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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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.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Another good center, defense among most improved and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 18th at 10:25am 286223161

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— John Sullivan is the latest of a long line of quality Vikings centers.

— The Vikings have one of the NFL’s most improved defenses.

— QB Teddy Bridgewater wants to improve his accuracy.

— The Vikings promoted S Ahmad Dixon from their practice squad.

— DT Sharrif Floyd returned to practice yesterday, but five other starters sat out.

— LB Michael Mauti downplayed the knee injury that put him on IR.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— Dolphins wide receivers want more deep passes thrown their way.

— Four injured linebackers returned to practice for the Dolphins yesterday.

— BREAKING: The Dolphins are going to try to win the game Sunday.

— The Dolphins should be excited about those Harbaugh-to-Michigan rumors.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings are sticking with the new Thursday schedule that they switched to last week. Practice will be at 10:40 a.m. instead of right after lunch. And the media access period will be after that.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

ESPN draft guru Todd McShay has released the first of what will likely be several thousand mock drafts before the real deal takes place in April. McShay has the Vikings taking Texas A&M OT Cedric Ogbuehi, who apparently projects as more of a right tackle. What are your thoughts on that? Is injured OT Phil Loadholt on the decline or was this season just a subpar one for Loadholt, who has been a pretty solid right tackle for the Vikings? And I know many fans are ready to give up on Matt Kalil, but should the Vikings, who have other needs, take another left tackle with their top pick?

Floyd returns, but five other starters miss practice

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 17th at 4:03pm 286138701

Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd returned to practice today, but the Vikings were without five other starters, including two new additions to the injury report.

Tight end Kyle Rudolph (knee/ankle) and nose tackle Linval Joseph (illness) did not practice today. Nor did outside linebacker Anthony Barr (knee), safety Robert Blanton (knee/ankle) or left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle), all three of whom sat out Sunday’s loss to the Lions.

Wide receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring), running back Matt Asiata (foot) and defensive end Brian Robison (ankle) were all limited.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes (wrist) and safety Andrew Sendejo (thumb) were listed as full participants on the injury report.

Floyd, meanwhile, was limited, but his presence at practice this early in the week gives hope that he might be able to return to the field — and play four quarters — this weekend against the Dolphins.

Floyd had been playing really well before banging knees with a teammate in practice a few weeks ago. He played but couldn’t finish the wins over the Panthers and Jets before the team decided to hold him out of practice last week and the Lions game as well.

The second-year defensive tackle said being sidelined was tough because he was playing well, starting to live up to the first-round expectations after waiting in the wings as a reserve last season.

“Frustration is an understatement for the past few weeks,” Floyd said. “But what can I do? My body is what keeps me going and when it tells me to stop, sometimes you’ve just got to listen.”

Floyd was asked by another reporter if he has talked through the frustration with anyone.

“I’m my own man,” he said, laughing. “So sometimes you’ve got to talk to yourself.”

(Just don’t do it in public, OK, Sharrif? People will look at you funny if you do that.)

One more practice tidbit for you that I couldn’t get in tomorrow’s notebook: The Vikings have opened the doors to their inside practice facility to let the cold air in to prepare for recent outdoor games. Now, to prepare for the trip down to Miami, they’ll turn up the heat in there.

“Yeah, it will be 80 degrees,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Not sunny, but it will be 80 degrees.”

I don’t think the temperature got up that high in there today, so I’m not going to show up in a tanktop tomorrow. But it was noticeably warmer than it usually is on days when they keep the doors closed.

Bridgewater off to a good start with his accuracy

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated December 18th at 12:07pm 286128851

Teddy Bridgewater was again on a podium, lamenting his incomplete pass toward wide receiver Jarius Wright in the final minute of Sunday’s loss to the Lions, the one he felt would have put the Vikings in position to win that nail-biter. Different day and different lectern, but same message.

“I missed the throw to Jarius. That hurt us,” the rookie quarterback said today.

There are a bunch of throws from this season that Bridgewater would like to have back — including that one he sailed over Wright’s head and his second interception Sunday, when he was both late and inaccurate while targeting wide receiver Greg Jennings on the sideline.

But for the most part, Bridgewater has been pretty accurate while executing Norv Turner’s offense.

His 63.5 percent completion percentage leads all qualifying rookies. It’s the highest mark for a rookie starter since 2012, when Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson both topped 64 percent. And if it holds up, it would be the fifth-highest completion percentage for a rookie in NFL history.

And as I wrote yesterday, Bridgewater is among the league leaders in accuracy percentage, a stat from Pro Football Focus that accounts for things such as dropped passes, spikes to stop the block and throwaways, unlike raw completion percentage.

According to PFF, Bridgewater has been accurate on 75.6 percent of his throws, which ranks seventh in the NFL and is just ahead of guys like Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady, Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. Since Week 9, only Drew Brees and Joe Flacco have been more accurate.

Bridgewater completed 68.4 percent of his passes in college and completed 71.0 percent during his final season at Louisville. Even though he had an erratic pro day, accuracy was considered one of his biggest strengths as a prospect. So it’s no surprise that accuracy is translating to the pros.

“I have been pleased, but at the same time I’m not going to sit here and say I’m satisfied with it, because the expectation for this team and for me is pretty high right now,” Bridgewater said.

While Bridgewater has struggled with the trajectory on his deep balls this season, he has been accurate overall, in part because Turner is asking him to make shorter throws to his receivers. Only 47.9 percent of his 2,451 passing yards have come through the air (the majority of them have come after the catch), according to Pro Football Focus. That’s the fifth-lowest rate among qualifying QBs.

Still, being Bridgewater, the rookie sees plenty of room to improve. He is already talked to Norv Turner, the offensive coordinator, and Scott Turner, the quarterbacks coach, about some of the passes he’s sailed — like that one to Wright on Sunday — and what he can do to fix any flaws there.

“It’s all about finishing throws, whether it’s my follow-through or stepping into throws,” he said.

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Cleveland 95
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Miami 103
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Boston 114
Toronto 110 FINAL
Detroit 100
Chicago 103 FINAL
Memphis 97
Portland 97 1st OT 1:24
San Antonio 106
LA Clippers 65 3rd Qtr 4:05
Denver 64
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 3
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Ottawa 6
NY Islanders 2 FINAL
Detroit 1
Boston 1 FINAL
Winnipeg 2
Dallas 2 3rd Prd
Calgary 1
Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 66 FINAL
Radford 76
Stillman 49 FINAL
Alabama 69
Case Western Reserve 65 FINAL
Bucknell 88
Niagara 62 FINAL
Buffalo 88
SD Christian 46 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 69
Concordia (MI) 60 FINAL
Central Mich 97
Northern Ill 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 58
North Florida 83 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Hiwassee 71 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 91
Tennessee St 54 FINAL
Hampton 66
NC A&T 57 FINAL
Kent State 71
Central Penn College 65 FINAL
Liberty 94
Eastern Ky 72 FINAL
Miami-Florida 44
Northern Ky 83 FINAL
Morehead State 60
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
Norfolk State 81
MD-Eastern Shore 43 FINAL
Old Dominion 60
St Marys-CA 47 FINAL
St Johns 53
Clemson 45 FINAL
South Carolina 68
Tenn Tech 58 FINAL
Tennessee 61
Washington-MD 46 FINAL
William & Mary 86
Bethune-Cookman 46 FINAL
Mercer 67
Furman 78 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 83
South Dakota St 53 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 49
Milligan 53 FINAL
Lamar 80
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ULM 76
Southern Utah 57 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 73
Chattanooga 58 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 68
Seattle 57 FINAL
Minnesota 92
Lipscomb 55 FINAL
Princeton 77
Winthrop 71 FINAL
SE Louisiana 81
Dickinson State 48 FINAL
North Dakota 78
New Orleans 56 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
TX-Pan American 51 2nd Half 5:25
Creighton 66
Colorado State 71 2nd Half 3:19
Denver 64
Alabama A&M 40 2nd Half 4:18
Marquette 75
Ark-Pine Bluff 35 2nd Half 8:38
Texas Tech 53
Eastern Wash 24 1st Half 5:44
California 23
Idaho State 20 1st Half 4:05
Utah State 26
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
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Texas-El Paso
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Northern Ill
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San Diego St
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Rice
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Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Ohio Valley 33 FINAL
Youngstown St 84
East Tenn St 48 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 61
Cal-Irvine 44 FINAL
Purdue 69
Campbell 63 FINAL
Stetson 76
Jacksonville St 70 FINAL
Charleston Southern 43
Louisiana 64 FINAL
Alcorn State 57
Denver 63 FINAL
Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
Albany 62 FINAL
Pepperdine 36
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Houston 56
Yale 66 FINAL
Bucknell 73
Northern Colorado 56 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 69
Belmont 86 FINAL
Mercer 83
Massachusetts 66 FINAL
Georgia State 71
George Mason 69 FINAL
Winthrop 57
Portland State 33 FINAL
Princeton 104
UCLA 71 FINAL
Samford 52
Mobile 30 FINAL
Alabama State 66
Nicholls 49 FINAL
Texas Tech 76
Toledo 65 FINAL
Nevada 56
UMass Lowell 48 FINAL
(13) Duke 95
St Marys-CA 49 FINAL
Virginia 62
McNeese State 55 FINAL
Rice 57
McMurry 49 FINAL
Houston Baptist 69
NJIT 62 FINAL
Seton Hall 74
(6) North Carolina 65 FINAL
Maine 36
Lafayette 58 FINAL
Stony Brook 60
Siena 62 FINAL
Binghamton 53
Longwood 56 FINAL
Clemson 72
Savannah State 51 FINAL
Florida State 97
(19) Syracuse 72 FINAL
(9) Baylor 74
Buffalo 68 FINAL
Manhattan 58
Canisius 43 FINAL
Michigan 79
Davidson 66 FINAL
NC State 82
Northern Ky 63 FINAL
Delaware 58
Saint Louis 81 FINAL
Austin Peay 86
(25) DePaul 64 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 98
Ohio U 74 FINAL
La Salle 63
Florida Atlantic 60 FINAL
Long Beach St 85
Miami-Florida 65 FINAL
Tulane 70
Miss Valley St 39 FINAL
Memphis 62
Ark-Pine Bluff 56 FINAL
UAB 65
Bowling Green 58 FINAL
Illinois State 54
Arkansas State 78 FINAL
Missouri State 62
ULM 42 FINAL
Wichita State 57
(16) Oregon State 67 2nd Half 2:21
Southern Ill 54
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Cal State Fullerton 40
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Bethesda (CA) 17 1st Half 5:50
Fresno State 18
Utah Valley U 10 1st Half 3:30
Montana 31
LSU 2 1st Half 17:05
UC Santa Barbara 2

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