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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Turner pleased with Bridgewater's improvement

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated November 20th at 1:16pm 283375771

Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s sixth start was probably one of his worst this season. He completed 18 of 28 for 158 passing yards and a touchdown in the 21-13 loss to the Bears on Sunday. It was the third lowest quarterback rating, 76.2, Bridgewater has posted this season.

It may appear that Bridgewater regressed in his development given the offense’s inability to move the ball at Soldier Field, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner said that’s not the case in his eyes based off what he sees at practice.

“His development is coming along the way we hoped it would,” Turner said. “I saw someone say he took a step back in that game but games are different.

“Teddy had a great week of practice last week. He had a chance to do some things that we haven’t been doing and routes we haven’t been throwing.  He’s getting better. I see him getting better every day. Sometimes games come up in different ways, and it shows up, and sometimes it doesn’t show up.”

The Vikings season at this point is mainly about the continued progression of Bridgewater and how he handles live action. Whether that’d be allowing plays to develop, which was an issue against the Bears, or producing an impressive game for four quarters, all eyes will be on the rookie quarterback.

We’re limited based on what we see at practice, which can cause small details to be analyzed extensively in a small sample size of games for Bridgewater. He’s had one eye-popping performance against the Falcons, a solid second half against Washington and a lot teaching moments during his seven appearances.

Turner said the coaching has stressed a sense of urgency and patience when dealing with a young offensive team relying on a rookie quarterback, Bridgewater, a rookie running back, Jerick McKinnon, and a slew of young receivers, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen.

“Wednesday, Thursday, Friday practices are critical in terms of their development,” Turner said. “That’s how they’re going to get better with how they practice and things that show up in practice, then you want to see it in the game. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it’s harder because teams are going to do things that take plays away. Sometimes, it comes up where [Johnson] is in the right place and sometimes it’s someone else.

“We’re just trying to build something and create a foundation for all these guys.”

Patterson just wants to have some fun again

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 20th at 2:06pm 283375351

Cordarrelle Patterson’s smile was impossible to miss late last season as he maneuvered into the end zone with regularity. Even early this season, when things weren’t going as well, Patterson would still flash his pearly whites. He couldn’t help it. That’s his nature.

But now, 10 games into a disappointing season in which he has just 28 catches and two total touchdowns, the smile is gone and frustration has set in. Patterson is now acknowledging that his play has been a letdown, and today he put the burden of blame on himself.

“I don’t matter what the defenses do,” he said. “This is my job. I need to find a way to get open.”

On Monday, head coach Mike Zimmer was asked if he was disappointed in the play of the second-year wide receiver. He didn’t say yes, but he carefully chose his words when talking about how Patterson is a young player who still has plenty to learn. Zimmer pointed out that Patterson was learning a new offense for a third straight year and said he still thinks Patterson will be a good one.

Today, Patterson was asked if he was bothered by Zimmer’s assessment of his development.

“Why would that hurt? I’m a grown man,” he said. “Stuff like that shouldn’t hurt me. Coach Zimmer is right. I’ve been in three different offenses in three years. It’s a lot of learning. At the end of the day, this is my job. This is something I need to just focus on, just this main job. And whatever Coach Zimmer says is right. Even though I probably won’t think it’s right, he’s the head coach and whatever he says goes.”

Patterson has been targeted 59 times but caught just 28 of those passes. With 332 receiving yards, he is averaging just 11.9 yards per catch. And the touchdowns, where have they gone? He had nine last season as a receiver, runner and returner. This year he’s been in the end zone just twice.

So Cordarrelle, what kind of numbers were you expecting to put up this season?

“Not where they’re at right now,” Patterson said. “They’ve been disappointing and I know I’m letting a lot of people down. It’s tough. It’s very tough out here, man. It’s a struggle sometimes. Offensively, and me, just got to find that groove and just get it going.”

Until then, it seems we won’t see that smile as often as we had grown accustomed to.

“I just need to focus in and just go out and play ball, man, just have fun, like last year,” Patterson said. “I was having a lot of fun last year. This year it seems like I’m not having as much fun as last year. I just need to find that little missing piece and just have some fun.”

Vikings 4 Downs: Can Ben Tate make an immediate impact?

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated November 20th at 12:25pm 283351581

He might be forced to help immediately. The biggest concern with the Vikings at the position is running back Matt Asiata, who didn’t practice on Wednesday as he goes through the concussion protocol. Rookie running back Jerick McKinnon played through a low back injury last week, but he missed practice as well.

That would explain why the Vikings signed running back Dominique Williams to the practice squad with their open spot after cornerback Pierre Warren was signed by the Saints. They need help at the position and multiple options in case either, or both,  can’t play against the Packers.

I think he can be serviceable, but I’m not banking on a 100-yard rushing performance. Tate hasn’t played under offensive coordinator Norv Turner before, and I’m not sure if he’s played in a similar system before, so they’d likely have to simplify some elements of the run game so Tate can be useful three days before the game. It’s a difficult situation to prepare a player in such a limited amount of time, but it gives the Vikings an experienced back for at least the rest of the season and possibly next year.

Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson took a step back but not sure I’d call it a major step back. He’s had a disappointing season, both on offense and kickoff returns, given how effective he was in a limited role as a rookie. It comes with the territory of learning how to prepare when opponents are gameplanning to shut you down. Patterson still hasn’t learned how to deal with that, struggling to get open consistently and becoming a viable option for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Once again, there’s still time for Patterson to turn it around but the window is more open for him than left tackle Matt Kalil, who is going through another bad season. Though he’s only in his third season, it’s a legitimate question to ask whether Kalil will return to his rookie season form. To the viewer’s eye, Kalil’s struggles are more noticeable because we see Bridgewater sacked or pressured from his blindside time and time again.

Face it though, they’re both not playing up to their capabilities and have hurt the Vikings offense significantly this season.

It can work for a period of time, but it’s not sustainable when the team isn’t structured to play an entire game that way, nor will it structured in such a manner in the future. I’d like to see it in spurts, however, given how good Bridgewater has been and also to throw defenses off.

But the important thing for Bridgewater at this point will be to receive as many snaps as possible in the pace the offense will flow in the future. The more experience he receives in that, the more comfortable Bridgewater will become. I think that’s the most important thing to watch over the final six games. We haven’t seen Bridgewater comfortable for an entire game since his first career start, particularly during the first half.

The Vikings would have $6 million in dead money that would count against the cap, though he’d be owed $11 million if he remains on the team. It wouldn’t be worth it to cut him this offseason.

Greg Jennings, 31, hasn’t been the same receiver he was in Green Bay as he’s dealt with a quarterback carousel of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman and now Bridgewater. There’s still a need for a veteran wide receiver on the roster with a young offense to help Patterson, Jarius Wright, Adam Thielen, Charles Johnson and even Bridgewater. Fans might be upset that the Vikings overpaid for Jennings, and he hasn’t been the No. 1 receiver he was paid to be, but he’s still a veteran with reliable hands when he gets open. I don’t think that’s a guy you should take away from a rookie quarterback.

Access Vikings morning walkthrough: Peterson circus packs it up, Vikings pick up Tate and more

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 20th at 9:26am 283323341

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

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— The media circus surrounding RB Adrian Peterson was back in town.

— Coach Mike Zimmer and QB Teddy Bridgewater didn’t seem distracted.

— The Vikings claimed veteran RB Ben Tate off waivers from the Browns.

— Running backs Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon both missed practice.

— CB Xavier Rhodes hopes Sunday’s interception was the first of many.

TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY

BEHIND ENEMY LINES

— QB Aaron Rodgers says the Packers must guard against overconfidence.

— The Packers aren’t worried about OLB Clay Matthews’ groin injury.

— Green Bay’s wide-receiver duo is rewriting the team’s record books.

— Packers RB Eddie Lacy is talking about losing some weight this offseason.

TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE

The Vikings will hold practice at 12:50 p.m. Beforehand, all three coordinators will talk at 11 a.m.

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT

Tate could end up being a good fit with the Vikings, but the 26-year-old’s rushing efficiency has declined every year. As a rookie, he averaged 5.4 yards per carry. In 2012, he was at 4.29. In 2013, it was 4.26. And this year, after moving from the Texans to the Browns, it has plummeted to 3.1.

Vikings claim RB Tate off waivers from Browns

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated November 20th at 7:05am 283250811

With Adrian Peterson suspended for the season and fellow running back Matt Asiata recovering from a concussion, the Vikings have claimed former Browns back Ben Tate off waivers.

Tate, who started his career with the Texans, signed a two-year, $7 million contract with the Browns this spring and was expected to be their lead running back.

He rushed for 41 yards on six carries in his Cleveland debut, but he suffered a knee injury that sidelined him for nearly a month. That injury gave an opportunity to rookie backs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell, who showed promise.

Last week, Tate complained about his role. He then had just two carries for minus-9 yards in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. He was waived yesterday.

His Browns career lasted eight games. He rushed for just 333 yards on 106 carries with four TDs.

We will talk to head coach Mike Zimmer tomorrow to see exactly how Tate will fit in. But Zimmer has maintained after losing Peterson that he prefers a committee approach in the backfield. We can assume rookie Jerick McKinnon will have a prominent role, but we’ll see how much, if at all, Tate cuts into his work load.

Tate, 26, has a history of injury issues throughout his career. But he does not have much wear and tear, having backed up Texans back Arian Foster for his first few seasons, and he has experience in a zone scheme. At 5-foot-10 and 220 pounds, he packs a little more punch than McKinnon.

The Vikings, who have just under $9 million in salary cap space, will take on his contract for the rest of the season. If he is active for each of the final six games, he will earn $656,250 from the Vikings.

To make room for Tate, the Vikings waived tight end and former Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray.

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