Notebook: Zim finds positives in first game

Mike Zimmer found several areas to like from his defense on Friday night after reviewing the film. Plus, get other notes from Sunday at training camp.

A few Mike Zimmer references from the past to put into context his thoughts about the Minnesota Vikings’ performance in the preseason opener:

Zimmer has called himself a fixer in reference to defenses needing help – and the Vikings needed plenty of that after finishing with the 31st-ranked pass defense in 2013 – and Zimmer has said he is never really satisfied with how his teams perform.

With that as a backdrop, Zimmer found enough to like with his defense’s performance in the preseason opener, at least the first-team defense.

“I thought we did some very good things. I was impressed that when I put the tape on, it was a little bit like I envision this football team to look like,” Zimmer said. “We didn’t make many mistakes on defense until later on in the ballgame. … We competed and got up in people’s face on defense. We challenged.”

With their first-team defense in the game, the Vikings gave up only 24 yards on two series Friday night and had the advantage of Oakland Raiders self-destructing a bit with 19 penalty yards on those drives.

Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley said Zimmer’s philosophy is that the defense has to earn the right to rush the passer by stopping the opponents’ running game first. They got the first part taken care of, for the most part, but Zimmer see room for improvement in many facets.

“I think that they did a good job in the run game. I think we’ve got to rush the passer better,” Zimmer said. “… At the end of the ballgame we didn’t rush smart. We let the quarterback out of the pocket and (they) had a chance to throw the ball down there. I think he scrambled out one time. We have to know where our rush lanes are. Those are all things about being a smart football (team). When I talk about being a smart team, that’s part of being a smart football team.”

The second- and third-team defenses held the shutout until 1:25 remained in the game, but they were giving up more yardage. They ended a 12-play drive by the Raiders in the second quarter with a Kurt Coleman interception but also allowed two nine-play drives in the fourth quarter.

While the overall defense faded some when the starters left, Zimmer did single out a few defenders that impressed him after reviewing the game: DT Shamar Stephen, who could get more playing time with Linval Joseph likely out a couple weeks, and LB Gerald Hodges, who blocked a field goal attempt.

After giving up 268 yards of offense to the Raiders, there are plenty of teaching points for Zimmer to emphasize this week in preparation for the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.

“We have to flip the field position better than we were. We were backed up about three times. We could have had them backed up and we didn’t flip the field position, and this is a field-position game usually,” Zimmer said. “A hundred yards should equal seven points, so … we would have them on the 1-yard line and we stepped in the end zone, so we gave them 19 yards there. We didn’t field a punt one time. We got a 15-yard penalty. There is a lot of ways to score points and we didn’t allow ourselves in a lot of the situations to score more points.

“My expectations are pretty high. I expect whoever is in the football game to do what we’re asking them to do and what we’re practicing to do. I was a little bit more animated, I guess, in the second half because I saw some things that we weren’t doing that they’ve been coached to do.”


  • Some other players Zimmer singled out as playing well Friday night: TE Mike Higgins and offensive tackles Austin Wentworth, Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt, and guard Charlie Johnson. But Zimmer said the Vikings need to protect the quarterback better. They gave up six sacks – one to starter Matt Cassel, two to backup Teddy Bridgewater and three to Christian Ponder.

    “We’ve have to clean the pocket up for the quarterback a little bit better,” Zimmer said. “We’ve got to give him more; those quarterbacks love to have a clean pocket.”

  • Zimmer said John Sullivan needs to be more explosive at the point of attack.

    “The nose guard was playing a little head-up technique, which obviously we didn’t prepare a lot for this team. So that was a little bit that we have to adjust what we do offensively,” Zimmer said.

  • Zimmer waited to develop his practices this week until after Friday’s preseason game.

  • Zimmer on WR Adam Thielen, who had one catch for 15 yards, three punt returns for 52 yards and a tackle-for-loss on special teams: “He had great effort. He made a nice catch on third down. He did a nice job on punt return and punt cover. He’s a guy that has a lot of toughness, a lot of heart. He wants to make the football team and he’s giving his best effort to do it. Guys like him, you can win a lot of football games with guys like him.”

  • New Vikings TE Kory Sperry will wear No. 89, the same number worn previously by TE AC Leonard, who was released last week.

  • TE Chase Ford remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

  • Players who didn’t practice Sunday: S Jamarca Sanford, S Robert Blanton, S Mistral Raymond, LB Dom DeCicco, DT Tom Johnson and DT Linval Joseph.

  • CB Marcus Sherels, CB Josh Robinson and S Andrew Sendejo returned to practice, at least on a limited basis. Practice was suspended for a half hour with lightning and rain moving through the area and the team finished practice inside Myers Field House.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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