Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has carried an offense that is 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 [running back] Emmitt Smith. I had Alex Smith in his second eyar, and he had [running back] Frank Gore. I had Phillip Rivers in his fourth year, second season starting, and he had [running back LaDainian Tomlinson.”
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 tight end Kyle Rudolph was one of five starters to missed practice in consecutive days due to injury on Thursday.
Rudolph has been sidelined with an ankle/knee injury. Left guard Charlie Johnson (ankle), nose tackle Linval Joseph (illness), rookie linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) and safety Robert Blanton (ankle/knee) also missed another practice this week. Blanton was conditioning on the side at the start of practice.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer wouldn’t specify but expected most of these guys to participate in Friday’s practice.
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd (knee), wide receiver Greg Jennings (hamstring) and running back Matt Asiata (foot) were all limited once again.
Injuries to Ricky Rubio, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic might have pushed the Wolves into a full-scale rebuild more quickly than Flip Saunders might have liked, but now that they are there it appears Saunders is fully committed. Not only have the youngsters been logging heavy minutes lately, but also now we have an ESPN report that says Corey Brewer is once again being dangled in trade talks.
Per the report:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Timberwolves, beset with injuries and mired at the foot of the Western Conference with a record of 5-19, are again engaging contending teams in trade discussions for Brewer after making him available in mid-November and then abruptly pulling him off the market. The Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers, sources said, remain the most interested suitors for Brewer, but have also been joined by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Houston and Cleveland remain the best positioned to make a deal because both teams possess an active trade exception large enough to absorb Brewer’s $4.7 million salary. But sources say that the Wolves are seeking a future first-round pick in exchange for Brewer, something the Cavaliers are reluctant to surrender. The Rockets, sources say, hope to sell Minnesota on going through with the swap in exchange for a 2015 second-rounder via New York that the Rockets possess. It’s a pick with the potential to be attractive come June given the Knicks’ ongoing struggles.
Can’t say we blame the Wolves since they came into the season with plenty of depth at shooting guard/small forward. If they can gain an asset while letting Brewer play for a contender, it’s win-win.
The only downside is that we haven’t yet had a chance to golf with Brewer in his second go-round with the Wolves.
@MasterStrib How involved will Patterson be in the offense Sunday? Were his late snaps in DET a sign of things to come? #VikingsST
— Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson) December 18, 2014
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.
@MasterStrib #VikingsST Is Zimmer comfortable moving forward with current corners? (Rhodes, jrob, captain) or will he improve in offseason?
— Alex Phillips (@Papa_phil) December 18, 2014
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.
@MasterStrib How should Robert Blanton be viewed? As a weak spot, or penciled in as a starter in 2015? #VikingsST
— Andrew Lowell (@alrmpls) December 18, 2014
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.
@MasterStrib How stupid am I for replacing Cutler w/ Teddy for all the fantasy marbles this week? #VikingsST
— Matt Kalina (@kali0116) December 18, 2014
I question anyone that would want Jay Cutler as their quarterback, fantasy or reality.
As I’m typing this, Cutler threw another interception.
Stability hasn’t exactly been a word associated with Minnesota sports leadership in recent years when you consider Jerry Kill, who was hired late in 2010, is the longest-tenured current head coach among these six major teams: Gophers football, Gophers men’s basketball, Wild, Timberwolves, Twins and Vikings. The Wolves, Twins and Vikings, of course, all hired new leaders in 2014.
The same could be said in terms of stability and the Vikings QB position. Since Brett Favre’s run ended late in the 2010 season, seven different quarterbacks have started at least one game for the Vikings — and in 2013 and 2014, three different quarterbacks have started games for Minnesota.
That said, that lack of stability is starting to change — particularly with respect to specific football rivals, both college and pro.
If the Gophers are going to become consistent contenders in the Big Ten’s West Division — something that is hardly a given, but is at least a possibility — they will need to consistently compete against and sometimes defeat Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Nebraska’s coaching situation could not be uglier or more volatile than it is right now, with Bo Pelini lighting a match in the corn field and watching it all burn on his way out. Wisconsin’s situation is different, with two coaches bolting for other teams since 2012, leaving the Badgers to introduce yet another head coach, Paul Chryst, on Wednesday. Chryst could very well keep the Badgers’ train moving right along. But it’s impossible to say that situation is stable right now.
The Gophers? A year ago, there were all sorts of questions about Kill and his health. He has answered those brilliantly and along with a devoted staff has kept Minnesota moving on an upward trajectory. Among the Gophers, Badgers and Huskers, Minnesota — by a long shot — has the most stable coaching situation right now.
On the pro side, the Vikings entered the season with — again, by a long shot — the least stable QB situation of any team in their division. Aaron Rodgers entered as the league’s best quarterback and still in his prime with the Packers. Matthew Stafford is an above-average starter still growing with the Lions. And the Bears had just handed Jay Cutler a massive contract. The Vikings had just drafted a QB in the first round for the second time in four years, admitting they were starting over again.
Rodgers and Stafford have done nothing to change their standing … but when it comes to QB stability in the division, the Vikings no longer bring up the rear. Part of that is because Teddy Bridgewater has shown enough in his rookie season to convince us that while his ceiling isn’t someone of Rodgers’ caliber, his floor is as an adequate starter in the NFL for years to come. The Bears, meanwhile, just benched Cutler and will start Jimmy Clausen at QB this week.
Long-term, Cutler might still turn it around in Chicago. But his tenure there — already rocky at times — has turned completely volatile. We’d take the Vikings’ situation 10 times out of 10 over Chicago’s right now, and that’s not something we would have said three months ago.