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3 Lessons, 3 Questions After Vikings Minicamp

Posted May 1, 2014

The Vikings have concluded their three-day voluntary veteran minicamp. With the dust settled from the on-field debut of the current version of the 2014 Vikings, here are three lessons and three questions that have emerged.

3 LESSONS

1. There is a lot of learning going on
New or returning, young or veteran, players are doing a lot of learning right now. The 2014 Vikings will feature a new defenses and a new offense, which means players must keep their nose in their playbooks off the field and the minds on the action on the field.

“It’s definitely an adjustment,” Greg Jennings said. “You get a lot of guys, most guys, almost every guy, it’s almost like being a rookie all over again, not knowing what to expect from a personality standpoint. You get those team meetings that start at 9:00 but everybody is in their chair at 8:55 just to kind of gauge and feel out the new staff.”

Added Cordarrelle Patterson: “It’s going to be tough, but us guys we are going to work together and we are going to be with each other. We’ll have to come early in the morning and leave late after practice. We are going to be with each and we’re going to get it done.”

According to head coach Mike Zimmer, the learning isn’t exclusive to the players, either.

“I’m not so egotistical to say, ‘You know what, I know all of the answers,’ and all of this other stuff,” Zimmer explained. “I want to be the best at what I do but I want to take input. I’ve talked to other coaches in the NFL about things, I’ve talked to other guys that have been head coaches about things. It is a learning process for me but I’m willing to listen to other people and then make decisions based on the information that I get, the input.”

2. Turner preaching opportunity for offensive playmakers
One thing Jennings has learned through three days with offensive coordinator Norv Turner is that the Vikings new offense is predicated on providing opportunities for playmakers to do what they do best.

“Everybody is going to have an opportunity to showcase what they do,” Jennings said. “That’s one of the things he’s spoken highly upon within our group. He’s going to showcase what we do well as individual receivers, as well as a unit.”

Turner has an impeccable record of organizing productive offenses. Since 2007, Turner’s teams have ranked in the NFL’s Top 5 in offensive points three times and the 2010 Chargers notched the No. 1 offense in the League with a 395.6 yard per game output. Also, Turner’s system has produced the NFL’s leading rusher on five different occasions – Emmitt Smith (1991-93), Ricky Williams (2002) and LaDainian Tomlinson (2007).

“What Coach Turner is bringing to the table, there are going to be a lot of guys who will have a ton of opportunities to make plays,” Jennings said. “And if you look at his track record, the receivers and tight ends that he’s had, and the running backs, they’ve all fared very, very well in this offense.”

3. Zimmer values intangible traits in QBs
While we don’t know which of the draft’s quarterbacks are on the Vikings short list, Zimmer did provide a glimpse into the traits he values in a passer.

“I want to see somebody who can lead the football team number one,” Zimmer said. “Guys who can execute under pressure, guys who can lead us in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line, but also make sure they know what everybody else is doing and kind of be the extension of Norv [Turner] when we are out on the field.”

Asked a follow-up question on the matter, Zimmer refused stray from those core traits and continued to focus on the intangibles.

“You know I think that the quarterback has to be a leader,” Zimmer explained. “He has to be the tough guy, obviously he has to have the physical skills but I’m talking more about the other abilities, a guy that wants to put the game on his shoulders and at the end take it and win it.”

3 QUESTIONS

1. What position can most use an impact player upgrade (Pick No. 8)?
With the minicamp now over, the teams focus will shift to next week’s draft. The Vikings, of course, hold the No. 8 overall pick in the draft and have seven selections after that, including No. 40 overall. Coaches and scouts will watch the tape of the minicamp and add their thoughts from that to the evaluations they’ve already made on draft-eligible players to determine which prospects can help the team the most going forward.

2. Who will win the final roster spot(s) at WR?
We aren’t in the business of declaring roster spots in May, but for the sake of conversation let’s say Jennings, Patterson, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright are likely candidates to make the final 53. Most likely, the Vikings will carry a fifth and perhaps a sixth receiver once final roster cuts are made. The process of winning those final spots began this week, and Adam Thielen got a good jump on the situation with a strong three days.

3. Which players benefit most from new defenses/offenses?
Can Kyle Rudolph duplicate what Antonio Gates accomplished in Turner’s offense? Will Adrian Peterson become a more prominent factor in the passing game, a la Tomlinson in San Diego with Turner? And on defense, will one of the Vikings young linebackers (Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti) progress the way Vontaze Burfict did in Cincinnati under Zimmer? Will the Vikings defensive line become the kind of force the Bengals defensive line was under Zimmer? Only time will tell, but these are just a few of the areas to watch.

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