Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said there’s “a chance” quarterback Matt Cassel will play the entire first half on Saturday against the Cardinals at TCF Bank Stadium.
Zimmer has been tight-lipped on how the Vikings will divide snaps between Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater during the second preseason game. Prior to the latest development, Zimmer said there’s a plan in place but did not want to publicly announce it.
Cassel went 5 of 6 for 62 yards during the opening drive against the Raiders on Friday. It was the only playing time he received in an impressive outing. Bridgewater displayed flashes during the preseason opener but couldn’t sustain the same level of success. He’s also thrown five interceptions in the last two practices.
Zimmer said with the different combinations in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense, it will take time for the rookie to grasp everything.
“He’s got so much going on his mind right now, I just want him to play,” Zimmer said of Bridgewater. “I told him yesterday, and I’m going to tell him again before the ballgame — just go out and play.”
SAFETY ROTATION: Zimmer said he plans to divide the snaps at safety between Andrew Sendejo, Jamarca Sanford, Chris Crocker and Kurt Coleman in an effort to get clarity at the position. Crocker received first team reps at strong safety during Wednesday’s practice.
“I want to see how it goes from there and then the rest of the pecking order,” Zimmer said. “Hopefully this will be a big week for those safeties.
INJURY REPORT: Zimmer said cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) is doubtful against the Cardinals after missing most of Wednesday’s practice. The hamstring flared up again, limiting Robinson’s participation. Zimmer also said running back Adrian Peterson won’t play against the Cardinals. Peterson also did not play against the Raiders. He’s expected to be the only healthy scratch.
Vikings rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen displayed his versatility during Thursday’s practice receiving first team reps at nose tackle in Linval Joseph’s absence. He was mainly used as three-technique at Connecticut, but the seventh round pick has received work at both positions since he was drafted.
And he’s quickly getting noticed, particularly after Stephen’s performance against the Raiders on Friday.
“He did some good things,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “We played him at the three technique, we played him at the nose and for a guy who really hadn’t got a lot of reps at the three (technique) we thought he did a good job of what we were asking call-wise, technically, fundamentally, he held up pretty good in there.”
Stephen received 33 snaps with 21 against the run, per Pro Football Focus. He tied for a team-high five tackles and prompted praise from Edwards and head coach Mike Zimmer this week.
“It definitely feels good, but it also shows that I still need to work and get after it,” Stephen said.
Stephen said he felt like he’s improved in his pass rushing ability but still needs to improve in that area. It’s been an emphasis with the defensive linemen this week heading into Saturday’s game against the Cardinals.
Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— The Vikings say rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater’s confidence has not been shaken.
— RB Adrian Peterson is confident his carry total will remain high.
— The appreciation for special teams slowly grew throughout NFL history.
— The Vikings have added former LB E.J. Henderson to their front office.
— Mike Zimmer made his son branch out before bringing him onto his staff.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Exciting bout this 2k14 @Viking squad never been around hard working dogs like this!!!!
— Gerald Hodges (@g_hodges6) August 13, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— The Packers’ 2012 draft class has not been a smashing success.
— Bears QB Jay Cutler is making quicker reads this year.
— The Lions bonded over bowling.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
Today is the final day of training camp at Mankato. The walkthrough is at 10:30 a.m. and practice is at 3:00 p.m. Players will be in pads. Head coach Mike Zimmer will talk after the walkthrough.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
Adrian Peterson’s single-season career highs as a receiver are 43 catches and 436 yards, both during the 2009 season. Do you think Peterson will top those totals in Norv Turner’s offense?
Linebacker Gerald Hodges was one of a few players that stood out to head coach Mike Zimmer after Friday’s preseason opener against the Raiders. He built off that performance with an interception during Wednesday’s practice.
Hodges made a nice play, leaping to make the catch on a poor decision by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in 11-on-11 period. Bridgewater attempted to throw the ball after he was sacked by defensive end Corey Wootton in the middle of the field next to a receiver where nobody could make a play on the ball. Well, Hodges did.
“He is doing a lot better,” Zimmer said on Wednesday. “Last week, he’s doing much better. He’s got good athleticism, he’s got physicality when he strikes you, he can run and I’m hopeful for him.”
SETTING THE SCENE: It was 81 degrees during practice but definitely felt hotter. Defensive linemen were drenched in sweat during individual drills at the start of practice and quenching for water before the 11-on-11 periods. There were brief moments where it cooled off due to some cloud cover, but it didn’t last long.
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBOARD: Bridgewater threw two more interceptions during practice. That’s five interceptions in the last two practices, for those keeping track at home. Along with Hodges, safety Mistral Raymond picked off Bridgewater separate 11-on-11 periods. The rookie did receive a few reps with the first team in 11-on-11, however, unlike Monday night’s practice. He did a nice job selling a play action with running back Adrian Peterson to hit Cordarrelle Patterson in stride on a big gain. Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder didn’t concede a turnover on the other hand. Cassel had a nice deep pass to Greg Jennings for about 45 yards with cornerback Marcus Sherels in coverage for the play of the day.
STEP-HEN UP: With nose tackle Linval Joseph recovering from a leg injury, rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen received first team reps at nose tackle. He also received praise Zimmer for his performance against the Raiders and got some valuable extra reps for a rookie continuing to develop. Stephen, who can play both the nose and three-technique spots, still mixed in with the second team as well.
CROCKER EMERGING: Safety Chris Crocker received the majority of the first team reps at strong safety alongside Harrison Smith. The newly-acquired safety did not play in the preseason opener after he signed with the team last week. Crocker is very familiar with Zimmer’s scheme, which was the main reason why he signed with the Vikings.
MR. MANKATO UPDATE: Wide receiver Adam Thielen has made some difficult catches at training camp. He made another one on a rollout play with Bridgewater. Thielen did a nice job adjusting to a small window Bridgewater had to throw. He maintained possession of the ball while sliding before rolling out of bounds. Thielen had a rare, would-be touchdown drop however that caused him to spike the ball in frustration. The Minnesota State alum bobbled a nice ball from Bridgewater on a vertical route after beating cornerback Shaun Prater off the line of scrimmage.
RUDOLPH UNFAZED: Tight end Kyle Rudolph is probably on a short list of players you probably wouldn’t want to try and lay out over the middle given his size. While Hodges had an interception at practice, he tried just that during an 11-on-11 period. The linebacker popped Rudolph after he completed the catch with a legal, but hard, hit. Rudolph hardly moved, while Hodges went stumbled back a few yards after the contact. Lesson learned.
INJURY REPORT: Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) was dressed but did not participate in team periods. He would not disclose the reason why he was limited, but Robinson has dealt with a nagging hamstring injury throughout training camp. Marcus Sherels filled in for Robinson the nickel. Safety Robert Blanton (hamstring), tight end Chase Ford (foot) and Joseph (leg) were sidelined again. Linebacker Dom Decicco (hip) will have surgery on Thursday, Zimmer announced.