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.
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.
Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson limped off at the start of Thursday’s practice with an ankle injury. He was listed as a limited participant.
It occurred during the individual drills portion of practice, in which Robinson hobbled over the trainer’s table before walking inside. Robinson has played well this season, despite a nagging hamstring injury dating back to the start of training camp.
Center John Sullivan (concussion) returned to practice but was limited. Guard Vladimir Ducasse (knee) was a full participant, participating in 1-on-1s against the defensive line but worked with the second team. Joe Berger and Mike Harris remained as the first team center and right guard.
Linebacker Gerald Hodges (hamstring) returned to practice after missing Sunday’s game against the Bills but was limited. Safety Antone Exum Jr. (ankle) and tight end Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) were the only Vikings held out of practice. Rudolph continued to work on his conditioning for a second consecutive practice.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (ankle) and cornerback Jabari Price (hamstring) were limited. Defensive end Corey Wootton (low back) was upgraded as a full participant for the first time this week.
Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin haven’t created the best headlines this season, but former Vikings coach and current Buccaneers defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier praised his former star players as “great competitors and guys I have a lot of respect for.”
“Tremendous talents, Pro Bowl players, both of them,” Frazier said Thursday during his weekly press conference in Tampa. “Enjoyed my time with them. Loved both of them. I haven’t talked to Percy in a while. I’ve talked to Adrian through some of the things he’s going through. And I wish both of them nothing but the best.
“They were great for me. They helped me tremendously during my time with them. They know from the bottom of my heart, I wish nothing but the best for them in their future endeavors, whatever they may be.”
Peterson remains on the commissioner’s special exempt list while he addresses a child-abuse charge in Texas. Harvin was traded from Seattle to the Jets a week ago when his temperamental personality created similar problems to what contributed to the Vikings trading him to Seattle before last season.
Frazier, whose Bucs face the Vikings on Sunday in Tampa, was asked if both players were “coachable.”
“Oh, yeah, very much so,” he said. “Adrian, I don’t know if there’s a superstar that warrants the accolades more than he does. From my standpoint as a coach, he was what you want to see in a superstar player. Practiced hard, was gracious to his teammates. It was never about him.
“Percy? Tremendous player, tremendous playmaker. We didn’t always see eye to eye on some things, but at the end of the day, we both wanted the same thing for our team, and that was to win.”
Many football fans remember that Marvin Harrison was the one who caught the first touchdown pass of Peyton Manning’s career. It’s less likely, but they might also remember that Rick Parros caught John Elway’s first one and that Sterling Sharpe was the recipient of Brett Favre’s first.
Someday, will fans remember — or have a reason to remember — that Cordarrelle Patterson was the Vikings wide receiver who caught the first touchdown pass of Teddy Bridgewater’s NFL career?
Today, Patterson didn’t seem to care whether he will be the answer to that trivia question someday.
“It might be in 20 years of whatever,” Patterson said. “We really don’t know.”
With the Vikings sitting at 2-5, Patterson has more important things to worry about this week. But he did acknowledge that it was a special moment for Bridgewater. Patterson wanted to keep the ball after this four-yard touchdown reception in the loss to the Bills, but he gave it up to the rookie.
“I gave Teddy the ball. I wish I could have kept it, but I gave it to him,” he said. “That’s the right thing to do, to give that young guy his ball and hats off to Teddy. I hope we get many more this week.”
Patterson didn’t say why he wanted the ball so badly. Sure, it was his first touchdown catch of the season. But he had four of them last season and has now scored 11 total touchdowns in the NFL.
He hoped a compromise could reached, but then he had a King Solomonesque moment of clarity.
“I wish we could split it half way, but that won’t work out so good,” Patterson said.
|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|
|(18) East Carolina||31|
|So Florida||6:00 PM|
|(6) Oregon||9:00 PM|
|North Texas||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|UAB||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Rutgers||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Maryland||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Texas||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|(11) Kansas State|
|Minnesota||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|Memphis||10/25/14 11:00 AM|
|North Carolina||10/25/14 11:30 AM|
|San Jose St||10/25/14 12:00 PM|
|Northern Ill||10/25/14 12:00 PM|
|(25) UCLA||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Akron||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Massachusetts||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Ohio U||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Ga Southern||10/25/14 1:00 PM|
|Kent State||10/25/14 1:30 PM|
|Oregon State||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Fla Atlantic||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Louisiana Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(1) Miss State||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Georgia Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(22) West Virginia||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Michigan||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|(8) Michigan State|
|Boston College||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Central Mich||10/25/14 2:30 PM|
|Vanderbilt||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|Old Dominion||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|UNLV||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|Temple||10/25/14 4:00 PM|
|(15) Arizona||10/25/14 5:00 PM|
|Texas-El Paso||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Wyoming||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Syracuse||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|Texas State||10/25/14 6:00 PM|
|(3) Ole Miss||10/25/14 6:15 PM|
|(4) Alabama||10/25/14 6:30 PM|
|So Carolina||10/25/14 6:30 PM|
|(13) Ohio State||10/25/14 7:00 PM|
|(20) USC||10/25/14 9:00 PM|
|(14) Arizona State||10/25/14 9:45 PM|
|Nevada||10/25/14 10:59 PM|
|(2) Florida State||10/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Troy||10/30/14 6:30 PM|
|Hamilton||10/25/14 3:00 PM|
|Brt Columbia||10/25/14 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|