Photo shoot forces Vikes’ Bridgewater to miss OTA
Reporters looking to start counting first-team snaps for Minnesota Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will have to wait at least another week.
Notable among Thursday’s OTA absentees was Bridgewater, one of 35 rookies and the only Vikings player invited to the NFL Players Association rookie photo shoot in Los Angeles.
Veteran Matt Cassel, the presumed short-term starter at quarterback for this season, took the majority of reps with the first unit and Christian Ponder, the failed former future franchise quarterback, worked mostly with the backups.
Bridgewater won’t be on the field for reporters to see until next week’s OTA sessions. He was, however, on the field for Wednesday’s session, which wasn’t open to the media and a certain former league MVP.
“He seems like a smart kid,” said running back Adrian Peterson, who got his first look at the 32nd overall draft pick on Wednesday. “Looking in his eyes, you can see he’s hungry. He’s out there competing for a starting job and he’s going to have to really work hard, because Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, those guys are out there working extremely hard too to get that starting position.”
Coach Mike Zimmer said all three quarterbacks will get reps with the first-team offense. He also has said there is “competition” at quarterback, although one would be wise to interpret that as coach-speak meant to motivate players more than there being an actual open competition.
Although things could change quickly if Cassel and the team stumble early in the season, Cassel has a clear inside track on the No. 1 job.
Cassel made some nice throws Thursday, but, overall, he still looks like a guy trying to learn Norv Turner’s more complex offense. Ponder looked the same and also made some sloppy mistakes, including a poor read that led to a pass being batted down by a defensive lineman.
Four of the Vikings’ top five draft picks were not present and aren’t allowed to participate because they haven’t graduated and their schools are still in session.
“It kind of sucks,” said Barr, who is expected to have little resistance when it comes to starting at strong-side linebacker. “I got to go back for about a month while others are here working and learning. So hopefully I can learn and hopefully they’ll continue to send me stuff, send me film. It’s going to be more mental than physical really. So when I get to camp I can get my feet on the ground and just roll.”
The Vikings selected three players from Pac-12 schools, which are on the quarters system, which runs into June. Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton, the team’s third-round pick, and Stanford offensive lineman David Yankey, the team’s fifth-round pick, also are affected.
Oregon State and UCLA have finals on June 9-13, while Stanford has its finals on June 6-11. The team’s OTA dates are May 28-30, June 3-5 and June 9-12.
“It’s a huge disadvantage,” Crichton said. “Everyone else is learning but at the same time I still get the plays they have to do, the clips of the practices on my iPad. That kind of helps but the whole one-on-one thing with my coach, the vets coming in too, that’s a big disadvantage I’m missing out on.”
The Vikings are able to send assistant coaches to the schools to help them learn the new systems.
“The biggest thing is really the techniques,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I want them to learn how we’re lifting, how we approach the different techniques, the different coverages. And then the offensive line, with Yankey, more about the techniques with him, play calls, the terminology, things like that — things they can take and go back to their schools and work on.”
Meanwhile, left tackle Matt Kalil, cornerback Josh Robinson and safeties Andrew Sendejo and Jamarca Sanford didn’t practice. Sendejo had a “back procedure” and Kalil had an undisclosed “procedure” about five weeks ago, Zimmer said. Robinson and Sanford also have undisclosed injuries, but Zimmer said none of the four players has a serious injury.
The 2013 Vikings were last in the league per game in touchdown passes allowed (2.3), first downs passing allowed (15.4), completions allowed (26.2) and points allowed (30.0).
So, yeah, the few remaining leftovers from last year’s defense aren’t exactly objecting to the fact new coach Mike Zimmer has brought a more aggressive and less predictable defensive scheme with him from Cincinnati.
Outside linebacker Chad Greenway arrived as a first-round draft pick in 2006. That also was the same year the Vikings switched to a Cover 2-based scheme under then-defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. Leslie Frazier assumed control of the defense a year later when Tomlin became Steelers head coach. And the defense stayed in place after Frazier was elevated to head coach during the 2010 season.
Greenway wouldn’t reveal team secrets about the defense, but said it’s safe to assume Zimmer’s defense plays forward rather than sitting back in a more reactionary mode, like the Cover 2.
“We’re not just sitting back and letting people throw darts at us,” Greenway said. “We’re matching up people. We’re playing a downhill, aggressive defense.”
Does he like that?
“Well, we’re certainly not going to sit back on our heels and let people mess with us,” he said.