Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia have been big league regulars for nearly a decade apiece. Neither has ever participated in the postseason, and until a few days ago it looked like neither would sniff the playoffs this year with the Twins.
But suddenly via trades — Willingham to the suddenly hot Royals and Correia to the Dodgers — both have the postseason in their sights.
The Royals have won eight in a row and moved past the slumping Tigers into first place in the AL Central on Monday. Correia made his Dodgers debut on the same night, pitching six innings of one-run ball to get the win.
It must be a completely difference scene from what either player has experienced in his career-to-date. Correia pitched for some bad Giants, Padres, Pirates and, yes, Twins teams. Willingham was with the Marlins, Washington, Oakland (they were 74-88 in his one season) and since 2012 with the Twins.
Usually this is the time of year both can settle in and play out the string. Instead, they both will find themselves in the heat of pennant races.
The preseason gives young, inexperienced players an increased amount of snaps after the starters exit at some point in the first half.
That was the case for rookie safety Antone Exum and rookie guard David Yankey, who led the Vikings in snaps on offense and defense during the preseason opener against the Raiders on Friday.
Exum received a team-high 60 snaps, which counted for 90 percent of the plays on defense. He also had an additional 13 snaps on special teams. Exum finished with two tackles.
Defensive coordinator George Edwards said Exum received more snaps due to the injuries at the position. Robert Blanton, Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo all did not play due to injury. Newly-acquired safety Chris Crocker also did not play after signing with the team last week.
“He did a good job, does a good job communicating,” said Edwards on Exum’s performance. “There are some things I think from that being his first game out there that he was surprised by. The communication is the biggest part for a young guy because you get so many things formationally from the other offense that we probably didn’t practice going into that game. Our concern was more with us and what we’re doing as opposed to what they were trying to do offensively.”
Yankey led the offense with 43 snaps, playing in 61 percent of the offensive plays. He also received one snap on special teams.
The left guard was used in 20 snaps on run plays and 23 snaps as a pass blocker, per Pro Football Focus. He allowed one of six sacks in the game.
“I thought that he really had a stretch at the beginning where he played pretty well,” offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. “I thought that he got a little tired and in the end of the game, in the last part, he was not has physical as he was early. He might have had a couple of bad plays late, but I thought that at the first time out, he probably played 35 to 40 plays. He played two-thirds of the game. He got a lot of work and it was good for him. Again, I just think that the Raiders are a very physical defensive front. I think they’re a talented defensive front. They have depth, so he was challenged, I think, throughout the time he played.”
Every day On most days, our Vikings reporters walk you through what’s happening that day.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Harrison Smith could be a top-tier safety in Mike Zimmer’s scheme.
— WR Adam Thielen is putting himself into position to make the team.
— Rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater threw three picks at practice last night.
— Veteran QB Matt Cassel should play more during Saturday night’s game.
— Interim special teams coordinator Joe Marciano has something to prove.
— TE Chase Ford is close to returning from a foot injury.
TWEET OF THE (YESTER)DAY
Fantasy football season is upon us. What round am I taking a kicker in this year?! 4th sounds about right.
— Blair Walsh (@BlairWalsh3) August 11, 2014
AROUND THE NFC NORTH
— Is there something to Lions DT Nick Fairley practicing with the second team?
— Star Packers WR Jordy Nelson is day-to-day with a hamstring injury.
— The Bears’ revamped defensive line has looked good so far.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
The Vikings have the day off before reporting back to wrap up camp Wednesday and Thursday.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
The Vikings have six safeties who have started at least 10 games in the NFL, including Harrison Smith, who will start at one of the safety spots. Who will be at the other? The Vikings still have no idea. But I guess it can’t be a bad thing that whoever they pick — whether it’s Jamarca Sanford, Kurt Coleman, Chris Crocker or someone else — has been a starter in the league before.
This just in. Teddy Bridgewater remains a rookie. And as a rookie, he’s going to traverse some bumpy practices before he reaches the level the Vikings believe he’ll reach based on the fact they traded back into the first round to take him 32nd overall.
Tonight was one of those practices. We’d advise against running through the streets screaming that Teddy B is a bust and needs to be released. But it wasn’t his best practice with three picks that could have been four if one hadn’t been dropped.
SETTING THE SCENE: On a chilly, 66-degree night, the Vikings practiced under the lights inside of Blakeslee Stadium after having a walkthrough nine hours earlier. There’s an off day tomorrow, so this, as we’ve said before, is probably a head coach’s way of limiting the number of hours that the players could be tempted by potentially troublesome distractions.
Players wore full pads, but there was little contact outside the line of scrimmage. NFL players really can’t complain about training camp any longer. At least not compared to what their predecessors endured. As Vikings Hall of Famer Alan Page told reporters last week, “If it was like this when I played, I’d still be playing.”
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORG: Back to Teddy B. He threw three interceptions, two of them during 11 on 11 competition and one during 7 on 7. There could have had a fourth pick had cornerback Derek Cox not dropped a ball thrown directly to him.
Here’s a breakdown of the picks:
. During the red zone team segment, middle linebacker Audie Cole appeared to read Bridgewater’s eyes and jumped a route to make an impressive grab of a ball intended for tight end Mike Higgins.
. Cornerback Shaun Prater grabbed a ball that bounced off of running back Jerick McKinnon. The play was over after that, but Prater still ran about 30 yards and did a somersault into the end zone.
. During a 7 on 7 drill with the first unit, Bridgewater threw late to Greg Jennings and was intercepted when cornerback Captain Munnerlyn got ideal positioning.
YOUR DAILY QUARTERBACK SMORGASBORG II: Coach Mike Zimmer said before the practice that only he and offensive coordinator Norv Turner know what the Vikings are planning on doing with their quarterback reps in the second preseason game on Saturday night against Arizona.
They might be the only ones who know, but the rest of us probably have a pretty good bead on what they’re thinking. It’s clear after last Friday’s preseason opener that veteran Matt Cassel has created some distance between himself and Bridgewater. Tonight, there was more evidence of that when Bridgewater received no first-team reps during 11 on 11 competition. His only first-team reps came in 7 on 7 drills.
Cassel looked crisper and more sure of his duties, which tends to happen when one is 10 years older than the guy with whom he’s competing.
In the red zone, Cassel went 3 for 3 with a touchdown on three short passes to the running backs. Bridgewater went 2 for 4 with an interception and a touchdown.
During the team blitz period, Cassel went 3 for 5 with a couple of drops. Bridgewater went 4 for 5 and should have been picked by Cox.
PETERSON’S HANDS IMPROVING: Turner and the offensive coaches are never going to make running back Adrian Peterson into the next Roger Craig when it comes to pass catching running backs. But AP does appear to be getting more comfortable catching the ball.
He dropped one ball tonight, but he also had some nice catches, including one on a short crossing pattern that he made without breaking stride. If Peterson can catch passes like that when all heck is breaking loose around him in live action, look out.
PONDER SIGHTING: Yes, Christian Ponder is still on the team. With practice time so limited, he and the other third-teamers get fewer and fewer reps. During one drill in which the third units were practicing moving the ball into field goal range, Ponder made a strong sideline pass to Kamar Jorden. He recognized where he needed to go with the ball and pulled the trigger quickly. It was something we just haven’t seen enough of from Ponder.
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive tackle Tom Johnson (biceps) and safeties Mistral Raymond (unspecified) and Jamarca Sanford (back) returned from injuries to practice Monday night. Safety Robert Blanton (hamstring) and linebacker Dom DeCicco (unspecified) remained sidelined.
After dressing only three safeties on Friday, Zimmer said he expects every safety except Blanton to play Saturday.
Zimmer also stated the obvious, saying, “It’s hurting Blanton that he’s not in there.” Again, it’s obvious. But coaches often avoid stating the obvious publicly when it comes to things like that.
Heading into training camp, Zimmer gave Blanton the strong safety job and essentially told him it was his to loose. Four practices later, Blanton left with a hamstring injury and hasn’t been seen on the field since.
Meanwhile, Zimmer said tight end Chase Ford (foot) appears to be “probably 10 days” from being taking off the physically unable to perform list.
The Vikings players are trickling out to Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato as I write this, but before the final night practice of this year’s training camp, head coach Mike Zimmer gave some injury updates.
The biggest news is that tight end Chase Ford, who suffered a stress fracture in his right foot between the June minicamp and the start of training camp, is coming close to a return. He is off crutches and out of a walking boot, and he was wearing cleats this morning at the walkthrough.
“He’s close. Probably 10 days maybe, I’m guessing,” Zimmer said.
It’s too early to tell if Ford will be removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list before the start of the regular season. Zimmer and the training staff need to see how he responds to running and cutting and things like that. If he starts on PUP, he must sit out the first six weeks. But the fact that he could be back on the field in a couple of weeks bodes well for his chances of avoiding that.
Speaking of tight ends, Zimmer also talked about the decision to sign veteran Kory Sperry.
“This guy’s more of a blocking kind of guy,” Zimmer said. “We felt like we needed a little more power at the point of attack. We worked him out prior to, I guess when we signed [tight end] Mike Higgins, and we felt we needed more without Chase. We were a guy short.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, Zimmer expects safety Mistral Raymond to return to practice and cornerbacks Josh Robinson (hamstring) and Marcus Sherels (hamstring) to continue practicing. Safety Jamarca Sanford (back) and defensive tackle Tom Johnson (bicep) will also try to practice. Sanford sat out the preseason opener and Johnson was injured in that game.
Furthermore, Zimmer expects all safeties not named Robert Blanton (hamstring) to suit up Saturday against the Cardinals, and he said there is a chance that Chris Crocker, who did not play against the Raiders because he was new to the team, could start alongside Harrison Smith.
Zimmer said he is hopeful that he and his staff will finally be able to get a true evaluation of the safety position now that players such as Sanford and Andrew Sendejo are healthy enough to practice and Crocker has knocked some of the rust off after remaining unsigned until a week ago.
“It’s difficult because guys aren’t practicing as much. In the ballgame the other night, we had three safeties that were left playing,” Zimmer said. “I anticipate that they should all play this week [except for Blanton]. So tomorrow we’ll sit down and try to get a much better evaluation of the guys we think we need to see more on tape. And this will be a good test because [the Cardinals] play with four wides and throw the ball around pretty good.”