Peyton Manning is already a hot talking point around Winter Park on Monday. The Vikings, who beat the Chargers 31-14 on Sunday, face off against Manning and the Denver Broncos in six days in the Mile High City.
Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn has competed against Manning, and said the 39-year-old quarterback still looks good.
“Guys are saying he’s losing a little arm strength. But last night [in Denver's victory over Detroit] he made some great throws and the receivers made some great plays and they played really well,” Munnerlyn said. “I won’t be star struck. … I just go out there and compete and make plays. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Manning completed 31 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 24-12 win over the Detroit Lions. He also threw one interception and was sacked once.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith has been watching Manning play since Smith was a young boy growing up in Knoxville, Tenn. Manning was a standout at Tennessee.
“I’ve obviously seen him play a lot,” Smith said. “But watching him on film and stuff, I’ll just try to see what they’re doing. He knows how to get them in the best play to defeat what we’re doing on defense by making his checks and stuff at the line. So that’s one thing you’ve just got to be aware of.
“He’s been doing this for a long time he’s going to be a Hall of Famer. So he’s a great quarterback. As a defensive back, you always want to play against the best.”
Coach Mike Zimmer is hopeful that the Vikings will have the services of starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Charles Johnson in this weekend’s showdown against the undefeated Broncos.
Rhodes suffered a concussion during a scary collision with fellow defensive back Andrew Sendejo in the second quarter of yesterday’s win over the Chargers. His head snapped back and he lay face down on the turf for a couple of minutes before being helped to the locker room.
A day later, though, Zimmer was optimistic Rhodes would play Sunday.
“Actually, he’s feeling great today,” Zimmer said. “He’s already passed one test [in the NFL's concussion protocol]. I think he should be ready.”
Zimmer said he was certain Rhodes would be fine after taking that hard hit.
“I’m always concerned about my players any time they get hurt,” he said. “But Xavier’s pretty tough. He’s pretty tough. So I knew he’d be alright.”
Meanwhile, Zimmer doesn’t yet know if Johnson, who suffered a rib injury in the first quarter, will play in Denver. But Zimmer is assuming he will.
“We’ll see where it goes during the week,” Zimmer added.
Finally, I asked Zimmer about left guard Brandon Fusco, who suffered a concussion in the Week 2 win over the Lions. Fusco was able to play against the Chargers yesterday, but the NFLPA is reportedly looking into why Fusco continued to play with a concussion against the Lions.
“No, I was not aware of it and the spotter did not let us know. Hey, I have a hard enough time not getting run over on the sideline with all the things that are going on,” Zimmer said. “But I didn’t know about it.”
The Timberwolves are slated to open training camp Tuesday with their first practice, and in advance of that they held their annual media day Monday. With a lot of new faces on the court combined with a transition in the front office and coaching staff with Flip Saunders taking a leave to battle cancer, there were plenty of interesting items from the day. Here are some highlights:
FOCUS ON THE REBUILD
*General Manager Milt Newton talked about the vision of the organization, particularly with the shift to interim head coach Sam Mitchell. Newton said Mitchell will bring his own wrinkles to the court but that overall the mission is still the same: player development, even if it comes at the expense of shorter-term gains.
Said Newton: “This is something I’ve been doing for two years with Flip. Nothing really has changed. Most definitely the vision is still to develop our young players. We’d love to make the playoffs, but we’re not going to circumvent the process that it’s going to take to be a perennial playoff team. You have to win to learn how to win, but overall the vision is to develop that young core we have to become that perennial playoff team.”
Mitchell echoed those sentiments when he talked after Newton, noting that it will be tough for him as a coach to not always use veteran security blankets like Kevin Garnett, Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince at the ends of games. Talking about his young players, Mitchell said:
“At some point, they’ve gotta learn how to play in those situations. Kevin’s not going to be here three years from now. Andre’s not going to be here three years from now. Tayshaun’s not going to be here three years from now. I have to make sure I’m doing right by the organization first. Doing right by them is making sure these young guys get a chance to learn how to play in certain situations. It’s tough as a coach because you want to have a chance to win. Obviously veteran guys give you a little bit better chance to win.”
Injuries were a major factor for the Wolves last season, particularly the nagging/lingering types that clung to Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic. Both players are trying to prove they can be healthy this season. But it doesn’t sound like either is a full 100 percent heading into training camp.
Though Rubio said his ankle feels great and he’s been cleared for full 5-on-5 drills, Newton stopped short of saying the point guard is completely healed. It sounds more like caution than anything serious, with Rubio saying the plan is to ease into camp to make sure he’s ready for the start of the regular season, but it bears watching given his history.
Said Rubio: “I’m feeling good. I’ve been working all summer to be healthy. … I’m pretty sure I’m going to be fine.”
As for Pekovic, he’s probably a little further behind Rubio in terms of his health as he continues to work his way back from foot problems. The plan is for him to start running in a few weeks, which isn’t far away from the start of the regular season. Said Pekovic: “I don’t believe nothing until I start running.”
D-LEAGUE FOR TYUS?
Newton said the organization is exploring ways to better utilize the NBA Development League, and he specifically mentioned local favorite Tyus Jones as a candidate to spend time playing at that level. Jones was a first-round pick in the June draft, but the Wolves also have Rubio and Miller on the roster. That said, Miller gave a glowing review of Jones from their early work.
“Man, I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people,” Miller said. “He’s a mature kid. He’s way more advanced than a lot of people think and more advanced than I was at 19 years old. He’s going to definitely surprise a lot of people.”
QUOTES AND NUGGETS
*Rubio greeted the assembled media with an enthusiastic, “Good morning.” It was 1:04 p.m. when he said it.
*KG on Flip: “I’m being optimistic and positive just like everyone should be. The family isn’t really communicating a lot, but that’s their wishes and I’m here to support their wishes.”
*KG when asked if he still plans to become a team owner with the Wolves someday: “That’s the plan. … No details at this point, but that’s the plan.”
*I asked Miller and Jones who would win this three-on-three game: Tyus, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins vs. KG, Miller and Prince. You can imagine what each said, but I’ll have a video of that up in a little while as well as a separate blog post on what I think is going to be the most interesting dynamic on the team this year: mixing the extreme veterans with the extremely young guys.
First-round pick Trae Waynes did not play a defensive snap in his first two NFL games, but due to an injury to one of the starters, he would play a big role for the Vikings in yesterday’s 31-14 victory over the Chargers.
Top cornerback Xavier Rhodes was knocked out of the game just before halftime and did not return after suffering a concussion. The Vikings turned to Waynes, not veteran corner Captain Munnerlyn, in the base defense in the second half. He would go on to play 42 of the game’s 74 snaps.
And he would play well, too, batting down a pass and making five tackles.
While the Vikings weren’t counting on the rookie playing that much, coach Mike Zimmer did say after the game that the plan was to get Waynes some defensive work. Zimmer figured the Chargers would try to wear down his defenders with their no-huddle attack and wanted Waynes ready.
Rhodes, meanwhile, played 32 snaps before his scary collision with safety Andrew Sendejo. He had played every snap this season up until that point.
Fellow cornerback Terence Newman, who turned 37 three weeks ago, was the only Vikings defender to play every snap. Munnerlyn, who manned the slot, played 66 and Marcus Sherels got his first three snaps of the season.
Here are some other observations after seeing the official snap counts:
— Starting wide receiver Charles Johnson suffered a rib injury and played just 25 snaps. His absence created opportunities for backups Adam Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson. Thielen played 28 snaps and made two catches for 16 yards. Patterson played 14 and was held without a catch. In addition to Johnson’s injury, Zimmer said that fatigue factored into those two guys getting so much time. Mike Wallace, the starter opposite Johnson, played just 36 of the 57 offensive snaps. Slot receiver Jarius Wright played 25.
— While Chad Greenway sealed the win with his wild touchdown, he was used sparingly for the second week in a row. He played just 19 of the 74 defensive snaps. Outside linebacker Anthony Barr led the linebackers with 62 snaps. And Eric Kendricks and Gerald Hodges nearly had an even split in the middle, with Kendricks out-snapping Hodges, 40-37. That is an interesting development given that Hodges had not played much in the nickel in Weeks 1 and 2. But that could have been driven by this week’s game plan. Or not.
— Sendejo started again next to Harrison Smith, who played 68 snaps. But Sendejo may or may not have gotten benched for the second time in three games. Sendejo played poorly before Robert Blanton replaced him in the second half. Zimmer later said that Sendejo, who played 50 snaps, suffered a leg injury, which is why Blanton ended up getting 24 snaps. We’ll see who starts this weekend. Also, second-year safety Antone Exum got a six-snap cameo when Zimmer pulled Smith out late with the game under wraps.
— The Vikings used their tight ends much more against the Chargers, a move that led to running game success. Starter Kyle Rudolph played 50 of the 57 snaps, which is nothing out of the ordinary for him. But Rhett Ellison got 27 and rookie MyCole Pruitt got a career-high 16. Throw in fullback Zach Line, too. He played 15 snaps as the Vikings brought out the beef.
— Running back Adrian Peterson was efficient and effective against the Chargers. He played just over half the snaps with 33, but he got 20 carries and rushed for 126 yards and two scores, in the process looking like the Peterson of old. Matt Asiata got 14 snaps and Jerick McKinnon played 10.
— The Vikings maintained a steady defensive line rotation, with seven linemen playing at least 20 snaps. Defensive end Everson Griffen led the way with 61. Sharrif Floyd had the most among the tackles with 49. Second-year end Scott Crichton got a career-high 25 snaps, in part because fellow reserve Justin Trattou injured his ankle on a first-quarter special-teams play.
— Looking big picture, the Vikings kept a lot of players busy yesterday. On defense, 17 players got at least 20 snaps (and Greenway played 19). On the other side of the ball, 18 players got at least 10 snaps. Injuries, San Diego’s game plan, the heat and the game becoming a blowout late were all factors.
Every weekday, we walk you through what’s going on with the Vikings.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— With a heavy dose of Mike Zimmer’s signature blitzes, the Vikings silenced quarterback Philip Rivers and the Chargers in yesterday’s 31-14 win.
— Outside linebacker Chad Greenway scored his first touchdown since 2007, and he did it with his grandfather in the house for the first time.
— With 126 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, running back Adrian Peterson had a big game just hours after the birth of a son.
— Starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes suffered a concussion in the win, and he wasn’t the only Vikings starter to exit with an injury.
— With Rhodes sidelined for the second half, first-round pick Trae Waynes got the first defensive snaps of his career — and played pretty well, too.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES
— The Chargers “need to get the stink out fast” after losing to the Vikings.
— San Diego lost three offensive linemen yesterday and two others got banged up, but somehow Rivers made it out of the game in one piece.
— Rivers needed to be near perfect yesterday, but he was far from it.
TODAY’S VIKINGS SCHEDULE
Zimmer’s regular Monday press conference is at its usual time of 2 p.m.
SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT
It got overshadowed by the play of the defense and Peterson’s big day, but quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had one of his least efficient games as a pro yesterday. Bridgewater completed just 13 of his 24 throws and averaged five yards per attempt. He was intercepted once in the first quarter and the Chargers probably should have picked off a second one. Bridgewater’s passer rating was 50.9 The only time he had a lower passer rating than that was a home loss to the Lions last year in which he threw three interceptions.