OTA observations: Cassel adjusts, CP performs

Matt Cassel is being patient with his learning curve with verbiage that is foreign to him. He talked about what he has to overcome, Cordarrelle Patterson believes there is more the NFL hasn't seen from him, and we have notes and observations from Thursday's OTA.

With Teddy Bridgewater in Los Angeles for the Rookie Premiere (a marketing event put on by the NFL Players Association), the alleged quarterback competition with Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Bridgewater wasn't easily put under the microscope at Thursday's practice.

Cassel, who has been expected to emerge the winner since re-signing with the Vikings in March, is the early leader on the practice field. Still, "early" is the operative word.

Cassel took the majority of the first-team reps in Thursday practice that was open to the media and looked more comfortable in the Vikings' new system being implemented by offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Maybe that's because Cassel is used to moving from one system to the next, as has been his (unfortunate) NFL lot to date.

But, despite being with seven coordinators in the last six years, Turner's system presents a new challenge to Cassel: it's full of numbers when Cassel has largely been immersed in West Coast verbiage in the past.

"The first thing I did when I got the playbook, I was trying to figure out what exactly does this number mean. … It's a lot of work in terms of flash cards, writing stuff down and memorization. Once you start to conceptualize it, it becomes easier for you," Cassel said.

"It's just something that's new. It just takes time on task. For us as quarterbacks, you just can't see the numbers, whether it's a 6 is an in-cut. You have to be able to conceptualize that Seam 678 means something and be able to see that whole picture in your mind."

At the Vikings' first veteran minicamp before the draft, Cassel said he started studying Turner's system and talking to those that have played under him in the past. But after a month working with Turner personally, he is starting to take his learning to a new portion of the curve.

"Now we get to compete against one another. I think this is when we start to take the next step and really start conceptualizing what's going on," Cassel said.

Beyond the plays, there is also the adjustment to Turner's personality. Off the field, Turner comes across as thoughtful and relaxed. "Relaxed" isn't the early impression of him on the field, as he has been one of the most vocal coaches when it comes to calling out players.

"He's a demanding coach and I think he holds everybody accountable. I think if you watched him out there today he was coaching up everybody, from the guys in the first group to the second and third group," Cassel said. "You've got to love that. He's out here and he brings energy every day. So it's a lot of fun. And then it's about getting to know each other. Out here, they're able to watch and see what players do well and build that system around that."

After nine years in the NFL, Cassel is well aware that learning a new offense is a process and doesn't happen overnight. He realizes mistakes will happen and he shouldn't get frustrated early.

"It's inevitable when you have to learn a new system. But if learn from those mistakes and get better, that's how you don't get frustrated and you don't begin to doubt yourself," he said. "You try to learn from what you're doing."

PATTERSON: MORE TO COME

Cordarrelle Patterson was named to the Pro Bowl for his kick returning prowess as a rookie in 2013. He also came on late to show off his run-after-the-catch ability as a receiver.

In the first eight games of the season, he was targeted as a receiver more than four times in only one game and a total of 24 times, averaging three targets a game. In the second half of the season, he was targeted more than four times in six games and a total of 53 times, more than doubling his targets from the first half of the season.

The second half of the season was when he produced an eight-catch game and a 141-yard receiving performance, but Patterson said there is still more with which he can surprise the league.

"I still don't think they know what's coming. I feel like I've got a lot left in the tank," he said. "I hope we get 'er and I just hope everything gets better for me."

Patterson was the winner against veteran cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on their first two tries against each other and Patterson playfully let him know it. "You're 0-for-2 now," Patterson said with a laugh before kneeling next to Munnerlyn on the sideline to talk about it.

NOTES

  • While the Vikings worked a number of combinations with the first-team offense and defense, the first unit of linebackers was composed of Chad Greenway, Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole.

  • With Josh Robinson out with injury on Thursday, Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes were the cornerbacks in the base defense, with rookie Jabari Price entering at left cornerback in the nickel defense and Munnerlyn playing the slot receiver.

  • Rookie Antone Exum also got some reps with the first-team defense next to Harrison Smith with safeties Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo out with injury.

  • Marcus Sherels, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright and Jerick McKinnon were returning punts.

  • Free-agent acquisition Cory Wootton had a near interception of a Christian Ponder check-down pass intended for McKinnon. Wootton, a defensive end, got one hand on the pass and continued to keep an outstretched hand on the ball before it fell to the ground after about two seconds of tracking it.

  • Safety Kurt Coleman had a strong day, highlighted by an interception of an overthrown Cassel pass that was intended for Patterson.

  • Rhodes ended practice by knocking down a Ponder pass intended for Thielen.

  • The strangest thing heard at practice: "Come on, Zimmer, don't let him release!" – Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer to linebacker Mike Zimmer (not head coach Mike Zimmer) during punt-return drills.


    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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