The Vikings have concluded their offseason program and won't reunite until the beginning of training camp in July. After 10 Organized Team Activities and a three-day mandatory minicamp, here are 22 observations to help carry you to the start of training camp.
1. Quickly back to business for Adrian Peterson, VikingsAdrian Peterson returned to the Vikings in time to participate in seven of 10 OTAs as well as the mandatory minicamp and it was back to business very quickly for all involved as the focus shifted to forward and the 2015 season.
2. And Adrian thinks it's possible to set the NFL rushing recordPeterson has never been shy to set ambitious goals, and that still hasn't changed. He told the Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson that Emmitt Smith's all-time NFL rushing record is still within his sights, saying: "A lot of things are still to come. ... I look at things that anything is possible. He (Smith) played 15 years. I'm going into year nine but I've only got eight on the body. That's a long-term goal (to break the record)."
For the record, Peterson is more than halfway there with 10,190 yards to his credit and another 8,166 shy of the mark.
3. Teddy takes commandFrom head coach Mike Zimmer to the rest of the coaching staff, players and folks around Winter Park, everyone has noticed a different Teddy Bridgewater in 2015. No longer is he the new guy just trying to fit in. Bridgewater, while still driven to earn his spot, is exuding leadership qualities and has a charismatic-yet-still-commanding presence about him both on the field and within the building.
4. Brett Favre met Bridgewater and looks for bigger and better things from himFormer Vikings QB Brett Favre visited Winter Park earlier this month and was eventually asked for comment about a variety of things, including his opinion of the current QB. Said Favre to the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman: "I had a chance to meet him here at Winter Park a couple of days ago. I was very impressed with him. I'm impressed with his skills and the way he handled himself his first year. So I look forward to bigger and better things from him."
5. Everyone is impressed with Mike WallaceYou only get to make a first impression once, and Mike Wallace made the most of his opportunity to do so in Minnesota. The veteran-most WR on the roster, Wallace's speed on the field is easy to see and will be an asset for Norv Turner's offense. But it became apparent Wallace's leadership will be as important an asset as anything for the Vikings. From his first practice through the mandatory minicamp, Wallace was consistently the last one off the field and by the end of the offseason program the group of WRs working with him after practice grew to double digits.
6. And Zimmer likes when Wallace trash talks himWallace and Zimmer go way back, to the days Zimmer's Bengals defenses had to try to contain Wallace and the Steelers offense. Now the pair are working together with the Vikings, but they like to rekindle those competitive moments in practice.
"I like Mike Wallace," Zimmer said. "He's got some fire and he comes up to me all of the time and says, 'You can't stop me today,' and stuff like that. Hey, I like those guys that are competitors.
7. No answer yet at safetyRobert Blanton took many of the reps with the first-team defense at the safety spot next to Harrison Smith, but Zimmer insists offseason program depth charts don't mean a thing. Expect Blanton to open camp with the 1s, but you can be even surer that the competition is on-going.
8. Waynes World is everywhere right nowWhether or not rookie CB Trae Waynes is a Week 1 starter and how much Waynes plays throughout his rookie season remains to be seen, but his chances of starting and of playing significant minutes is increased by the fact that he's being trained at both outside CB and nickel (slot) CB.
"I've always liked to take guys and kind of like what we did with (Anthony) Barr last year, we gave him a lot of things to do and then we figured out what he could do best and go from there," Zimmer said. "If we don't ever give them opportunities to do those things, then we never really know."
9. A changing of the guards?For much of the offseason program, the Vikings used Brandon Fusco at LG and TJ Clemmings at RG. This represents a change for Fusco, switching from the right side to the left, and it keeps Clemmings on the side with which he's familiar after starting at RT in college for the past two seasons. The coaching staff did mix and match combinations, but don't be surprised if that's the look the Vikings go with to kickoff training camp next month.
10. Babs is a big manOne of the storylines that caught fans' attention the most this offseason was the signing of Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a gigantic offensive lineman from Poland. "Babs" measures in at 6-9, 351 pounds, an inch taller than Phil Loadholt, the previous tallest player on the roster, and 13 inches taller than DuJuan Harris, the shortest player on the roster. We'll reserve comment on his chances to make the roster until we are well into training camp, which offers a much better opportunity to assess the play of the men in the trenches.
11. The line will be fineThere will be much to say by a lot of analysts about the Vikings offensive line heading into the 2015 season because of up-and-down play from that group last season and because the group dealt with a lot of injuries. But Turner sounds optimistic about the group's chances.
"I think we'll come out of it with a very good starting offensive line," Turner said, "and I think we will have a lot better depth than we had a year ago."
12. Barr is (close to being) backEveryone is excited to see what's in store for LB Anthony Barr in Year 2. He had a tremendous debut season, but it was cut four games short because he missed the final month of the season with an injury. He was also sidelined for much of the offseason program as he worked his way back from an injury, but he was able to participate on a limited basis in the minicamp and it appears he's close to returning to action.
13. Patterson is in the mix to startA lot of people are getting worked up over which WRs will be starters and whether Cordarrelle Patterson truly has improved over the offseason. Turner is not one who is getting worked up over either.
"He's in the mix. I mean, in my mind he's in the mix," Turner said of Patterson. "I told our guys, when we start games, I hope we have 16 starters, you can only put 11 on the field at a time, but if we can get where we're playing multiple people and we're giving defenses different looks and we have a lot of people contributing it makes it much harder to defend you.
14. Patterson is also in the mix to return puntsCould Patterson be used at times as a punt returner? Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer is open to it.
"It's always a thought about putting him back there," Priefer said. "Yeah, we've had him back there a couple of times the past couple years, for a reverse or a fake reverse of even putting him as a two-deep type guy with he and Marcus (Sherels) back there, that's always an option for us, I would think.
"He would rather not do it, I think at times, but I know he's good enough to do it. He's just got to realize that with practice and reps that he will only get better at it. He's just such a natural catcher. His mechanics aren't perfect, but they don't have to be when you're that good sometimes. We'll keep working with him and we'll see what he got."
15. PAT modification seems like a non-factorThe NFL will change its point after touchdown process for the 2015 season, moving the extra point line of scrimmage to the 15 and increasing the distance of the try to a 33-yard proposition. In theory, this could generate more two-point conversion attempts, but I'm not convinced it will do so, at least in the Vikings case. Blair Walsh is perfect from that 33-yard distance, plus each of those tries will come from the middle hash, where kickers are even more accurate.
16. Troy Aikman says Norv hasn't changed, he's a big fan of Zimmer and the Vikings have a "good chance to be a real good football team"Hall of Famer Troy Aikman visited Winter Park during the Vikings mandatory minicamp. Aikman was on Cowboys teams that had both Turner and Zimmer on the coaching staff, so it was a reunion of sorts for the former Cowboys trio. We took a moment to chat with Aikman about the Vikings and Bridgewater specifically.
17. Everson Griffen and Anthony Barr had a debate about the FBI
Throughout the offseason program we had players mic'd up for practice with a helmet cam included. The edition featuring Everson Griffen had a lot of good stuff, including a debate between last season's team-leader in sacks and Barr about the FBI. It's one of those where you have to see it to understand it.
18. Big plans for Rudy
In watching practices this offseason and then listening to coaches and player speak, there's a sense a healthy Kyle Rudolph is a big deal for the offense. In one of Bridgewater's first press conferences of the offseason program, he was asked about the addition of Wallace. Bridgewater explained that addition was great, but he made a point to talk up how much a healthy Rudolph means to him and the rest of the offense. And this is what Turner, who has had several big-time TEs featured in his offenses, said about Rudolph:
"When he's healthy and running like he's been the last three weeks, it's exciting to have him. We'll get some coverage on the outside with the speed that we have, he can open it up a lot. He'll get match-ups, if they're going to play eight-man fronts, the tight end gets great match-ups through the passing game. It's nice having him."
19. Kendricks is "further ahead than most rookies"Ever since EJ Henderson's playing days came to an end, the Vikings have been looking for an answer at middle linebacker. The next young player with a shot to fill that void is rookie Eric Kendricks. According to Zimmer, it's so far so good: "I think he's further ahead than most rookies, I would say, but they're all different. (Anthony) Barr was pretty sharp last year when he came in. They're all different. Eric's been doing a good job. He's obviously got a lot of athletic ability, he's studying real hard. I think has a chance to be a good player."
20. Scott Crichton is coming into his own in Year 2Both of last year's starting DEs – Everson Griffen and Brian Robison – missed some time during the offseason program, which generated additional reps for a number of players. One player who took advantage of the opportunity was Scott Crichton, a third-round pick last season who didn't see the field much as a rookie. But Vikings GM Rick Spielman has been impressed with Crichton in 2015, and said as much during an appearance with Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen.
"One guy that's starting to pop out right now is Scott Crichton," Spielman said. "The difference in what we've seen so far in year one to year two is tremendous. We're very excited about all these young guys, but we think Scott is going to have a very productive year for us too, with the way he's shown so far."
21. Fast gets faster
Jerick McKinnon made a great impression during his debut season in 2014 before his season ended due to injury. Now that McKinnon's a year into his career and knows the offense better, Turner says McKinnon looks even faster than a year ago.
"Jerick, really looks faster than a year ago, because he's real confident in what he's doing," Turner said. "He's 100 percent healthy and he's flying around. He really gives you a nice dimension, a changeup."
22. Zygi Wilf has 'Never been more optimistic' about the VikingsVikings Owner/Chairman Zygi Wilf said during the annual Vikings Children's Fund golf tournament that he's "never been more optimistic" about the Vikings future. Wilf and his family recently reached the 10th anniversary of purchasing the team.
"I've never been more optimistic since we've owned the team about our players, our head coach, our organization and the direction we're headed," Wilf said.