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.
If Mike Zimmer were a used car, most of us would still be kicking his tires and slowly circling him with a discerning eye.
While much is left to learn, we can deduce that he’s no cookie-cutter coach. Maybe it’s his age (58) or personality (firm but not bullying), or both, but he’s certainly comfortable in his own skin. And if the brain under that skin wants to do something that’s not in step with customary NFL thinking, so be it.
That’s an admirable form of confidence in a person who has never been a head coach before.
Zimmer clearly is in complete control and has the full attention of his players. But unlike a lot of new head coaches, he hasn’t altered his personality to achieve that end result. In training camp, he didn’t choose to break the players physically while tapping his badge and putting his boot to their necks.
When the preseason started, he played his starters for the entire first half of the second preseason game. Then he played his second quarterback for the entire second half. It was strange, but exciting and potentially productive that Zimmer apparently doesn’t believe in mop-up duties in the preseason.
Now, we’re days away from the third preseason game. Most, if not every other coach, always talks about this being the most critical preseason game. The media follows with stories about how this is the “dress rehearsal.” This is the game when the coaches game plan and the starters – even some superstars such as Adrian Peterson — play into the third quarter.
I asked Zimmer on Monday if he views the third preseason game with a heightened sense of importance.
“Honestly, no,” he said. “This is still a lot about us. We’re going to have a few more sections than we have had the last two weeks with the cards and the scout team work, but it’s still about what we do. We’ll have plenty of time to prepare for St. Louis [the regular season opener] when we get going in there. It’s more about the routine that we are going to do this week, so we get into the in-season schedule routine as opposed to really sitting down and game planning.”
Asked if he’ll game plan at all for Saturday’s game at Kansas City, he said, “About like we did the last two games.
“We look at them on tape and we will watch a little more tape on them than we have watched on the last two games, we’re not going to go in there and double [receiver Dwayne] Bowe. We are going to do what we do.”
Every weekday, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening with the team that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— QB Christian Ponder has not been written off by the Vikings coaching staff.
— Jim Souhan thinks QB Teddy Bridgewater has been more poised than Browns QB Johnny Manziel.
— Mark Craig looks at the “points of emphasis” causing more penalties in the preseason.
— WR Jerome Simpson said his meeting with the NFL went great.
— RB Adrian Peterson likely won’t play during the preseason.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
— Vikings PR (@VikingsPR) August 19, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— Lions head coach Jim Caldwell is impressed by QB Matthew Stafford.
— Former Bears LB Tim Shaw has ALS.
— The Packers waived injured TE Colt Lyerla and he will be placed on injured reserve.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings will conclude their walkthrough at 11:10 a.m. and Zimmer’s press conference will be afterwards. Practice will begin at 12:50 p.m. once again.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
While the quarterbacks received the headlines from Saturday’s victory over the Cardinals, the offensive line also made strides in pass protection during the second preseason game. The unit allowed just one sack after giving up six against the Raiders.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and Adrian Peterson have talked about the perennial All-Pro running back’s preseason playing time and have essentially decided what any one of the rest of us schlubs would have.
“I really don’t see the need,” Zimmer said after practice today.
Zimmer didn’t rule it out, but don’t expect Peterson to play Saturday at Kansas City or the following Thursday at Tennessee.
“I doubt it,” Zimmer said. “Adrian and I have talked about it a little bit and I really don’t see the need. We’re grabbing at the ball pretty good. We’re not tackling him or anything. He’s doing a great job with the protections and the routes and obviously he runs really good.
“The only concern you have is he might not have been hit enough. But our guys are grabbing at the ball a lot. They’re punching at the ball as he’s running in there. I talked to him about those things.”
In other news:
There was good news today for NFL teams looking to establish more depth and fringe players looking for more paychecks.
According to an NFL source, the league sent out a memo today saying the eight-man practice squad has been increased to 10 players.
The Vikings have several young players they like at key spots such as cornerback and offensive line. With the two extra practice squad spots, they, like every other team, will have more options available to develop players.
Players released from the active roster must clear waivers before being placed on the practice squad. They also can be signed to any other team’s 53-man roster.
To those who think Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner has absolutely no use for No. 3 quarterback Christian Ponder, hop aboard this time machine and we’ll travel allllll the way back to … well, last year.
Turner was the offensive coordinator in Cleveland. By Week 3, Turner was down to his second starting quarterback. By Week 8 – less than halfway through the season – he was on his third starting quarterback.
Overall, the Browns had three quarterbacks start at least three games. Brandon Weeden started Week 1 and made five starts. Brian Hoyer started Week 3 – beating the Vikings at the Metrodome, in case you forgot – and made three starts. And Jason Campbell started Week 8 and made eight starts.
With fans and others stuck on discussing the potential for Ponder to be traded or released as the Vikings go with just two quarterbacks on the roster, today seemed to be a good day to ask Turner the following:
“Norv, considering what you went through in Cleveland last year, does that give you a heightened sense of appreciation for your third quarterback?”
“Absolutely,” Turner said. “It never gets portrayed that way. I was obviously very disappointed in the opening game the way our fans reacted to Christian because I think he’s done everything he can do. He’s working his butt off. I think he’s a guy who is going to be valuable to our team.”
Ponder didn’t play in the second preseason game. But when you’ve been in the NFL for 30 seasons, as Turner has, you tend to expect the unexpected when it comes to injuries and the like. So you still carve out a little time for the guy at the end of the depth chart.
“The thing in Cleveland is we had three different guys have their career-best games in three different situations,” Turner said. “We didn’t win the games because we gave up a touchdown at the end of the game or something kept us from winning the game that was out of the quarterback’s hands. Having three quarterbacks, if that’s the way we end up going, it’s extremely valuable to me.”
Weeden’s best game saw him complete 24 of 40 passes (60.0) for 370 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 94.8 passer rating in a loss to Jacksonville. Hoyer’s best game actually came in a win over Cincinnati when he completed 25 of 38 passes (65.8) for 269 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 103.9 rating. And Campbell’s best performance came in a loss to New England, when he completed 29 of 44 passes (65.9) for 391 yards, three touchdowns, no picks and a 116.8 rating.
Turner, of course, doesn’t set the final roster. He was asked if he’d push head coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman to keep all three quarterbacks currently on the roster.
“There are advantages to going both ways and we’ll adjust to whatever,” he said. “But I think we have a pretty good quarterback situation right now.”
|Texas - N. Martinez||11:40 AM|
|Miami - N. Eovaldi|
|Seattle - J. Paxton||12:05 PM|
|Philadelphia - C. Hamels|
|Toronto - R. Dickey||1:10 PM|
|Milwaukee - J. Nelson|
|NY Mets - Z. Wheeler||2:35 PM|
|Oakland - J. Samardzija|
|Atlanta - A. Wood||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - G. Cole|
|Houston - S. Feldman||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - M. Pineda|
|Arizona - T. Cahill||6:05 PM|
|Washington - T. Roark|
|LA Angels - G. Richards||6:10 PM|
|Boston - C. Buchholz|
|Detroit - R. Porcello||6:10 PM|
|Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto||6:15 PM|
|St. Louis - L. Lynn|
|San Francisco - J. Peavy||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - E. Jackson|
|Baltimore - W. Chen||7:10 PM|
|Chicago WSox - H. Noesi|
|Cleveland - T. House||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - R. Nolasco|
|Kansas City - D. Duffy||7:40 PM|
|Colorado - J. De La Rosa|
|San Diego - E. Stults||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - R. Hernandez|
|Pittsburgh||8/21/14 6:30 PM|
|Carolina||8/22/14 6:30 PM|
|NY Giants||8/22/14 6:30 PM|
|Jacksonville||8/22/14 6:30 PM|
|Oakland||8/22/14 7:00 PM|
|Chicago||8/22/14 9:00 PM|
|Tampa Bay||8/23/14 3:30 PM|
|Tennessee||8/23/14 6:00 PM|
|Dallas||8/23/14 6:00 PM|
|Washington||8/23/14 6:30 PM|
|New Orleans||8/23/14 7:00 PM|
|Minnesota||8/23/14 7:00 PM|
|St. Louis||8/23/14 7:00 PM|
|Houston||8/23/14 8:00 PM|
|San Diego||8/24/14 3:00 PM|
|Cincinnati||8/24/14 7:00 PM|
|Los Angeles||8:00 PM|
|San Jose||9:00 PM|
|Montreal||8/22/14 7:30 PM|
|Toronto||8/23/14 3:00 PM|
|Calgary||8/24/14 2:00 PM|
|Saskatchewan||8/24/14 6:00 PM|