EAGAN, Minn. — The competition for the third linebacker spot continues, and adding pads to the mix ramps up the intensity.
Tuesday marked the team's first full-padded practice of U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp, and Co-Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers Coach Adam Zimmer said it's helping in the evaluation process.
There's no question that Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr (more on him later) are Minnesota's solid starters, but there remains some questions on who will fill the weakside role in the Vikings base defense.
Thus far, it's largely been free agent acquisition Nick Vigil and Cam Smith sharing reps there with the first team.
"Right now [it's been those two]," Zimmer said. "I'm going to give Blake [Lynch] some reps at Will, as well. We'll get Troy Dye over there a little bit. So we'll mix and match those guys and see who the best combination is."
View photos of Vikings players during training camp practice on August 4 at the TCO Performance Center.
The benefit to padded practices, Zimmer noted, is that it's easy to see how the linebackers fit against the run.
"How they're taking on blocks with the offensive linemen and how they're moving in pads, as well. It's a different movement skill when you've got a little more weight on your body," he said.
The Vikings are only about halfway through camp, but Zimmer already is pleased with the progress he's seen by the group. And a lot of credit goes to Minnesota's revamped defensive line.
"I think we're a lot more stout in the run game with the defensive line than we have been," Zimmer said. "I think having Dalvin [Tomlinson] in there, and hopefully we get Michael Pierce back in there, we're a lot harder to move, and that helps the linebackers flow and play more free. So that's been really good seeing that."
As far as the status of Pierce, who has been rehabbing an injury, Zimmer feels confident that he's "close" to returning.
"We're being cautious with it, but I think he's being close to getting some live-team reps," Zimmer said.
Hopefully Pierce is back in the mix by next Wednesday, when the Vikings will kick off two days of joint practices with the Broncos before their exhibition game meeting on August 14. The ability to switch things up and practice against a different team is a welcome situation after going against one's own teammates day after day – and Zimmer said he's ready to pick the brains of the AFC team's coaches.
"Yeah, we're going to have a little get-together with them, and we'll talk about some scheme stuff always. We'll talk to their offensive coaches, as well," Zimmer said. "I know Pat Shurmur was here and I know he was great for us, so that'll be good to catch up with him, as well, and see what they think about what we're doing and some of the different wrinkles we've [put in]."
Quote of the Day
"I'm looking forward to it. Teddy's an awesome guy, and he's really talented. We're going to try to get after him, though, as always, but I love Teddy. I wish him all the best."
— Adam Zimmer on reuniting with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in joint practices with the Broncos next week, in addition to opening the preseason slate against Denver
2 More Points
Here are two other takeaways from Thursday's media session.
1. Learning from 'Pat Pete'
Second-year cornerback Cam Dantzler spoke with Twin Cities media members about a variety of topics Thursday, including the opportunity to learn from eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson.
Peterson signed with Minnesota during free agency and has whole-heartedly embraced the transition after spending his entire career in Arizona.
Asked what wisdom Peterson has been able to impart, Dantzler said the following:
"Just being a young guy, he's explaining to me about his first three years in the league and how he had to adjust. Trying to follow those guys' footsteps. This is [Peterson's] 11th season. I'm very pumped to have him on our side and just learn from him."
Specifically, Dantzler said that he's taken tidbits on technique from the elder corner.
"He teaches me different ways of techniques from [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer] and [defensive backs coach Karl Scott], so having all three of those guys teaching me different things to adjust to receiver releases," Dantzler said, "is adding pointers to my game."
2. Resting the old guys – ahem, the vets
Linebacker Anthony Barr did not participate in Wednesday's training camp practice, instead spending the duration of the session on the sideline without a helmet.
Adam Zimmer was asked about any injury concerns for Barr, who missed most of the 2020 season, but Zimmer said it was simply a precautionary rest day. After all, the team doesn't want its veteran players burning out during camp.
"Yeah, we're kind of resting some of those vet guys that are older in age," Zimmer said of the 29-year-old Barr. "We'll mix it up with some different older guys today.
"Just being mindful that they're getting up there in years, and we've got to take care of their bodies," he added.
Editor's note from the 33-year-old writer: This makes me feel incredibly ancient.