As the Vikings get set to wrap up their offseason program, it’s time to hear from the fans, who had some great questions on Mr. Mankato, Cordarrelle Patterson and Teddy Bridgewater. But we start with a topic that no Vikings fan likes to discuss.
From @Ulaeron: If you look at the schedule, which game looks to be the one we should win but will lose in baffling fashion?
Looking back to last season, everybody points to the Week 1 San Francisco fiasco as the team’s worst loss of the year, and it wasn’t close. Losses to Denver, Green Bay, Seattle and Arizona were all understandable, but losing by 17 to a team with a ton of roster turnover that eventually went 5-11 was inexplicable.
In all likelihood, it was San Francisco’s new coaching staff, led by Jim Tomsula, that surprised Mike Zimmer with some unexpected schemes. Give Zimmer a chance to watch four games on film and he’ll have a gameplan, but a first-time head coach in his first regular season game? That’s much tougher.
Minnesota runs into a similar situation in Week 1 this year with former Vikings tight end Mike Mularkey now the head coach in Tennessee. Mularkey has held two prior head coaching gigs — Buffalo from 2004-05 and Jacksonville in 2012 – so there may be more of a book on him than there was Tomsula, but it will still be a challenge.
The Titans have a lot of young talent with QB Marcus Mariota and WR Dorial Green-Beckham entering their second seasons. They also added OT Jack Conklin, LB Kevin Dodd, DT Austin Johnson and RB Derrick Henry in the first two rounds of April’s draft after dealing the first overall pick. Aside from analyzing limited preseason reps, it will be difficult for Zimmer to anticipate how Mularkey intends on utilizing all these new pieces. That makes this is a scary season opener for the Vikings, who are currently favored by a field goal in this game, according to bet365.com.
From @urbwes: Which non-German Viking will win Mr. Mankato?
Nice clarification, but I don’t think Moritz Bӧhringer will be in the running anyway. He struggled mightily in the first OTA session that the media attended and has a long way to go just to get in the discussion for this distinguished honor. He also told reporters that he’d never attended a football meeting until coming to America. The game of football is complex enough in English, so imagine having to learn the lexicon in your non-native tongue. That may be an even bigger hurdle for MoBo than catching passes from Joel Stave in practice.
So which non-German do I like? I’ll give you three names.
LB Edmond Robinson – The former seventh-round pick from Newberry appeared in nine games last year and started two when the Vikings had injury issues at linebacker. So far in OTAs, he’s gotten some first-team reps due to Anthony Barr’s injury and has flashed nicely. While Barr will likely be back in action by the time the regular season comes around, Robinson could earn a chance to split reps with Chad Greenway at the weakside spot. The Vikings will be looking for Greenway’s full-time successor throughout this season, and Robinson should be in the mix.
DE Stephen Weatherly – Last year, Danielle Hunter was arguably a Mr. Mankato finalist and won’t be sneaking up on anybody this season. But what about another rookie defensive end? With Scott Crichton on the fringe and Brian Robison now 33 years old, the Vikings will be keeping their eyes out for another defensive end to slip into the rotation. Seventh-rounder Stephen Weatherly is a tall, long-armed defensive end like Hunter who should have good versatility. You’re also likely to read stories of the zillion instruments he knows how to play. If nothing else, he should be well-equipped for the talent portion of this Mr. Mankato Pageant.
S Jayron Kearse – When 6-foot-4 Jayron Kearse bends down in his backpedaling stance, it still seems like he is towering over his teammates. Kearse is built like a small forward, and that incredible size for his position makes him stand out whenever he’s on the field. He’s also the newest commodity that could potentially be the answer at the long-contested strong safety spot. If Kearse shows any flashes, fans will be infatuated with the idea of having a giant like Kearse playing beside Harrison Smith at the back end.
From Austin Van Wyhe (via Facebook): I’ve seen a Zimmer quote saying Cordarrelle Patterson is the best he’s ever seen him. So how is he looking? Is he looking good enough to reexamine his role outside the return game?
I like what I’ve seen from Patterson. His routes have looked sharper, and he continues to exhibit good hands. That being said, you know who else has looked great at wide receiver? Charles Johnson AND Adam Thielen. To this reporter’s eye, both appear to have raised their game a notch – granted, they haven’t had to face press coverage during offseason workouts.
Johnson and Thielen will both be restricted free agents after the season, and both have more equity as receivers over the past two seasons than Patterson. At this point, the Vikings shouldn’t feel obligated to force the issue with Patterson as a receiver at the expense of better options in their contract years. Why not give a healthier Johnson a longer look after his injury-plagued 2015? Why not get more touches to Thielen, who is averaging over 14 yards per reception and over 22 yards per rush in his short career?
In addition, Patterson’s role as returner will be minimized even more this season with the touchback being moved to the 25-yard line. I’m not saying he’s on the immediate chopping block, but I think there’s a greater chance Patterson is a late cut (maybe 25 percent) than there is of him being a meaningful wide receiver (maybe 10 percent).
From James Knoop (via Facebook): What is the outlook for this and next season if Teddy is a bust from Game 1?
Just because Vikings fans would ridicule you for even entertaining this thought, doesn’t mean it’s not a good question. Use all the peripheral stats you want, but the fact remains that Bridgewater needs to become a better downfield passer and start throwing his receivers open more than he has to this point.
If you think back to the Christian Ponder Era, the Vikings gave up on him after his third season, a disastrous 2013 where he got hurt and ended up ceding a number of starts to Matt Cassel. It’s hard to fathom Bridgewater sinking that low and suddenly becoming the team’s third-string option over one offseason. If Teddy were to take a step backward in 2016, the Vikings would be in a tough spot because they’d have to decide on Bridgewater’s fifth-year option after his worst season. I would still assume they pick up the option and give Bridgewater a chance to redeem himself in 2017, but they’d probably draft a mid-round quarterback to develop and sign another veteran back-up to replace Shaun Hill.
That’s all for today. I’ll have mini-camp reports throughout the next two days on Twitter @SamEkstrom. Make sure to follow.