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Vikings-Bengals Practice 2 Recap: Teams Challenge in Red Zone Drills

CINCINNATI —There was plenty of purple in the crowd for a second straight day, but red — as in red zone — was the color that the Vikings and Bengals had in mind on Thursday during the second of two joint practices.

The shoulder-pads only session was quick, lasting for about an hour that also included stretching and installation sessions, but it provided more good work, according to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

"I thought they were good. [Bengals Head Coach] Marvin (Lewis) is great friend of mine and we have the utmost respect for Cincinnati and the Bengals," said Zimmer, who was defensive coordinator of the Bengals from 2008-13. "I think we got a lot of good work done. We got some situations stuff in. We got to pass rush against other people. We got to pass protect against good defensive linemen. I thought Teddy played well in both days. He threw the ball good, and it was a good two days."

Cincinnati ranked fifth in the NFL last season in percentage of touchdowns scored (38 of 58 total possessions; 65.5 percent) when moving inside the 20-yard line and in percentage of touchdowns allowed (18 of 38 total possessions; 47.4 percent) to opponents who reached the red zone.

The Vikings tied for 24th in the league in percentage of touchdowns scored (22 of 44 total possessions; 50 percent) and ranked fourth in the NFL in percentage of touchdowns allowed (19 of 43 total possessions; 44.2 percent).

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was in position to deliver a crushing hit to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, but pulled up during one red zone drill.

Bridgewater hit Diggs on a crossing route with good timing shy of the end zone, but it appeared the receiver would have had enough time to make it across the goal line.

"I think Stefon is doing a great job of just continuing to do what we're asking him to do," Bridgewater said. "He's always in the right place at right time. That entire room (of wide receivers), though, has challenged each other. If one guy messes up on a route, then we'll be in the meeting room, and he'll get called out. I think the guys take pride in not being called out in those meetings. So, when we come out here on the football field, we try to be precise, and that's what I think Stefon is doing."

Similar yet different

Even though Zimmer is entering his third season in Minnesota, his impact on Cincinnati's defense lingers.

There were differences, however, in addition to personnel like scheme and nuances with technique.

"Even though it's a kind of similar defense, they still play the technique a little different," receiver Charles Johnson said. "It's good to get a feel for that because you go against a guy so much, 'Oh, he's going to do this.' Now, your reaction has to be a little different because you're going against a different guy. He doesn't react the same way as Xavier Rhodes or Terence Newman would, so you've just got to learn how to react a little different."

The Vikings purposefully didn't scout the Bengals because coaches wanted to see players quickly respond.

"They ran a bunch of blitzes our offensive line hasn't seen so we had to work on the fly to get things corrected," Zimmer said. "The coverages are going to be a little bit different, so are the disguises that they'll do. Even though it's been two physical days, it's a lot of mental work as well. You know, they run a couple of plays that we haven't seen offensively or defensively. All of those things teach the players how to react in game-like situations because we didn't scout them or anything like that. We didn't watch any tape on them. We just came out here and played." 

Bridgewater, who isn't expected to play a significant amount of snaps in Friday's preseason opener, said he thinks the two-day practices provided more insight than he expects from the game.

"Definitely, because you think about the preseason, no one's trying to show their hands," Bridgewater said. "So, when we're out here practicing against these guys, you're getting different looks that you wouldn't get in the preseason. The Cincinnati Bengals, they're a 12-4 team last year, so to be able to go against these guys the past two days, it has just been some great work for us."

O-line update

Brandon Fusco did not participate in Thursday's practice, and the Vikings placed Joe Berger at right guard with the first team, alongside John Sullivan at center. Berger and Sullivan have been competing at center, alternating days with the first team during training camp. The exception has been when Berger filled in for Fusco last Saturday during the night practice.

Zimmer respectfully declined to say whether Fusco is expected to be available on Friday, but said his evaluation of the offensive line is going to continue.

"We'll keep going. We'll keep looking. We're going to probably move a few guys around next week and look at some other combinations," Zimmer said. "I have to see all these different (combinations), because when we start getting in the season, we dress seven offensive linemen. I've got to see who can play guard and who can play tackle, who can play left, who can play right. So, we need to start moving some guys around a little bit."

Waynes returns

Second-year pro Trae Waynes returned to practice Thursday after leaving with heat sickness Wednesday. Waynes went straight from doing sprints on special teams to repping with the first team in place of Terence Newman in a fast-paced drill.

"He got sick during practice yesterday, so we had to pull him out," Zimmer explained. "I thought he did some really good things before he got sick. But he's doing some really good things. I thought his press (coverage) was good. He was good in coverage most of the times that I saw him."

Waynes was replaced by Jabari Price as the Vikings **shifted the secondary** quite a bit to make it through the day. Zimmer said Price did well in place of Waynes.

"Jabari is a guy that's a battler, so he's going to continue to battle," Zimmer said. "I thought he did some good things."

View images from Thursday morning's practice in Cincinnati between the Vikings and the Bengals.

Notable plays

— Justin Trattou had the makings of at least two sacks of Bengals backup QB A.J. McCarron.

— Michael Griffin corralled an interception over the middle after it was tipped.

— Shamar Stephen, who is filling in while Sharrif Floyd is out, appeared to have a sack as well.

— Troy Stoudermire showed remarkable athleticism, somersaulting forward while trying to make a catch, but officials ruled he was still juggling the ball before getting both feet in bounds. 


"(Wednesday) night when we were sitting there in meetings and watching the tape, (Cincinnati) was doing this, and we hadn't seen that yet. It gave us the chance to see how we would adjust to it. It's a great learning curve not only for our main guys, but also for the young guys.

"It's a little bit like getting the answers to the test even though it won't be that complicated on Friday night. But at least the young guys will get the opportunity to kind of know what they're going to face."

— Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman during an interview with the 9 to Noon Show on KFAN. Click here for the full interview.

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