota||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Seattle||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Baltimore||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Miami||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Chicago||10/26/14 12:00 PM|
|Philadelphia||10/26/14 3:05 PM|
|Oakland||10/26/14 3:25 PM|
|Indianapolis||10/26/14 3:25 PM|
|Green Bay||10/26/14 7:30 PM|
|Washington||10/27/14 7:30 PM|
|New Orleans||10/30/14 7:25 PM|
|(18) East Carolina||31|
|North Texas||11:00 AM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|North Carolina||11:30 AM|
|San Jose St||12:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||12:00 PM|
|(25) UCLA||1:00 PM|
|Ohio U||1:00 PM|
|Ga Southern||1:00 PM|
|Kent State||1:30 PM|
|Oregon State||2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||2:30 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||2:30 PM|
|(1) Miss State||2:30 PM|
|Georgia Tech||2:30 PM|
|(22) West Virginia||2:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||2:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Boston College||2:30 PM|
|Central Mich||2:30 PM|
|Old Dominion||3:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona||5:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||6:00 PM|
|Texas State||6:00 PM|
|(3) Ole Miss||6:15 PM|
|(4) Alabama||6:30 PM|
|So Carolina||6:30 PM|
|(13) Ohio State||7:00 PM|
|(20) USC||9:00 PM|
|(14) Arizona State||9:45 PM|
|(2) Florida State||10/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Troy||10/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Cincinnati||10/31/14 7:00 PM|
|Tulsa||10/31/14 7:00 PM|
|Purdue||11/1/14 2:00 AM|
|(17) Oklahoma||11/1/14 2:00 AM|
|Oklahoma State||11/1/14 2:00 AM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|(10) TCU||11/1/14 2:00 AM|
|(22) West Virginia|
|Texas||11/1/14 2:00 AM|
|Northwestern||11/1/14 2:00 AM|
|Maryland||11/1/14 2:00 AM|
|Brt Columbia||6:00 PM|
|Hamilton||10/31/14 6:30 PM|
|Winnipeg||11/1/14 3:00 PM|
|Brt Columbia||11/1/14 6:00 PM|
|Toronto||11/2/14 11:00 AM|