OTA assessments Week 3: Signs of life

The Vikings passing game looked sharp with Teddy Bridgewater driving the ball deep in the final week of organized team activities.

Mike Zimmer’s top priority for the Minnesota Vikings this offseason was getting the offensive line “fixed,” with free agency and a mid-round draft pick contributing to that goal.

After signing Alex Boone and Andre Smith in outside free agency, drafting Willie Beavers in the fourth round, and adding offensive line coach Tony Sparano, the Vikings are hopeful that helps. Still, they won’t really know until at least training camp because fully padded practices are prohibited until then.

But another priority for 2016 is improving a passing game that ranked 31st in the NFL in 2015. Teddy Bridgewater threw only 14 touchdown passes and Zimmer has asked Bridgewater to “let it loose” more this year. That started with organized team activities, which are in their final week.

The Vikings and Bridgewater made a more concerted effort to push the ball deep in practices over the last three weeks, but it wasn’t until this week that it started to become more successful.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/vikings/story/1676567-patience-needed-before-tr...  On Tuesday, Bridgewater started 7-on-7 drills with several intermediate completions before connecting with Charles Johnson for a 40-yard pass that landed with the receiver on time and in stride. Later in practice, Bridgewater tried for Johnson again deep on the other side of the field with cornerback Trae Waynes stride for stride. The ball hit the back of Waynes, who wasn’t turned to see it, but at least the effort to stretch the field was made.

A while later, Bridgewater connected with tight end Kyle Rudolph on a 30-yard pass over the middle.

“Yesterday he had a really good day. He threw the ball really, really well and I thought he threw the ball well today, too,” Zimmer said after Tuesday’s practice. “You know, he just seems to be cutting it loose a little bit more. You know he sees it and he lets it go. He’s shown some really nice deep balls. He seems like he’s, I guess, matured and he’s more comfortable in everything that he does.”

Stefon Diggs and Johnson continue to be the starting receivers, with a mix of Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright and Adam Thielen working in during three-receiver sets. Johnson had a strong day.

“He’s actually done good. You know he’s smooth. He runs good routes. He catches the ball good,” Zimmer said. “I think Teddy and him have a good rapport and, you know, same thing, we’ll just let all of these guys fight it out in camp.”

While the team’s web site reported that Monday was the first OTA session in which the quarterbacks didn’t throw any interceptions, Tuesday’s only interception came when defensive end Brian Robison batted a pass at the line of scrimmage and Chad Greenway tracked down the deflected pass for an interception that he returned.

So Tuesday’s session wasn’t perfect, but overall Bridgewater looked sharp, confident and willing to drive the ball down the field.

Those are good first steps, so long as the pass protection holds up when the real hitting starts.

OTA OBSERVATIONS

  • The Vikings had several players either missing or sitting out of the full-team portion of practice on Tuesday. The MIAs were especially prevalent on defense, where Anthony Barr, Sharrif Floyd, Linval Joseph, Captain Munnerlyn, Mackensie Alexander, Scott Critchton and Travis Lewis weren’t practicing. Munnerlyn was absent to attend the birth of his child.
  • On offense, Adrian Peterson was back in action after sitting out some last week, but Boone was not at practice, and Mike Harris and Rhett Ellison weren’t practicing.
  • With Boone out, Beavers took the first-team reps at left guard.
  • Blair Walsh won the contest of pooch punts from non-punters, dropping a punt out of bounds inside the 2-yard line. Teddy Bridgewater got his to stop at the 6-yard line and Taylor Heinicke stopped his at the 7-yard line.
  • Walsh was 8-for-9 on field goal attempts, hitting from between 32 and 48 yards out. His missed 48-yarder was supposed to be his final kick, but Zimmer declared he should “hit it again” to end on a good note and Walsh was true on his second attempt from 48 yards out in near-perfect weather conditions.
  • With Barr out, Edmond Robinson took most of the first-team reps with Audie Cole also getting some work there.
  • With Munnerlyn absent, Waynes took reps in the nickel defense with Terence Newman sliding inside to take on the slot receiver.
  • As the fourth quarterback on the roster, undrafted rookie Joel Stave has a lot to prove, but Zimmer likes some qualities about him.
  • “He actually throws the ball really well. You know, he’s got some things mechanically he has to work on, as most young guys,” Zimmer said. “But it’s really the speed of getting the ball out, the speed of knowing where to go. You know, all those factors are harder for a really young guy, like all young guys, but he’s done a good job. He’s working. He’s throwing the ball nice. So, he’s just got to continue to do that and the same thing at that quarterback spot. You know, we’ve got those four guys there and really it’s going to come down to training camp, preseason games and stuff like that.”


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