EAGAN, Minn. — Over the past two weeks, Trevor Siemian and Kyle Sloter have chatted about the daily grind of training camp, the nuisances of learning Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo’s offense and the challenge of going against Minnesota’s elite defense.
But one thing the Vikings quarterbacks haven’t brought up is the fact that both players will be making a homecoming of sorts on Saturday night in Denver when Minnesota kicks off its preseason late at 8 p.m. (CT).
“We’re just focused day-to-day on what is at hand and just really trying to get better at practice,” Sloter said. “It won’t be just another game, but we’re trying to treat it that way.
“You don’t want to go in there and hype something up and go outside of the mental state that you should be in,” Sloter added.
Siemian, who was traded to the Vikings in March, spent the previous three seasons with the Broncos. He started 24 games in that span, going 13-11 and taking over for Peyton Manning when the future Hall of Famer retired after Denver won the Super Bowl during the 2015 season.
A former seventh-round draft pick, Siemian went from being the third-string quarterback to the starter in a matter of months.
“My first year, I played one snap, a kneel-down,” Siemian said. “And then I started my second year, so my role kind of evolved pretty quickly there.
“I could go on and on about how I’ve grown as a player and as a teammate,” Siemian added. “Just understanding how the league works, how offensive schemes work, defenses work … you name it, and I feel like I’ve grown a lot. But I still feel like there’s a ton left to learn and get better at.”
Siemian said he cherishes the days spent picking the brain of Manning, who is the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns.
“Just being in the same room every day and being in meetings with him and seeing his day-to-day [routine] and watching him play … I learned a lot,” Siemian said. “That was such a valuable experience for me.”
As the Broncos began their offseason program in 2017, Denver added Sloter to the mix as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Colorado.
Although Sloter had started just one season at quarterback in college, he shined in four preseason games with Denver, completing 31 of 43 passes (72.1 percent) for 413 yards with three scores and no interceptions.
“I learned that, for a guy that didn’t get a lot of playing time in college and really only started my senior year, that I belonged,” Sloter said. “I felt like I proved that in the preseason and played four good games.
“That’s really something I feel like every young NFL player wants to prove, just that you belong and you can do it and you should be out here with some of these guys,” Sloter added.
Sloter was released by Denver during training camp cuts but was quickly snatched up by the Vikings. He did not record a snap in the 2017 season.
But as the 24-year-old returns to Colorado, he said he still has fond memories of his time with Denver.
“It was special place for me at the time,” Sloter said. “I’m looking forward to getting back there and seeing some friends and former teammates and coaches.
“I went to college in Colorado, so I’ll get to see some friends at the game … it will definitely be a little bit more special,” Sloter added.
Siemian said he was more than happy to be reunited with Sloter this spring when he was acquired by Minnesota.
“We’ve had a great relationship the whole way through,” Siemian said.
The Vikings offensive starters are expected to play a series or two at most in the preseason opener, meaning Siemian and Sloter could see plenty of playing time Saturday night.
It’s safe to say that everyone on the roster is clamoring for live action rather than practice, which can be mentally and physically taxing, especially when the offense has been going up against the same defense day after day for roughly two weeks.
“I think it’s pretty accurate that we’re at that point in camp,” Siemian said with a smile.
Added Sloter: “We’ve come a long way in terms of the offense and the knowledge of it. I think we’ll still continue to get a lot better about it as the season approaches. Mentally, I think everyone is really ready to get out there and hit someone different. I think everyone is looking forward to these preseason games.”
Including the pair of quarterbacks who will return to the place where both of their careers started.
Compton on O-line continuing on in face of adversity
The Vikings offensive line is facing another tough challenge, but the players are pushing forward.
While Pat Elflein remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list, the team announced Thursday that Nick Easton – who had been filling in at center for Elflein – will be placed on Injured Reserve.
Tom Compton, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent this spring, said it’s tough to see a teammate sidelined.
“Especially a guy like Nick; he’s been here a long time, he’s battled, he’s a warrior,” Compton said. “We’re just praying for him, hoping that he recovers well. I’m sure he’ll come back and want to come back and be with us, and we’ll support him any way we can.”
Although Compton is one of the newer faces in the offensive line room, he’s already jelled with the group and shares the “next man up” mentality that’s preached not only in the position room but throughout the entire team.
“Nick was one of our leaders, and it’s just another thing where guys need to step up – whatever role that is,” Compton said. “It’s a tough deal, but it’s something you’ve got to deal with.”
More respect for Easton, Edison
Linval Joseph said earlier this week that the defensive line respects Easton’s playing style.
“Nick is a spark plug. He’s like a gnat. You can’t get rid of him,” Joseph said. “He’s always going to be on your backside, even if you beat him, so having a guy like that on your team brings a lot. A lot of people respect him because he is a smaller guy, but he has a big heart. He will fight you to the end.”
Joseph also has practiced against Cornelius Edison last season when Edison was taking reps on the scout team.
“He is going to get after you and go until the whistle blows, and that’s what you need,” Joseph said. “You need a guy like that on the offensive line. Normally, the center is like a middle linebacker, so you’ve got to have a guy that’s going to have heart and bring it every day.”
Play(s) of the day
A pair of safeties came up with game-clinching plays.
Each of Minnesota’s three offenses were put in the same fourth-quarter situation Thursday: down 31-28 with 1 minute and 13 seconds left, one timeout and the ball on their own 25-yard line.
The Vikings first-team offense stalled against one of the NFL’s top defenses before quarterback Cousins was intercepted by safety Harrison Smith to end the game. Smith corralled the offering after the ball deflected off Stacy Coley.
Siemian then stepped up with the second-team offense and moved them to the opposing 39-yard line, but his second-down pass intended for Chad Beebe was hauled in by safety Jayron Kearse.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer cut Sloter and the third-team offense’s turn short after defensive end Ade Aruna suffered an injury.