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Lunch Break, 9/4: Rookie QB Heinicke Impresses

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was not pleased with the overall effort in his team's preseason finale at Nashville on Thursday night, but he did have some positive things to say about rookie QB Taylor Heinicke.

Heinicke, who joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in the spring, started and finished the game in Tennessee and the Star Tribune's Matt Vensel writes that his performance in Tennessee along with a solid showing throughout the offseason and training camp could net him a roster spot when the team makes its final cuts on Saturday.

Each time Taylor Heinicke pulled himself off the turf at Nissan Stadium on Thursday night — and it happened often — he earned the respect of coach Mike Zimmer. It also didn't hurt that the rookie quarterback from Old Dominion tossed a pair of touchdown passes and nearly rallied the Vikings back from a 14-point deficit in a 24-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

Said Zimmer after the game: "He's tough now. He's a tough kid. He hung in there. He got back [up]. He had good control of the offense. He made some good throws in the two-minute drill at the end. There were a lot of things that happened throughout the course of the game where he showed that he's got something to him."

Heinicke wisely wouldn't touch the question of whether he thinks he's earned a roster spot, but he did say he feels like he's learned a lot in his time with the Vikings.

"I've had a great ride from OTAs until now," Heinicke said. "I learned a lot, and I think I've grown as a quarterback, and I hope to be here and I want to be here and keep learning."

NFL.com analysts bullish on Peterson's 2015 prospectsAdrian Peterson is set to make his return to the field when the Vikings open the season next Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers. Although he missed 15 games last season and didn't play in any of the team's five preseason games, several of NFL Media's analysts are expecting the 2012 NFL MVP to pick up right where he left off.

NFL.com asked many of its experts to predict which players would take home postseason awards when all was said and done in 2015. A handful of them gave the Offensive Player of the Year award to Peterson. Those who did were Jeffri Chadiha, Brian Billick, Colleen Wolfe, Adam Schein, Elliot Harrison and Bucky Brooks.

Other interesting notes from the predictions included Brooks saying another 2,000-yard season was on the way for Peterson, Schein saying Peterson would carry the Vikings to the postseason, Harrison predicting 50 catches for Peterson along with 1,500 rushing yards sand Billick suggesting Peterson is the best running back Norv Turner has ever had at his disposal.

Former Vikings coach Brian Billick tabs Vikings as division winners in 2015Vikings coach Mike Zimmer would prefer to fly under the radar and scoffs at preseason hype. He shouldn't go to NFL.com any time soon because if he does he'll see a number of the website's analysts predicting good things for his team.

Namely, former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Brian Billick thinks the Vikings will find a way to overtake the Green Bay Packers and win the NFC North. While in the previously cited piece Billick and others were high on Peterson, it's another Vikings player who is mentioned as a reason why the entire team will find success in 2015.

Commented Billick: "Defenses will continue to stack the box against Adrian Peterson, but I think Teddy Bridgewater will make them pay for it this year."

Another analyst, Bucky Brooks, echoed Billick's sentiments, saying: "Mike Zimmer's band of bullies overpowers the Packers and Lions on the way to the division title. Adrian Peterson garners the headlines, but it's the play of Teddy Bridgewater that puts the Vikings over the top."

Quick Hits
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made no bones about the fact that Blair Walsh, despite several missed FGs in the preseason, is the team's kicker heading into the season.

A thorough report from ESPN1500.com's Andrew Krammer on who played in Nashville and how they measured up in the stat sheet.

The Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson writes that Gerald Hodges thinks he will be the Vikings starter at middle linebacker in San Francisco.

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