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.”
Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon nearly recorded his first career touchdown in the 29-26 victory over Washington on Sunday.
The rookie plowed up the middle on a handoff and stretched as far as he could on the nine-yard gain but fell a yard short on the Vikings’ first offensive drive in the second half.
“Arms weren’t quite long enough, but it’s all good,” McKinnon said. “We still won, so that’s the key focus.”
McKinnon went back to the huddle after the play, though he likely knew the inevitable would happen. Running back Matt Asiata trotted onto the field to replace McKinnon the backfield, and the Vikings scored on the next play for one of Asiata’s three touchdowns.
But McKinnon and the Vikings offensive line sprung the running game on that drive with consecutive gains of 15 and 9 yards before Asiata’s touchdown. The Vikings had just seven carries for 14 yards in the first half but finished the second half with 20 carries for 86 yards.
“It was a good drive though to come out the second half. Washington they really have a lot of good run fits that first half. …We came out in the second half running pretty good. A lot of credit due to the [offensive line] just making those holes.”
The Vikings have made a couple of additions to their practice squad, including a new quarterback.
With quarterback Chandler Harnish, who has been with the team since Week 5, sidelined with a Lisfranc foot injury, the Vikings have signed former Delaware and Penn State quarterback Pat Devlin to their practice squad. To make room for Devlin, they placed Harnish on injured reserve.
Devlin started his college career at Penn State before transferring to Delaware. The Dolphins signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2011. But he never appeared in a regular-season game for them.
The Vikings released Ryan Otten from the practice squad and replaced him with ReShaun Allen. Allen, an undrafted rookie from Southern University, played one game for the Seahawks in 2014.
Thoughts while counting snaps in Sunday’s 29-26 win over Washington …
QUARTERBACKS: Teddy Bridgewater 73, Christian Ponder DNP.
Thoughts: Bridgewater’s ridiculous inaccuracy on the deep ball early on was downright T-Jackian. It’s a concern, obviously, but what’s not a concern is Bridgewater’s resolve and ability to bring a team back from a deficit rather than panic or be distracted by poor play earlier in the game. He’s done it in all three of his NFL wins.
OFFENSIVE LINE: LT Matt Kalil 73, LG Charlie Johnson 73, C John Sullivan 73, RG Joe Berger 73, RT Phil Loadholt 73, OT Mike Harris 73, G David Yankey INA, G Austin Wentworth INA.
Thoughts: The Vikings gave up only two sacks, but let’s paint a picture for you and see if you’ve seen it before. The opponent’s right defensive end lines up over the outside shoulder of Kalil. He charges and then dips inside. Kalil gives him an off-balance nudge. Johnson looks surprised to see the defender in his outside gap and gives a late nudge as the defender races toward a sack. We’ve all gone back and forth on Twitter about who is to blame and who was supposed to do what and blah, blah, blah. It just needs to stop. The other team obviously considers that a go-to move against the Vikings. … Using Harris as an extra tackle in three short-yardage snaps is a good use of an active player, especially when the team needs more beef than a tight end can provide. Former starter Vladimir Ducasse looks like the guy the Jets gave up on. He was active, but played only three special teams snaps. Berger had a solid game and there’s no reason to not keep him in the starting lineup when the Vikings have won both games with him in there.
RUNNING BACKS: RB Matt Asiata 37, RB Jerick McKinnon 36, FB Jerome Felton, FB Zach Line INA.
Thoughts: This was the first time Asiata has had more snaps since McKinnon became the starter. Part of it was because of the number of short-yardage situations. Asiata’s 2.6-yard average means nothing because two of his three rushing TDs were from a yard out. Playing McKinnon only 49 percent of the time isn’t ideal, but an example of how he and Asiata complement each other came in the third quarter when McKinnon had back-to-back runs of 15 and nine yards before Asiata went the final yard for the touchdown on the next play.
RECEIVERS, TIGHT ENDS: WR Greg Jennings 63, TE Rhett Ellison 55, WR Cordarrelle Patterson 54, TE Chase Ford 50, WR Jarius Wright 29, WR Adam Thielen 4, TE MarQuies Gray 1, TE Kyle Rudolph INA.
Thoughts: Anyone else waiting for Patterson to kick his route running into a higher gear? He doesn’t appear to be moving as fast as he could based on what we’ve seen in the kicking game and the long touchdowns he’s had in his brief career. Perhaps Teddy B senses the same thing because he clearly overestimated Patterson’s speed on that deep ball that should have been completed. … Some things are just odd. When Patterson doesn’t get the ball, people blast offensive coordinator Norv Turner. But when an unheralded player such as Ford posts Rudolph-like numbers during a two-game winning streak, there doesn’t appear to be any recognition of the system helping a former practice squad no-name. Ford has 11 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown the past two games.
DEFENSIVE SNAPS: 67
DEFENSIVE LINE: RE Everson Griffen 62, DT Sharrif Floyd 53, LE Brian Robison 48, NT Linval Joseph 42, LE Corey Wootton 24, NT Shamar Stephen 21, DT Tom Johnson 16.
Thoughts: Robison’s snaps were down for the second straight week, suggesting that giant bruise on the buttocks is a literal pain in the backside. He played 72 percent of the snaps and had a sack though. Griffen played an unusually high 93 percent, but the way this guy is playing, it’s tough to take him off the field. It was good to see the Vikings play Floyd and Johnson together in a passing situation late in the game. They split a sack. Johnson has to be the team’s most efficient performer based on production and snaps. He played only 16 snaps and was visible on Sunday. He has 5 1/2 sacks in nine games. He had five sacks in 40 games with the Saints.
LINEBACKERS: OLB Chad Greenway 67, OLB Anthony Barr 67, MLB Jasper Brinkley 22, OLB Brandon Watts INA,
Thoughts: Loading the line of scrimmage and putting Barr and Greenway in the A gaps is exceptionally effective because the Vikings do so many different things with it after the snap. In one key red-zone snap, Greenway dropped and Barr rushed and sacked RG III. Later, Barr dropped and Greenway got his first sack of the year. Brinkley played only 33 percent of the snaps, even with Washington’s use of big back Alfred Morris. … Greenway playing every snap was a bit of a surprise because Gerald Hodges was active. Hodges started three games while Greenway was out with broken ribs and a broken wrist. But Hodges played only 10 special teams snaps.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: SS Robert Blanton 67, FS Harrison Smith 67, CB Captain Munnerlyn 67, CB Xavier Rhodes 55, CB Josh Robinson 50, CB Marcus Sherels 4, CB Shaun Prater 3, FS Andrew Sendejo 2, Antone Exum INA, CB Jabari Price INA.
Thoughts: Nine games into the season, Blanton remains the only defensive player to play every snap this season. Smith obviously is back to 100 percent after some nagging injuries. He had a season-high 10 solo tackles. Munnerlyn had an up and down day, but that’s almost expected when a guy has to chase DeSean Jackson down the field. Jackson might be the toughest guy in the league to cover deep. His spin move to beat Munnerlyn on that 56-yard catch was a thing of beauty. Rhodes had to sit out about 13 minutes of game time to be evaluated for a concussion. That may have cost the Vikings a touchdown. Sherels tried to fill in and was flagged for illegal contact on a third-down stop in the red zone. Washington scored on the next play and Sherels gave way to Prater. When Rhodes returned, Washington immediately went three and out. The Vikings had two snaps in which they played three safeties.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Leaders with 21 snaps (75 percent): Gray, Prater, Sendejo, LB Michael Mauti.
TEAM-HIGH SNAPS:76 (73 offense, 3 special teams) by Berger, Kalil, Sullivan and Loadholt.
Ricky Rubio and the Timberwolves agreed to a four-year, $55 million contract extension over the weekend, and as is often the case the immediate discussion from many fans became an attempt to determine whether the contract is fair — or which side got the better deal. The general reaction we saw was that Rubio made out like a bandit.
But as is often the case with contracts, this deal is more nuanced than just the details on an offer sheet. It is a culmination of many factors, some of which favored Rubio and some of which favored the Wolves:
*With the trade of Kevin Love this summer, the Wolves pretty much backed themselves into a corner when it came to attempting to retain Rubio. Letting him reach restricted free agency and even entertaining the notion of not bringing him back would have been another step in the direction of a total rebuild instead of what Flip Saunders and co. hope is a remaking of the roster instead. From that standpoint, Rubio and his reps had leverage.
*Where the Wolves could counter with some leverage is that Rubio, while showing some flashes of potential, hasn’t yet become an elite (or even consistently above-average) point guard. He has his strengths (vision, defensive intuition) and glaring weaknesses (shooting accuracy, on-ball defense against quick opponents). The counter to that is that Rubio only freshly turned 24 years old, even though it feels as though we’ve known about him forever, and that there is still plenty of time for him to improve to be a functional shooter while building on his other skills. Still, the Wolves could say they were going into negotiations on faith and potential, thus taking talk of a five-year max deal well off the table even though they still had it in their pocket after not giving it to Love.
*The impending TV contract that figures to goose the salary cap upward quite a bit, too, worked in the favor of both sides. Rubio could get a massive deal that sets him up for life without the potential for a down year entering free agency that would diminish his value and the Wolves could dish out a contract that might seem big now but could seem tilted in their favor under the new salary structure, particularly if Rubio improves.
In the end, Rubio probably squeezed a little more out of the Wolves than they wanted to pay because of the Love leverage factor. Rubio will make $1 million more per season next year than fellow 2009 draftee Steph Curry, and nobody would say he’s a better player than Curry. That said, market value is set by so many more factors, particularly these days, than simply a player’s accomplishments.