Entering training camp three weeks ago in a two-way battle with rookie Teddy Bridgewater for the starting spot, Cassel appears to be winning the job as Bridgewater hits a rough stretch in his development.
“I hope Matt continues to do what he’s been doing. He’s been making the right decisions. He’s been getting the team in and out of the right plays. I hope we can score more points,” head coach Mike Zimmer said when asked for his expectations at the quarterback position.
Cassel completed 5 of 6 passes for 62 yards, leading the Vikings on a 10-play touchdown drive in Friday night’s preseason opener.
Bridgewater’s preseason debut was lackluster against the Oakland Raiders. He completed 6 of 13 passes for 49 yards and was sacked twice, one of those causing a fumble in the red zone that offensive tackle Matt Kalil recovered at the end of Bridgewater’s first drive.
“I just want him to play. He’s got so much going on in his mind right now, I just want him to play,” Zimmer said of Bridgewater. “That’s what I told him (Wednesday) and I’m going to tell him again before the ballgame. ‘Just go out and play. You’ve been doing this since you were 5 years old. Go out and play and have some fun. Throw the ball in there. If you make a mistake, we’ll fix it.’”
Bridgewater has also struggled the last week in training camp. On Monday night, he threw three interceptions and on Wednesday was picked off two more times in full-team work.
“He’s handling it great. He’s a terrific kid. He studies very, very hard,” Zimmer said. “He can do all the things you need him to do as an NFL quarterback. It’s just the combination of the protections and the blitzes and different route combinations, changing plays at the line of scrimmage. It just takes time. He’ll continue to get it. I believe that he’s going to be a very, very good football player.”
Zimmer hasn’t named a starter for the regular-season opener yet. He has a date in mind to do that, but declined to reveal that date.
After the final full practice on Thursday afternoon, the Vikings will have a Friday morning mock game that is closed to the public in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
“Camp here has been fantastic – Mankato, the city, the fans coming out and cheering us on. It’s been a great setting for us to have training camp,” Zimmer said.
“I think it was productive. We were able to come out and work efficiently and quickly moving to different spots. Hopefully I learned something every day about this team. They haven’t disappointed me. They’ve been very willing to do whatever. I heard somebody say ‘buy-in.’ I guess there hasn’t been any complaining, whether that’s buy-in. Usually two-a-days and training camp there is usually some complaining. I like this team. They’re good guys that work real hard.”
Zimmer said the team is on schedule “for the most part” with installing his defense, although they had one day where they didn’t install anything new because they were making too mistakes.
The installation will continue up until the final preseason game Aug. 28 at Tennessee.
THURSDAY A.M. NOTES
“It’s hard to make the club in the tub. I don’t know if (Munnerlyn) is entrenched, but if you’re not going out there and proving it every single day and in the games, then it’s hard to know,” Zimmer said.
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.