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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Vikings 4 Downs: RGIII or McCoy, O/U on Pro Bowlers, 2014 draft class and more

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 30th at 10:22am 280930362

Robert Griffin III will reportedly start after missing six weeks with a dislocated left ankle. He’ll likely be rusty, but I’d still think Griffin is a tougher matchup that Colt McCoy, who had a nice performance against the Cowboys on Monday. Griffin is the more talented quarterback and allows Washington to expand the playbook on offense.

Washington has still been able to get big plays through the air, whether it’s Griffin, McCoy or Kirk Cousins, because of their receivers. The Vikings secondary will have to stay on top of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcson, while tight end Jordan Reed is a very solid option over the middle. I’m not sure how Griffin looks in practice but a backup like McCoy likely won’t sustain his early success as opponents get more film on him in Washington’s offense.

I’d take the over. This goes for Vikings players actually named to the Pro Bowl and not a Vikings player named as a replacement once 20 players drop out.

At this point, defensive end Everson Griffen appears to be on his way to a Pro Bowl invitation. He was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Month, leading the conference with six sacks in October. Outside of Griffen, what are the other options? Safety Harrison Smith is another good option to be named with his play and three interceptions to show for in the stats sheet.

Easy there, we’re only eight games into the season. Typically it takes three or four years to evaluate a draft class. We can’t just go off of immediate impacts because some flame out after their rookie seasons and turn into busts.

The only rookies that aren’t contributing are linebacker Brandon Watts, offensive guard David Yankey and defensive end Scott Crichton. Safety Antone Exum Jr. and cornerback Jabari Price have been receiving a heavy dosage of special teams snaps recently.

I still think in a few years the 2013 class will be tough to top considering the three first round picks selected – wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. It depends on how left tackle Matt Kalil’s career plays out, but the Vikings drafted Smith, cornerback Josh Robinson, wide receiver Jarius Wright, safety Robert Blanton and kicker Blair Walsh in 2012. That hasn’t been a bad class either.

But let’s give it some time before we make knee-jerk reactions to both classes. …Like during the offseason when we’re bored out of our minds and there’s nothing to talk about.

He’s probably next in line after the Vikings sealed up extensions with their 2011 class during the offseason. Smith fits Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer’s scheme and has developed into a well-rounded safety this season.

Given how inconsistent Kalil has been this year, I’d think Smith will be the priority during the offseason to give Zimmer a defense to build around Griffen, linebacker Anthony Barr and Smith for the long run. Those are three good pieces to have on defense and should make Vikings fans pretty excited about potentially how good this defense could be for years to come.

Everson Griffen named NFC Defensive Player of the Month

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated October 30th at 9:15am 280921192

Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen received NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors for October. It’s the first Player of the Month award in Griffen’s career.

He recorded an NFC-best six sacks this month, along with 20 tackles, eight tackles for loss and a forced fumble in four games. Griffen ranks third in the NFL with eight sacks this season.

It’s still early, but through eight games, Griffen has lived up to a five-year deal worth up to $42.5 million he signed during the offseason. While the price tag was a shock to many, including Forbes who named Griffen as the most overpaid player in the NFL, the deal will look reasonable if Griffen sustains his early season success.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Vikings pass defense on the rise, Barr gets some love and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated October 30th at 7:34am 280906972

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— The numbers mislead a little, but the Vikings pass defense is much improved.

— The Vikings are getting great pass-rushing push from their defensive tackles.

— Rookie OLB Anthony Barr was named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week.

— Veteran DE Brian Robison missed yesterday’s practice with a gluteal injury.

— Coach Mike Zimmer downplayed the matchup with Redskins coach Jay Gruden.

— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater feels comfortable running the two-minute drill.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback against the Vikings this weekend.

— The Redskins picked the right kicker when they stuck with Kai Forbath.

— MLB Keenan Robinson is bringing physicality to the Redskins defense.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The coordinators will be at the podium after the morning walkthrough. Practice is at 12:50 p.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

The MMQB website unveiled its midseason All-Pro team yesterday, and only one Vikings player received recognition. That was S Harrison Smith, who was a second-team selection behind Earl Thomas of the Seahawks and Troy Polamalu of the Steelers. This is just one list, but it does get you thinking about possible Pro Bowl selections. If Smith keeps playing at his current level, he will likely be headed to Arizona for the game. But will any teammates join him? Barr and DE Everson Griffen have produced the kind of splash plays and gaudy statistics to get attention. As for the offense, the Vikings, sans RB Adrian Peterson, haven’t come close to producing a legitimate candidate.

Robison sidelined with 'glute' injury

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated October 30th at 6:44am 280833812

Left defensive end Brian Robison, who has missed only two games in his eight-year career, didn’t practice today and is listed on the injury report with a “glute” injury. He played a season-low 40 snaps (67 percent) in Sunday’s win at Tampa Bay.

Also listed as having not practiced are tight end Kyle Rudolph (hernia surgery) and backup cornerback Jabari Price (hamstring).

Listed as having limited participation are: Cornerback Josh Robinson (ankle), defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (ankle/knee), linebacker Gerald Hodges (hamstring), safety Antone Exum (shoulder/ankle) and tight end Chase Ford (foot).

Two-minute drills helping Teddy B think less (which he likes)

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated October 30th at 6:45am 280817402

Teddy Bridgewater still thinks he’s thinking too much.

Asked what he’s working on, the Vikings rookie quarterback said, “Just think less. Go out there and play pitch and catch.

“I have to keep telling myself to stop thinking so much. Our coaches are calling great plays to allow me to think less. But still, being a young player, I try to be perfect and find myself thinking too much. I have to trust my teammates and trust everything that I’m being taught and let those guys make plays.”

Bridgewater said the extra thinking has caused him to hold the ball extra long, which tends to get him clobbered in the pocket extra times. But that has improved the past three weeks.

“You’re talking about being sacked eight times, five times and then one time [on Sunday in Tampa],” Bridgewater said. “Our offensive line is doing a great job. I think I’ve been struggling holding on to the ball a lot and causing those guys to have to block for extra seconds. Coaches have been on me to get rid of the ball and play faster and the past three weeks, we’ve made those improvements.”

The one area of the offense that tends to shut Teddy’s brain off to his liking is the two-minute segment.

“Sometimes in the two-minute drills, defenses aren’t able to get too many defensive calls to do the exotic things they do with their blitzes and changing their fronts,” Bridgewater said. “It’s one of those deals where you know what you’re going to get from the defenses and you just go out there and play fast.”

Sunday in Tampa, Bridgewater directed scoring drives as time expired at the end of each half. The first one gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead. The second one sent the game into overtime.

Overall, Bridgewater completed 8 of 12 passes to four different receivers for 92 yards and six first downs. One of the incompletions was a spike to stop the clock.

Sunday, Bridgewater faces a Redskins defense that ranks 11th overall, seventh against the pass and eighth in sacks per pass play with 21 sacks.

“We don’t face many 3-4 teams, but I’m pretty sure our guys have experience facing those teams with those different fronts,”  Bridgewater said. “They’re able to do different things to cause havoc in your pass protection schemes. But I’m pretty sure we’re going to put together a scheme that’s going to allow us to play fast and think less.”

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