View images from the Wednesday, October 8 practice at Winter Park.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said Wednesday that he feels "back to 100 percent" as the Vikings rookie prepares for the Detroit Lions.
Bridgewater anticipates starting Sunday when Minnesota (2-3, 0-1 NFC North) hosts Detroit (3-2, 1-0) at TCF Bank Stadium. He'll try to pick-up where he left off two weeks ago against Atlanta when he threw for 317 yards, rushed for a touchdown and led a game-winning drive on which he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him in Week 5 at Green Bay.
"I've been able to spend a bunch of time in the training room since we got back from Green Bay," Bridgewater said. "The ankle is feeling good, and I'm excited to get back out there for this game this weekend."
Bridgewater said watching from the sidelines of Lambeau Field was difficult on his competitive spirit. He said a tough challenge awaits the Vikings offense this week, but he's looking forward to it.
Bridgewater, who was selected with the 32nd pick of the 2014 NFL Draft first round, will see three of Detroit's recent first-round picks and a second-rounder who was added via free agency across the line of scrimmage.
Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (first round, fifth overall in 2013) had eight sacks as a rookie and has one this season, defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh (first round, second overall in 2010) and Nick Fairley (first round, 13th overall in 2011) have 28.5 and 13.5 sacks respectively, and DE Jason Jones (second round, 54th overall by Tennessee in 2008) has 19 career sacks and 21 passes defensed.
"Their front four is very great, a great group of guys, very stingy in the run game, so we know we're going to be up for a challenge, but it's one of those challenges that we're looking forward to," Bridgewater said.
Detroit is leading the NFL in yards allowed per game (282.4), ranks fourth in rushing yards allowed per game (74.4) and fifth in passing yards allowed per game (208). The Lions are also tied for the league lead in first downs allowed per game (17.2) and rank second in points allowed per game (15.8).
"They're the number one defense in the league right now, and we know that it's going to be a challenge for us, not only up front but in the passing game also," Bridgewater said. "We're just going to try our best to execute the game plan and eventually we would like to come out with the win."
The Vikings racked up 558 net yards (fourth-most in one game in team history) against the Falcons in Bridgewater's first career start. Minnesota was able to run the ball 44 times for 241 yards, throw for 317 and didn't commit a turnover against Atlanta.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Detroit's defensive line has "great physicality, great athletes" but added the whole team has played well.
"They're obviously number one in the league defensively for a reason," Zimmer said. "It's not just their front, but they're playing good in the back end as well, but their defense kind of thrives from their front guys."
Receiver Greg Jennings is quite familiar with the Lions. He has 50 career receptions for 806 yards and five TDs in 13 prior games against Detroit.
"Playing against Detroit, I've seen these guys, for years, kind of shoot themselves in the foot, especially defensively, but they look great," Jennings said. "They look really good on defense. They're disciplined, they're getting to the quarterback, which has never been the issue for them, but they're making plays in the secondary, so this is going to be a tough challenge for us this week.
"They spread you thin," Jennings added. "Everyone can pressure the quarterback, the front four; they have great linebacker play, but their front four, they can rotate. They can keep them fresh. If it's not Suh, it's the young pup, Nick, if it's not him, it's one of the outside guys so it's always somebody coming and wreaking havoc on your quarterback that kind of tries to disrupt what you're trying to do offensively."
RETURNING THE RHYTHM: Bridgewater was locked in with receivers against Atlanta, completing his first six pass attempts and finishing 19-for-30 (63.3 percent) for a passer rating of 98.9. The Vikings were able to get his rhythm going with a couple of quick passes to Jarius Wright early and build on that. Jennings thinks Bridgewater will be able to re-establish that rhythm.
"He's a very smart kid," Jennings said. "He puts the time in off the field, studying his opponent, understanding who we are as receivers, what are our indicators and different things like that, getting a feel for the guys around him, which will make things easier for him. It all comes down to the study and work you put in, and he definitely puts in enough to be a great quarterback."
HARRISON SMITH'S PROGRESS: Safety Harrison Smith, who suffered an ankle injury at Green Bay but finished that game, did not participate Wednesday. Smith said he's "getting better every day" by working with Vikings Director of Sports Medicine Eric Sugarman and the training staff.
"Not to get ahead of myself, but just trying to make progress every day. It feels a lot better than I thought it would," Smith said. "There is a fine line, especially with being a competitor. When it starts feeling better you want to push it, and sometimes I think that helps. I think my job as the athlete is to push it, and (Sugarman's) job is to hold me back, and they do a good job with it."