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Presser Points: Zimmer Ready to See His Vikings in Pads

MANKATO, Minn. — The Vikings will put on the pads before they take the field for the first time for Saturday's training camp practice.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has stressed during the spring that he will begin a more elaborate evaluation process when the pads are on at practice.

He was asked where his focus would be when the players take the field on Saturday afternoon in Mankato.

"Well, it's mostly on the lines," Zimmer said. "The defensive backs, it's pretty much the same thing. When guys are pushing against you a little bit more physically, I think that's the biggest thing where you can evaluate those guys a lot more.

"The other thing is some guys don't run as fast when they are in pads as when they are in shorts. Some guys run just as well, so it's all of those types of things."

Zimmer said that he thinks his defense has been the best in the NFC North division for the past three years but he wants to continue to be more involved in the offenses improvement as camp progresses.

"I think we'll learn a little but more about the run game (with pads on), but the pass game, too," Zimmer said. "We have to protect the quarterback as well, so it's both of those two scenarios. If we don't run the ball well, we're not going to be good offensively." 

Zimmer said that he wouldn't have his players participate in too much live tackling during the duration of camp.

"We've been a pretty decent tackling team I think," Zimmer said. "We're not going to do a whole bunch of (tackling) and we'll get plenty of it in the preseason games. It's about being in the right position mostly."

While Zimmer is not having his linebackers and defensive backs tackling during practice he is still focusing on their positioning and how quick players can find the ball in the run game.

"The second part of it is on defense if you got guys running the ball (out of the backfield), the second guy usually will get there," Zimmer said. "That's been a big emphasis for us."

Here are four other points from Zimmer's podium session on Saturday:

1. Weak-side linebacker battle

When Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway retired after 11 years in purple and gold he left an open starting spot at weakside linebacker.

Zimmer said the Vikings would miss Greenway in that spot as a player and a leader, but he wouldn't be surprised if the former linebacker comes to camp for a visit.

Two of the top candidates to replace Greenway in that role are linebackers Emmanuel Lamur and Anthony Harris.

Zimmer said that the two would split reps at the spot.

"We got (Ben) Gedeon playing there some (plays), too," Zimmer said. "We're just going to let it play out."

2. Remmers evaluation so far

The Vikings head coach took time to offer an update on how free agent acquisition Mike Remmers is progressing through two practices in Mankato.

Zimmer said he thinks Remmers strength is blocking in the run game but has been impressed by the way the former Carolina Panther goes about his business.

"(I've seen) really the same stuff I have seen from him in the spring without the pads on," Zimmer said. "He's very diligent in his preparation. He gives you a lot of different looks and different changeups in the passing game."

3. Hill's first-team reps

The Vikings signed tackle Rashod Hill off of the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad last November.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was impressed with Hill's performance during the Vikings Week 17 win at against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Hill has filled in for Riley Reiff on the first-team so far at camp.

"Yea he's played good in it," Zimmer said. "For a guy coming in middle of the year, he's a very talented guy with long arms and huge size. He's got to continue to progress with all of the communication things."

Hill became the fifth player who took snaps at left tackle for the Vikings last season as injuries ravaged the offensive line.

"We don't want to start what happened last year," Zimmer said. "We want to try and get through 16 games with these guys. It's concerning. You don't want to get anybody hurt the first day."

4. Tom Johnson in the run game

Defensive tackle Tom Johnson is entering his fourth season with the Vikings.

The veteran has 7.5 sacks in the past two years in Minnesota.

Johnson saw a majority of his snaps in pass-rushing situations as he split his role in 2016 with Shamar Stephen at defensive tackle. Johnson has been working with the first-team alongside Linval Joseph.

"I thought Tom played well (last year)," Zimmer said. "He's played well since we've had him. He does a good job in pass rush, that's probably his specialty, and he's working real hard to get better in the run game."

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