The blitzes and defensive line stunts were coming at the Vikings offense from every angle Wednesday. Mike Zimmer’s defense stepped up the pressure and the offensive line and it’s complementing pass-protecting pieces were living up to the accolades offensive coordinator Norv Turner threw their way often early in training camp.
“There are a lot of looks, a lot of exotic looks that they present. We’re always trying to make sure that we have all of our bases covered. It’s tough,” center John Sullivan said.
“We’re communicating well. We still have some work to do in terms of how we work with each other within this offense. But I think we’ve made a huge progression and we’ve done it very fast.”
If Wednesday’s practice was any indication, it supported Sullivan’s assessment.
During an extensive full-team blitz period, Captain Munnerlyn came off the edge. Right tackle Phil Loadholt quickly chipped Munnerlyn further to the outside and readjusted to a stunt of a defensive lineman looping to the outside. Adrian Peterson saw it coming and picked up Munnerlyn on time to push him wide of Matt Cassel, who stepped up in the pocket and delivered a completion. It appeared to be exactly the way it would be drawn up in the classroom.
Zimmer’s defense is expected to bring the pressure on opponents this year, and giving those “exotic looks” to his offensive line and supporting cast of pass protectors should only help once the regular hits and the Vikings face one of the better defensive lines in the league Sept. 7 at St. Louis.
“It can be complicated, but that’s why we have to make sure offensively we’re on the same page and making the right calls and we’re just communicating,” Peterson said. “That’s what we did today in blitz – made some pretty good calls and we were 100 percent.”
The protection wasn’t always perfect, especially with the second-team offensive line, but it won’t hurt the Vikings offense to see a lot of different looks in training camp before every step counts in the regular season.
If there has been a weakness in Peterson’s game, it’s been with catching the ball and picking up blitzes. He still has some struggles with consistency catching passes, but his pass protection appears to have improved as the years have passed.
“He’s done an incredible job,” Sullivan said of Peterson. “We always try to preach that pass protection is not just the five offensive linemen. Even if you’re the five guys in blocking – if you have five blocking and the defense brings six, somebody obviously has to be hot. The receiver are in pass protection running the right routes, tight ends seeing hots and sight adjusts, then the offensive line with blocking up front, the backs are involved with blocking, the tight ends are involved with blocking. And then it takes the quarterback knowing that maybe he is under pressure and he doesn’t have an extra guy picking someone up and he has to get rid of the ball. Pass protection really takes all 11 guys.”
The defense did win its share in the blitz period, but those touch sacks (no live tackling) were predominantly against the second-team offense. Brian Robison, Shamar Stephen and Jabari Price all got sacks.
THE CONFIDENCE OF BRIDGEWATER
Before Wednesday’s practice, Zimmer said he doesn’t believe Teddy Bridgewater’s confidence was shaken by multiple interceptions this week.
“It’s not affected his confidence at all,” Zimmer said. “… This is where we learn, and when we go out to play we have a better feeling for our talent and the guy we’re going against. But his confidence is not shaken. He’s fine.”
After throwing three interceptions in a night practice Monday, Bridgewater threw two more interceptions in Wednesday’s practice, one to Mistral Raymond when trying to find Adam Thielen and another to Gerald Hodges, who made a diving pick on a pass that appeared too soft over the middle.
Peterson said it’s possible that numerous interceptions can affect a young quarterback, but Peterson has been there trying to encourage Bridgewater.
“There could be a concern, but that’s how you find out if a guy is resilient or not and how they respond,” Peterson said. “I try to whisper stuff in his ear every now and then and I’m hoping that he’s listening. ‘Hey, just go out there and play your game. Just control what you can control.’ He’s out here learning a difficult system. Like I tell him, ‘You’re going to make mistakes. Just continue to push forward and take the knowledge, no matter how it’s coming or what’s being said. Take out what you need to learn from it.’”
WEDNESAY P.M. NOTES
Robinson started practice being used with the first-team nickel defense, but he was replaced by Marcus Sherels when Robinson went out with injury.
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.