The Vikings sat atop the NFL with a perfect 5-0 record last October as they headed into their bye week.
Not much went right after that, as Minnesota finished 8-8 and missed the postseason a year after winning the NFC North.
Albert Breer of The Monday Morning Quarterback recently chatted with Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer about what his team's mindset is heading into 2017.
That 3-8 finish, by the way, was pretty justifiable considering the circumstances. The Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater to a freak injury days before the opener, had their two opening-day tackles miss 26 games between them, had the face of the franchise on the shelf for all but three games, and switched offensive coordinators in October. And that's before we get into Zimmer's torn, then detached retina.
Now he's back after a two-week break (doctor's orders) in the aftermath of what he hopes was his final surgery. It's easy to forget now that the Vikings were considered a burgeoning powerhouse last summer, barreling towards Year 3 of the Zimmer Era. What's interesting, to the coach at least, is that his players haven't.
"The one thing about this team, when I read all the things about the Vikings' collapse — *They were terrible at the end of the year *— if you go out and watch us practice, this team doesn't think that," Zimmer says. "This team thinks they're the 5-0 team, not the 3-8 team at the end of the year. That's good to see, they have a lot of confidence in what they're doing. Now we have to do it on Sunday, but that's been really good.
"They haven't changed their mentality and said, 'We're not this' or 'We're not that.' They're not listening."
Zimmer also told Breer that he likes where his team is at as the Vikings finish up Organized Team Activity practices and get ready for next week's mandatory minicamp.
"This spring isn't about winning the Super Bowl," he says. "This spring is about trying to correct the mistakes we made last year. We had 16 penalties in the red zone last year that caused us to not score points. We lost four games by six points or less. All these little things add up, and that's what I'm trying to get this team to understand."
Robinson progressing well entering third season
One of the Vikings biggest position battles to watch with training camp on the horizon is the outside linebacker spot in Minnesota's base defense.
While a handful of players are vying for the position, third-year linebacker Edmond Robinson has impressed Zimmer of late.
Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune recently wrote that Robinson could be in position to take over the spot that was manned by the now retired Chad Greenway.
While Robinson only made a dozen tackles in 21 games over his first two NFL seasons, the Vikings remain enticed by the 6-foot-3, 245-pound linebacker's potential. He backed up Anthony Barr at the strong-side spot in 2016. When Greenway retired, he was moved to weak-side linebacker so he could compete with (Emmanuel) Lamur for the right to play that position.
"I think sometimes the first or second year, you still try to feel your way a little bit, and third year, you are a lot more comfortable," Zimmer said. "It is a big year for [Robinson], and I think, so far, he is progressing well."
Robinson was a 2015 seventh-round pick out of Newberry College, a Division II school in South Carolina.
He has made two career starts at linebacker and played in 21 career games, primarily on special teams.
Vensel wrote that Robinson will continue to fight for the starting job with others as the Vikings look toward the 2017 season.
Because Barr and middle linebacker Eric Kendricks were the team's two every-down linebackers and Zimmer pulled Greenway off the field when the Vikings used their nickel defense, Greenway played only 38.7 percent of the snaps last season. Still, it's an important role they must fill.
And if recent draft picks Kentrell Brothers, Ben Gedeon or Elijah Lee or another young linebacker is the best option there, they will play.
"We're going to look at all of the guys in there," Zimmer said. "I'm not opposed to one of these younger guys if they end up being the guy."