Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman just conducted his annual midseason Q&A session with reporters, though to the surprise of no one he wanted to limit his comments to the 4-5 Vikings without saying anything meaningful about running back Adrian Peterson’s legal situation.
“All I’m going to say is basically at the appropriate time, and I know you guys can appreciate this, we’ll keep all of our comments under the Adrian situation until it’s appropriate to speak,” Spielman said. “And I’ll just leave it at that. I know Coach [Mike] Zimmer talked to you guys yesterday. I’m probably not going to go any further on the Adrian situation.”
Asked when the appropriate time would be — after all, there were rumblings that Peterson was about to agree to a plea deal down in Texas that would allow him to avoid jail time — Spielman responded, “We’ll let everybody know.”
Pressed again on Peterson, he said, “We’ll make the appropriate comments when the time comes.”
Now onto football, and how the 4-5 Vikings are starting to get it right on the field. Spielman praised Zimmer for how he has helped the Vikings navigate some early-season adversity, which included losing Peterson in Week 2 after he was charged with child abuse.
“I think just watching Coach Zim, we’ve dealt with a lot of adversity through the first part of the season,” Spielman said. “And to see his leadership and to see this team take his mental approach to the game, where there’s no excuses and resiliency, you’re seeing this young team with a lot of young guys stepping up and growing. I know we’re nowhere yet near where we need to be. … We’ve still got a long way to go and a lot of things to work on, but it’s nice to see the direction we’re headed.”
Spielman is pleased with the progress that rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has made.
“Teddy is continuing to grow each week. He had a pretty good start when he got the opportunity to play against Atlanta. Then all the sudden he started to see some different things and had to grow through that process,” Spielman said. “Even talking about this past week, I know you guys were all over him about the deep ball accuracy and things like that, but that all comes. … He’s 3-2 as a starter but all three games we were down in the fourth quarter and he brought us from behind. What he’s doing on third down. What he’s doing against the blitz. All those things, there were signs of that in college and that’s what he did well in college. I think the more he learns, the more he progresses. It’s just going to continue to grow.”
Spielman chalked the struggles of the offensive line up to a new pass protection scheme and injuries at right guard. He feels they have played better the past couple of weeks, especially left tackle Matt Kalil.
“I know you guys beat the heck out of him in the press and I know you guys love Pro Football Focus and read that. But a couple of the sacks that you guys are digging him on are not always his fault,” Spielman said. “And because you guys don’t know what the pass protection was or where the slide was. I know Matt was inconsistent early but I think over the last two or three weeks he has really gotten a lot better and got back to being focused. I really think Matt is going to be a heck of a left tackle in this league.”
He also defended wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who has been held to two or fewer receptions in five out of the past six games. Zimmer, of course, said yesterday that Patterson needs to be more precise.
“He’s a very unique athlete. I think the one thing that you have to remember with Cordarrelle — I know you guys are killing him as well — this is another junior that came out that played six months at a major college then he learned a new system last year and he’s learning a new system this year,” Spielman said. “And he is a unique athlete and I know Norv [Turner] and I know George Stewart are putting in extra time working extremely hard and Cordarrelle is doing his part putting into it. But it’s just that these young guys just have to learn the nuances of the game.”
Finally, Spielman talked about outside linebacker Anthony Barr, the No. 9 overall pick in May’s NFL draft. Barr continues to make game-changing plays for the Vikings, making Spielman look good.
“Anthony, like a lot of our guys I think, was a pretty unique athlete,” Spielman said. “When I talked to you guys after the draft and Coach Zim is up there drawing stuff — Xs and Os on how he was going to utilize the skills he saw on tape and how he was going to fit in the scheme. They’re doing a lot more things with him now maybe than they were doing in the early part of the season. And he’s continuing to grow as well. He has made some pretty impact plays for us so far and I think that will continue to progress.”
We just finished up from the news conference introducing Paul Molitor as the 13th manager in Twins franchise history and just the third since 1986. Here are five takeaways from the presser:
1) Molitor has clear expectations that he wants to be competitive immediately. He talked on multiple occasions about teams making quick turnarounds and talked about things on the 2014 Twins — despite their 92 losses, the fourth consecutive season with at least that many — that he liked. The money quote: “I’m coming here to win.” He said that while he’s excited like many fans are about the potential for some of the prospects in the pipeline, he is more concerned with the here and now. Terry Ryan echoed that sentiment. “We’re ready to win here,” the GM said. “We’ve got to get going.” Whether that happens will likely be a function of how much the pitching improves more than the hiring of Molitor, but a new approach can influence change.
2) Ryan was emphatic that he spoke with Joe Maddon and that he even told Molitor about it as the process was unfolding. We’re not entirely sure how serious those talks got, but Ryan said it three times so there you have it.
3) Molitor was asked how much he will incorporate advanced statistics and the kind of modern information that is readily available. He talked favorably of defensive shifts — he was credited last year with moving the Twins in that direction as a coach — and said he will use as much information as he finds useful while also being cautious not to overburden players with too much data.
4) One thing that gets mentioned a lot is that great players have a hard time being successful managers because they haven’t done the little things to be successful. Twins closer Glen Perkins, who was in attendance along with Joe Mauer, had this to say on that front: “I think what made Paul Molitor a Hall of Famer was not just the raw ability. … He did all those little things that added up to a lot more. … He worked at a lot of things. I think those are traits that will make him a good manager, and in this case I don’t think it’s a huge concern.”
5) The biggest intrigue now, of course, is who winds up on Molitor’s staff. Both he and Ryan indicated there have already been discussions and that they will intensify as quickly as this afternoon. So stay tuned on that.
With a lot of talk during Monday’s news conference centering on deep passes being a little too deep with Teddy Bridgewater under center, our conversation with head coach Mike Zimmer inevitably shifted to the chemistry between the rookie quarterback and second-year wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
Patterson had just 13 catches in Bridgewater’s five starts, and six came in last week’s overtime win over the Buccaneers. Patterson was targeted seven times yesterday against the Redskins, including that first-quarter bomb that somehow fell incomplete. But Patterson caught just one of those passes for only nine yards.
So today Zimmer was asked if something was keeping Bridgewater and Patterson from connecting.
“Yes, I’ll leave it at that,” Zimmer said. After a few seconds of silence, he continued. “It’s nothing between the two. We’re not precise enough in all areas. … Guys have to make sure they’re in the right places at all times.”
Patterson was raw as a route-runner coming out of college, having played just one year at the Div. I level. He is still struggling to create separation, especially against man coverage. And apparently he is not running the right routes at times, or is running the right routes but not as the proper depth, which is also a big deal.
Zimmer did say that Patterson “did some good things yesterday” in the win over the Redskins, such as getting open on a few plays where the ball went to another receiver.
“That happens as receivers. I think one of the great things that we’re doing, honestly, is we’re spreading the ball around. It’s not just one guy catching the ball,” Zimmer said, adding. “This is never going to be a one-man show.”