Access Vikings

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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Behind Enemy Lines: Dolphins' December struggles and Joe Philbin's future with beat writer Chris Perkins

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 19th at 10:26am 286360131

For the Vikings’ final road trip this season to Miami, we reached out to Chris Perkins, who covers the Dolphins for The Sun Sentinel, in this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.” Here are five questions we asked Perkins about the Week 16 matchup at Sun Life Stadium.

1. How would you evaluate the Dolphins’ play in December?

CP: The Dolphins have been bad in December. There’s no other way to tell the story. They’re 1-2, which means they’re struggling at the most important time of the season. In the last two games, losses to Baltimore and New England, they’ve been outscored, 48-3, in the second half. They’ve allowed 568 yards rushing in their last three games, produced three sacks, and only scored three touchdowns. The list goes on, but you get the idea.

2. What do you think will happen to head coach Joe Philbin at the end of the season?

CP: Philbin is probably done. You can’t say for sure, but it appears he won’t return. Philbin, in his third season, has a 22-24 record and will most likely miss the playoffs once again. It’s tough to say you’ve seen progress. Miami was 7-9 in Philbin’s first season, 8-8 last year, and might show one-game improvement this year. That’s after getting arguably the top free agent on the market the last two years (wide receiver Mike Wallace in 2013, and left tackle Branden Albert in 2014), changing offensive coordinators, and revamping the offensive line. The Dolphins have probably performed to their talent level, but Philbin never made them better. That’s a problem.

3. In what areas has quarterback Ryan Tannehill improved and regressed this season?

CP: Tannehill, now in his third season, has been better at decision-making, footwork and accuracy. But Tannehill, such as Philbin, never made anyone better. That’s a problem. Tannehill has career bests in completion percent (66.3; 6th in NFL), passer rating (90.8; 15th in NFL) and rushing yards (316). But his 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions are on the border of the minimally-desired 2:1 ratio. He’s near the bottom of the NFL in third-down passing (25th) and fourth-quarter passing (32nd), and he struggles with accuracy when throwing the deep ball so it’s almost been eliminated from the offense, making his completions mostly on short and intermediate passes and turning the Dolphins’ passing offense into a pedestrian way of moving the ball.

4. What’s the reason for the Dolphins’ success defensively?

CP: When the defense was successful it was because of the defensive line. But they’ve slumped severely in the last four games. So has the defense. Miami is seventh in total defense because of its early-season success. Defensive end Cameron Wake (9.5 sack) is a perfect metaphor. He has one sack in the last five games. In the last four games the Dolphins have allowed 121 points (30.3 per game). Granted, one touchdown came via a blocked field goal, but it’s still a bad four-game performance. The defense is no longer disruptive. They used to stop the run, get sacks and force turnovers. Those skills have evaporated. Miami’s defense isn’t to be feared the way it was earlier in the season.

5. What will the Dolphins need to do to beat the Vikings?

CP: The Dolphins need to do anything and everything possible to beat the Vikings. Their formula for winning – strong defense, a good running game, a decent passing game – is out the window. They need to find a Vikings weakness and exploit the heck out of it. The Dolphins (7-7) haven’t had a winning season since 2008. They badly need to win these final two games even though realistic playoff hopes are gone. Whatever it takes to win – special teams, interceptions, rushing, passing, good fortune – is what the Dolphins need.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Norv praises Teddy, curtain closes on Ponder era, and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 19th at 7:12am 286338391

Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Offensive coordinator Norv Turner had high praise for QB Teddy Bridgewater.

— The Christian Ponder era in Minnesota is about to come to a close.

— TE Kyle Rudolph missed another practice yesterday.

— Does WR Cordarrelle Patterson deserve more snaps?

— The Vikings and Dolphins have a limited but memorable history.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— Dolphins players know the organization is in evaluation mode.

— Bridgewater, a Miami native, is silencing his doubters.

— Miami RB Lamar Miller is running down his first 1,000-yard season.

— Dolphins OT Dallas Thomas might not be able to play Sunday.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings practice at 10:50 a.m. Afterward, head coach Mike Zimmer will chat with reporters and the locker room will be open as players pack their bags for Saturday’s flight to Miami.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Pro Bowl voting has wrapped up, and two, maybe three Vikings have a legitimate shot at playing in the game. OLB Anthony Barr and DT Sharrif Floyd have had good seasons, but recent injuries have likely eliminated any possibility of them being selected. DE Everson Griffen and S Harrison Smith, on other the other hand, are strong candidates. And then there is CB Xavier Rhodes. Is his strong second half enough to get him into the Pro Bowl, especially with only one interception?

Kyle Rudolph among five Vikings held out of practice again

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 18th at 11:45pm 286266091

Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph was one of five starters to missed practice in consecutive days due to injury on Thursday.

Rudolph has been sidelined with an ankle/knee injury. Left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle), nose tackle Linval Joseph (illness), rookie linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and safety Robert Blanton (ankle/knee) also missed another practice this week. Blanton was conditioning on the side at the start of practice.

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t specify but expected most of these guys to participate in Friday’s practice.

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring) and running back Matt Asiata (foot) were all limited once again.

Norv Turner impressed Teddy Bridgewater's carrying Vikings offense

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 18th at 3:40pm 286265241

Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has carried the offense lacking stability at, well, every position, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

The Vikings have used eight different offensive linemen, started three different tight ends and running backs while their most consistent receiver was a guy that started the season on the Browns practice squad — Charles Johnson.

Turner prefers not to throw a rookie quarterback into this environment, but he feels Bridgewater has thrived even with the heavy burden.

“It’s pretty incredible to me what he’s done, how he’s handled it,” Turner said. “What he’s really done is made everyone around him better and that’s a quality you’re looking for.

“We’re asking him to carry this group, which I’ve never had to do that with a young guy. When I had [Troy] Aikman in his third year he had Emmitt Smith who led the league in rushing. When I had Alex Smith in his second year he had Frank Gore who ran for 1,700 yards and when I had Philip Rivers in his second year starting, I think it was his fourth year in the league, he had LaDainian Tomlinson who led the league in rushing.”

Bridgewater would’ve had running back Adrian Peterson, but he’s suspended for the remainder of the season. Instead, Bridgewater has had to rely on Matt Asiata, Ben Tate and Joe Banyard to help ease the load, which hasn’t been as effective as one of the best running backs in the NFL.

Still, the Vikings threw the ball 41 times against one of the top defenses in the NFL and completed a season high 75.6 percent of his passes. His start was marked by two interceptions on consecutive drives that helped the Lions climb out of a 14-0 deficit, but Turner defended the performance despite the turnovers.

“We’ve kind of had an interesting group and the people we’ve played on offense has been wide-ranging,” Turner said. “To do the things he’s done, it just tells you about the type of person he is, the type of player he is. The thing that excites me is he can make any throw you need him to make.”

Vikings 4 Downs: Does Cordarrelle Patterson deserve more snaps?

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated December 18th at 4:26pm 286241961

I’d give him a shot. He showed some flashes on the second to last drive filling in for wide receiver Jarius Wright. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater targeted Patterson three times on that drive and Patterson finished with two catches for 16 yards.

Granted, it was during a time in the game when the Lions defense didn’t want to get beat deep, but I’d like to see more of Patterson against a good Dolphins secondary. It’d be a good test to see how much Patterson has actually improved since he was demoted. I’d still start wide receiver Charles Johnson but depending on the game flow, it’d benefit Patterson and the Vikings to give him more than eight snaps with two games remaining.

The best way to describe Patterson is he’s under renovation from a niche offensive player to an every down wide receiver. The Vikings coaching staff has had its hard hat on trying to transition Patterson into that type of receiver, but it’s to be determined whether Patterson will figure it all out.

I think Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer would be comfortable with a ball of yarn and a paperclip at cornerback. He’s very confident in his technique at cornerback that Zimmer feels he can turn anyone with a speck of talent into a serviceable player at that position. It’s similar to how Eagles head coach Chip Kelly feels about his offensive system rotating through mediocre quarterbacks during his tenure.

But the Vikings actually have three talented cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Robinson. Rhodes and Munnerlyn will remain as the two cornerbacks in the base defense next year. Robinson started strong but has been inconsistent as of late. Zimmer said he’d like to see more toughness from Robinson when faced with adversity. We’ll see how the Vikings feel about Robinson, 23, in the offseason when he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Personally, I wouldn’t give him an extension this offseason and give Robinson another year to prove himself.

I wouldn’t pencil him in as a starter. Considering that he won the job by the default out of training camp after missing time with a hamstring, and there wasn’t a significant dropoff when Adnrew Sendejo started against the Lions, the Vikings will probably view strong safety as a place they can upgrade in the offseason. Sendejo actually made a few good plays in both the run and pass in what was a good performance by the secondary in general.

Someone to keep an eye on is rookie defensive back Ahmad Dixon. He’s someone that was known as an aggressive safety at Baylor, but the seventh round pick was cut by the Cowboys. He doesn’t look someone that will be ready to play during the final two games, but if he sticks around for training camp, I’m very interested to see how he’ll look after an offseason with Zimmer.

I question anyone that would want Jay Cutler as their quarterback, fantasy or reality.

As I’m typing this, Cutler threw another interception.

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