View images from the Friday, December 19 practice at Winter Park.
The week of practice is over and the Vikings are set for their game this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. Here's what we learned this week about the Vikings as they prepared for Week 6
Bridgewater elevates the play of those around himQB Teddy Bridgewater threw two interceptions late in the first half last week in Detroit, and those two turnovers led to 10 Lions points in what was a 16-14 loss. Mistakes of that magnitude can cause some to lose sight of all the positives Bridgewater manufactured in the performance, such as completing 75.6% of his passes and dropping back a total of 49 times against one of the best defenses in the League.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner didn't lose sight of it, though. The veteran coach opened a vein on Thursday in assessing the play of Bridgewater during his rookie season.
"Teddy could be playing ten years from now and have two interceptions in a game like he did last week," Turner explained. "Obviously [Aaron] Rodgers had two in Buffalo against a pretty good defense we had our issues with earlier in the year too. I think [Andrew] Luck threw an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter. Those things happen because that's football and you try to eliminate those but when you ask a young guy who hasn't played a whole lot to go into Detroit and call 49 passes, he threw 41 and completed 31, and ran three times for 30 yards, that's asking a lot of a young guy and we're asking him to carry this group, which I've never had to do that with a young guy."
Turner also cited the fact that the Vikings have started eight different offensive linemen, have played with five different running backs, have started three different tight ends and are using a player acquired mid-season from another team's practice squad as a primary pass catcher as difficulties Bridgewater has encountered and overcome.
"It's pretty incredible to me what he's done, how he's handled it, the things he's gotten done and what he's really done is made everyone around him better and that's a quality that you're looking for," Turner said.
Dolphins pass defense is good, but not unbeatableThe Vikings faced the No. 2 overall defense in the NFL last week when they squared off against the Detroit Lions. When it comes to passing defense, the road isn't much easier this week for the Vikings in Miami.
"They're the number seven defense in the NFL, have a ton of Pro Bowlers on that team with (CB Brent) Grimes, (DE Cameron) Wake and the list goes on," Bridgewater said. "Those guys are the number four pass defense in the NFL also. I believe they have 13 interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. Just seeing that they're physical up front and then their corners are very aggressive so we just know that it's going to be a challenge."
The Dolphins boast the NFL's No. 4 pass defense, allowing just 209.2 net passing yards per game. Also, the Dolphins have not allowed a 300-yard passer all season, and that includes bouts with the likes of Tom Brady (twice), Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.
The Vikings shouldn't be too discouraged, though. They are led on offense by Bridgewater, who is coming off back-to-back 300-yard passing outings. Plus, the Dolphins have allowed a quarterback to throw for multiple touchdowns in three of their last four games.
Barr is having surgeryVikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer disclosed during his Friday press conference that LB Anthony Barr will have surgery to repair a knee injury he's been dealing with the past couple of weeks.
"Anthony is going to have surgery, so he will be out, he won't get to the finish line," Zimmer responded when asked how Barr's knee injury would impact his finish to the season.
Zimmer categorized the surgery as minor while also quipping that it's easy to call a surgery "minor" when it's one someone else, and also explained the surgery won't inhibit Barr's progression during the offseason.
"It should be nothing. It really should be nothing. He missed a lot of the offseason, so he will be getting going again, but he's a great kid I don't think it will be an issue at all."
Zimmer would like to see Watts get a turnWith Barr out for the final two games of the season, another rookie linebacker may see increased opportunity to play. Inactive for the first 13 games, Brandon Watts, selected in the seventh round (No. 223) last May, saw action for the first time last week when Barr was out of the lineup with the knee injury.
"I would like to see him get some time. I've got hope for him in the future," Zimmer said of Watts when asked on Friday how he'd feel if the linebacker got on the field. "He's a very athletic linebacker, he's a smart guy and I think that the more things he does, the better he will be in the future. He's going to need an offseason and all of that stuff that some of these young guys need. He's got a lot of ability to work with."
50-yard field goal makes are on the riseThe Vikings missed three field goals last Sunday in Detroit, one of which was blocked. Naturally, those miscues were discussed with Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer during his customary Thursday press conference. An interesting side topic to stem from the questions and answers, though, was Priefer's belief that 50-yard field goal attempts will increase because more and more kickers in the League are capable of making them with more consistency.
"A lot of these young guys come in, they're so strong and they've been in these kick camps for six, seven, eight years, so their technique is so good," Priefer explained. "The combination of good technique and leg strength is a recipe for success and that's what guys have been doing, so you're going to see more of that as you go along. Now head coaches are going to be more apt to try them and try to get the points up on the board."
While Blair Walsh missed two from 50+ last week, he may be the NFL's best long-ball kicker. As a rookie in 2012, Walsh was 10 for 10 from 50+, and this season he's connected five times from 50+.
League-wide, 50-yard field goal makes are indeed on the rise, as Priefer contended during his press conference. The average number of kickers to make five-plus field goals of 50+ yards in a season was just 1.5 from 2002-10. But since 2011, that number has jumped to six per season, a staggering increase. With two games to play this season, six kickers have already made five-plus field goals of 50+ yards, and four more kickers are sitting at four and are poised to join that group in the final two weeks.