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Vikings Roundup, 9/1: Turner has Diversified Portfolio in Mind

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — This may sting a little, so we'll say it just once: Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner doesn't care about your fantasy football team.

Not now and probably not ever.

While fans are combing through rankings and projections to get closer to bragging rights over friends and/or family members, Turner is interested in the Vikings having a diverse portfolio on offense.

"I don't see one guy flashing unbelievable numbers, but I see a lot of guys Sunday nights looking and saying, 'This guy, it was his turn and he was a big part of our win,' and that makes it harder on the defense if you have multiple guys that can be that guy," said Turner, citing Jarius Wright as an example. "It took him a little while for him to really get a feel for what we're doing but once he got going, he made a lot of plays that helped us."

Wright is the leading returning receiver from 2014, a year in which he set career highs with 42 catches for 588 yards, including a walk-off, 87-yard catch-and-run TD on a screen pass against the Jets.

Charles Johnson, meanwhile, emerged as the season progressed after signing with the Vikings in September and led Vikings with at least 20 catches in yards per catch (15.3). Minnesota also traded this offseason to bring in Mike Wallace, who had 140 catches for 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns in the past two seasons in Miami.

Wallace has 48 career touchdowns (47 in the regular season; one in Super Bowl XLV), including an 82-yarder while with Pittsburgh in 2012 at Tennessee, where the Vikings and Titans will close out their preseasons at 7 p.m. Thursday in a game that will be simulcast in the Twin Cities on FOX 9 KMSP and KFAN 100.3.

For his career, Wallace has 19 TDs from 0-20 yards out, 15 scores from 20-40 and a whopping 14 from 41 or more.

View images from the Tuesday, September 1 practice at Winter Park.

Last week, Wallace had a deep connection with Teddy Bridgewater down the right sideline for a gain of 39 at Dallas. Before the well-placed spiral left Bridgewater's hand, he showed comfort at the quarterback position in spotting single coverage on Wallace by Dallas and changing the play at the line of scrimmage.

"It was something he saw and did. Coach didn't tell him to do it," Wallace said. "Teddy is very, very smart. He reads defenses very well. I could see it too. If you play football every day, you are kind of able to read defenses and know there's certain plays you want to get to. He did a great job.

"They have to play their coverage," Wallace added. "That's the beauty of being on offense. You get to adjust to the defense. The coach is going to have to call the defensive plays, and we have a quarterback that can call our plays on the field."

Wallace still loves the opportunity to showcase his speed on vertical routes but understands the value of variety.

"We have other things we have to do," Wallace said. "You can't just throw the long balls or see Adrian (Peterson) go for 80-yard runs. It's going to be, I'll have to catch some crossing, some out routes, and Adrian will have to have a 2-yard run, 3-yard run, so it will come. We have so many players that a lot of guys have to touch the ball. If they focus on (us), they're going to have problems with everybody else."

O-line lineup?

The passing stats have been promising for the Vikings, with quarterbacks a combined 93-of-123 passing (75.6 percent) for 843 yards, five TDs, three interceptions and a rating of 97.0, the Vikings also know the importance of protection.

It remains to be seen which starters Head Coach Mike Zimmer deems to need playing time in Thursday's preseason finale at Tennessee, but action on the offensive line should be of particular interest.

It's possible that veteran swing guy Joe Berger could start in place of John Sullivan (back spasms) for a third straight game. The rest of the first-team offensive line includes Matt Kalil at left tackle, Brandon Fusco at left guard, Mike Harris at right guard and rookie T.J. Clemmings at right tackle (in place of Phil Loadholt, who is out for the year).

Turner said he thought Harris played well last season at guard at Buffalo and then at right tackle in the final five games of the regular season. Turner said he's seen good communication between Turner and Clemmings, who has "gotten a lot better with his initial sets and his technique," before adding the caveat that "we have a long ways to go as an offensive football team, as an offensive line."

The Vikings also are still evaluating their options for backup offensive line positions, making this game perhaps most important to those players. Turner was asked specifically about David Yankey and Austin Shepherd and said:

"This game will be another opportunity for those guys to show themselves playing I think both have had highlights and bright spots, and both have had struggles," Turner said. "We're just continuing to coach them, help them get better and then continue to evaluate them."

One Heisman, Two Heisman

The Vikings hosted 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston in his NFL debut on Aug. 15 and could face 2014 winner Marcus Mariota (if the Titans play the QB they drafted second overall after Winston was selected by the Buccaneers). Mariota is 19-of-27 passing (70.4 percent) for 252 yards with one interception and a rating of 84.2 in the preseason. He's also rushed five times for 17 yards.

Rookie linebacker Eric Kendricks, a second rounder out of UCLA, said he has great respect for Mariota, who led Oregon to wins over UCLA in the past two seasons.

"He was a great leader, great runner, great passer," Kendricks said. "He did it all in college and won the Heisman, so that's a tribute to his success."

The Vikings defense has been effective against opposing passers this preseason, limiting them to a combined 64-of-126 passing (50.8 percent) for 690 yards, allowing two TDs through the air and recording four INTs for a combined passer rating of 59.3.

When Terence Newman was asked about the success and if he thinks the Vikings have the most talented secondary, he calmly pointed to regular season results as being a better metric.

"We're practice all-stars because that's all we've done," Newman said. "We've played four preseason games."

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