Sunday slant: Observations after OTAs

The Vikings just finished up the organized team activities portion of their offseason. With that, here are five opinions and observations coming after 10 OTA practices.

With only three minicamp practices to go until a five-week break prior to training camp, the installation of schemes and familiarization of players is coming together for the Minnesota Vikings.

Here are five observations about the current state of affairs after 10 organized team activities:

A.D. still has “it”
Adrian Peterson said he wasn’t sure what he wanted when he was making comments about possible retirement or pursuing a career in track. By now, everyone who has watched a Vikings game between 2007 and 2013 should know about Peterson’s competitiveness and realize there was never a chance he was going to retire. It’s not in his DNA and he will have to be forced out of the game before he stops his pursuit of Emmitt Smith … or being the best to ever play the game, at any position.

But upon Peterson’s return to Minnesota two weeks ago, it was quickly evident that he hasn’t lost a step. That’s not just players saying it, it’s a first-hand observation that the jump cut still will be a dangerous weapon in 2015. Peterson should be motivated as ever to stick it to Roger Goodell, anybody in the Vikings front office he may still have a beef with, and any Vikings fan that said they wouldn’t cheer for him again. A couple 100-yard games should take of that, where even the staunchest of his critics who care for the purple will have to try hard to sit on their hands when he breaks off a long run.

Still unguarded
The move of Brandon Fusco to left guard had observers immediately taking note that rookie T.J. Clemmings was working with the starters at right guard. That’s still the most likely starting guard tandem heading into training camp, but don’t be so quick to assume that’s the automatic solution.

With Clemmings out with a minor injury during the second week of organized team activities, there was plenty of unorganized activity at right guard. Rookie Tyrus Thompson has gotten work there, as has Joe Berger, David Yankey, Austin Shepherd and even converted defensive lineman Isame Faciane. Not all of them are getting as much work with the starters, and Clemmings should still be considered the favorite, but it’s not a done deal yet.

Plenty of “moving” options
Remember how much the Vikings moved Percy Harvin around before he was shipped to Vikings West and before Norv Turner was imported in favor of Bill Musgrave? Last year there wasn’t as much position flexibility, or even using Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield, but that could change in 2015.

Turner appears ready to set a scheme of confusion on defensive coordinators with versatile offensive weapons that can play a variety of roles. Patterson still has the ability to motion into the backfield, but rookie Stefon Diggs is an intriguing option in the slot and getting handed the ball on end-arounds. Zach Line isn’t as good a blocker as Jerome Felton was, at least not yet, but he has more ability to carry the ball or motion out of the backfield and into a receiving role. Rookie MyCole Pruitt is officially listed as a tight end, but he appears poised to be move all over the field with athletic ability that has already produced a highlight reel or impressive catches, along with head-scratching drops.

Peterson could see more pass patterns than he has in the past, but position designations are being blurred all over the field at this experimental time in the process.

Little certainty in secondary
Xavier Rhodes is the starting right cornerback. Harrison Smith is the starting free safety. After that, reach into a hat and take a number.

OK, so it’s not that uncertain in the secondary, but training camp and the preseason will see the battles waged at strong safety, left cornerback and nickel back.

Robert Blanton is the favorite at strong safety, but Andrew Sendejo unseated him late last year, Antone Exum received high praise early in his second offseason with the team, and undrafted Anthony Harris could see action with a strong preseason.

Trae Waynes likely will earn the shot at left cornerback, but as a rookie he hasn’t been immediately anointed at the position. In fact, more often than not he has been working with the second-team defense even when Rhodes was away to attended a family event. Long-time Mike Zimmer cornerback Terence Newman is long in the tooth but well-versed in Zimmerisms. Josh Robinson is hoping to save his career with a resurgence at cornerback. Captain Munnerlyn isn’t ready to give up a starting spot without a fight. And Jabari Price is feeling more comfortable in his second season.

However it shakes out, the Vikings will be better for it and in their depth.

Zygi learning with time
When Zygi Wilf and family first bought the team, he was flush with fandom and frail with experience in the ways of the NFL. Now, however, Wilf appears to have become wiser to the NFL. Last week offered the perfect example.

Wilf was speaking glowingly about the Vikings, as he is prone to do (and this year has reason to do), but he offered a new look when served up a leading question by a reporter when asked if he was firstly ready to offer a Super Bowl prediction and, secondly, if the Super Bowl was a possibility. Six years ago, he predicted a Super Bowl with Brett Favre giddiness in full force and was nearly right. This year, he realized that predictions can come back to haunt their source, or as a segment on our new Male Pattern Podcast is named, “predictions are stupid.”

This time, Wilf said that a Super Bowl is “absolutely” possible but he wasn’t predicting it. Wilf’s strong suit has never been in front of the media cameras, but he’s at least become savvy enough to realize how quickly a public display of hope can be spun into a prediction and inaccurately be portrayed as a guaranteed.

Predictions are stupid, but Wilf is no longer stupid to the ways of mass media and bloggers, even if he isn’t wise to the social media ways and “tweeter accounts,” as he put it.

More importantly, Wilf is wise enough to let his football people make football decisions and stick to offering the financial fortitude like no other owner in franchise history.

Apparently, maturity can happen beyond middle age.


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