Chad Greenway had full participation in practice for a second straight day, another sign that the outside linebacker will play against the Bills. But before head coach Mike Zimmer gives Greenway the green light, he wants to make sure Greenway is honest about his ability to play through pain.
“Yesterday we were in pads and he felt pretty good. We’ve done another test to see where he’s at hitting-wise and he looks pretty good, so I’m going to have to trust him with what he says,” he said.
Zimmer acknowledged there is concern about Greenway reinjuring the ribs he broke in Week 2.
As for whether Greenway will start, Zimmer only said, “My thought is that if he can play, he can play.”
Defensive end Corey Wootton (lower back), outside linebackers Gerald Hodges (hamstring) and Michael Mauti (illness), and tight end Kyle Rudolph (sports hernia surgery) did not practice today.
Defensive tackle Sharif Floyd, who practiced some yesterday, also sat out today with his ankle injury, though Zimmer didn’t seem to be too worried about his playing status for Sunday’s game.
Nose tackle Linval Joseph (ankle) and cornerback Jabari Price (hamstring) were listed as limited.
In addition to Greenway, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (hip), safety Harrison Smith (ankle) and tight end Chase Ford (foot) were listed as full participants in practice for a second straight day.
Two months ago, rookie running back Jerick McKinnon was looking up at Adrian Peterson and Matt Asiata on the depth chart. Sure, the team had plans for him as a pass-catcher in certain packages. But mostly the thought was that they would ease the electric third-round runner into the offense.
Things quickly changed when the Vikings lost Peterson, the centerpiece of their offensive plans, when his legal issues came to light after the opener. Asiata became the starter with Peterson out and played most of the snaps. But suddenly, McKinnon had to take on a larger role than expected, too.
A few weeks later, McKinnon rushed for 135 yards, the highest total for a Vikings back this season, in a Week 4 win over the Falcons and Asiata struggled the following week in the loss to the Packers.
So the Vikings gave McKinnon the start against the Lions. And while head coach Mike Zimmer said yesterday that he wants Asiata to remain involved in the running game, it looks as if McKinnon, who has quickly climbed atop the depth chart, will be given an chance to settle in as the starter.
“[It has been] a whirlwind,” McKinnon said after today’s morning walkthrough. “Everything happened so fast. I think I prepare myself to be ready for whatever happens. There has definitely been a lot thrown my way, just from a rookie standpoint, going through a whole bunch of different things. But I think it’s helped me in my progression to become a better NFL running back.”
McKinnon rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries against a formidable Lions defensive front in his first start and caught a team-high six passes for 42 yards. His 5.0 yards-per-carry average is inflated by his performance against the Falcons, but McKinnon has brought the threat of explosive plays back to the backfield, something that has been lacking since Peterson was shut down indefinitely.
Asked to assess his play of late, McKinnon said he feels he is becoming a more consistent player.
“I’ve had some mistakes here and there, some mishaps here and there,” McKinnon said. “But for the most part I think I’ve been consistent. I think I’ve showed them that I come to get better in practice every day in and out, so I’m just trying to build upon those things as I go along and find my way.”
McKinnon must handle the extra responsibilities that come with being the lead back, including being asked to do more pass protecting. He didn’t expect it to happen this fast, but he’s eager to do it all.
“I think I’ve accepted the challenge and stepped up to the plate when my number’s called,” he said.
There’s been a lot of discussion about rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s release after he was sacked eight times in the 17-3 loss against the Lions on Sunday.
Bridgewater shouldered the blame, believing he could’ve got rid of the ball quicker to avoid some of those sacks. The stats, and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, say otherwise.
Per ESPN Stats & Information, Bridgewater released the ball, on average, in 2.49 seconds last week. It was the ninth-fastest time in Week 6.
“His release is not the issue,” Turner said.
Turner believes Bridgewater’s first career interception on the first offensive series might’ve rattled him throughout the game. We dissected the play on Wednesday for our weekly Vikings Rewind series. Bridgewater clearly didn’t account for Lions safety Glover Quin, who made the interception and left wide receiver Greg Jennings wide open in the end zone.
“I think after you do that, you can be a little bit too careful,” Turner said. “You can make sure on some throws, and I think on a number of throws where it wasn’t about his release. It was about his anticipation, trusting what you see and turning the ball loose. Detroit did a great job of mixing what they do, and they’re an outstanding defense.”
As for the protection, which has been inconsistent this season, Turner believes the Vikings can fix some of the recent breakdowns along the offensive line. While Bridgewater may not admit it, the offensive line played poorly against the Lions. It’s the second consecutive game where the pass protection hasn’t been great for Bridgewater and quarterback Christian Ponder.
“We believe we can fix them, and the scheme is equip to fix them,” Turner said. “Certainly there’s a time when you want to keep an extra [blocker] in, and there’s times when you want to get everyone out.”
Turner said Bridgewater will face a similar defense this week against the Bills, who are tied for second in the NFL with 19 sacks. The rookie will look to bounce back from a three-interception performance in his second career start.
“It’s a growing process for a young quarterback,” Turner said. “He obviously in the Atlanta game got in a rhythm and things just came up unbelievably well for us that day. The ball came out, and he showed what he’s capable of doing. He’s going to go through some periods where you’re not sure, you see a different look, they’re defending you a little different. You got to trust what you see, and you’ve got to go.”