Players haven’t been able to go through a fully padded practice yet this offseason and won’t until at least three days into training camp. Where a player is lining up on a depth chart these days has only a little bearing on how he might look when the shorts are traded for padded pants, and shoulder pads are added under the jerseys.
“I think everybody is in the mix. I know you guys are asking me a lot of questions about lineups and how is this guy. The one thing that I want to be very careful to do - and the players know this and the coaches do, too - is I don’t want to evaluate guys in shorts and underwear,” Zimmer said. “The game is played in pads. We’re always evaluating guys, trying to get them better. But things can change once the pads come on and you’ve got to carry your pads and you’ve got to be a little more physical. So I’m trying not to be an instant evaluator on anything.”
Even with those cautionary words, the mixing and matching of lineups over the last three weeks of organized team activities and the first day of minicamp offered some interesting looks and combinations of players.
Some of it was due to injuries still being treated with caution.
On defense, starters Linval Joseph and Sharrif Floyd continued to sit out of full-team work. On offense, Alex Boone, Rhett Ellison and Mike Harris were among the potential starters that weren’t able to practice. Several reserves also didn’t practice, including LB Travis Lewis, DT Bruce Gaston and DE Scott Crichton.
Linebacker Anthony Barr, one of the Vikings’ best defensive players, returned to limited work after sitting much of the past three weeks during organized team activities, but the injuries and desire to get looks at players in different situations created opportunity for others.
With Joseph and Floyd out, Shamar Stephen and Tom Johnson continued to get the majority of the first-team reps, as they did during OTAs. Barr’s occasional absence from full-team work on Tuesday created opportunities for Edmond Robinson and Emmanuel Lamur to get a few reps in the starting nickel defense alongside Eric Kendricks. And, despite no significant injuries in the secondary, second-year cornerback Trae Waynes got an occasional rep or two for Terence Newman when the Vikings used their nickel defense.
The offensive line saw the biggest changes.
With Boone limited to being a practice observer, Joe Berger slid over from center to take Boone’s left guard spot and John Sullivan distributed all of the first-team snaps from center. Andre Smith took the starting snaps at right tackle, with Phil Loadholt moving back to the second team, as he did for a portion of OTAs.
The receivers saw significant juggling.
- Patterson continued his improved offseason, looking sharp in his route-running and catching everything thrown his way on Tuesday. He had one nice catch over CB Tre Roberson in which Patterson reached over Roberson, came down with the ball and continued up the sideline.
- Treadwell also looked more confident and decisive, as well as showing improved hands over what he had previously in OTAs.
- Patterson, Diggs and rookie WR Troy Stoudermire were the primary kickoff returners.
- Rookie WR Moritz Böhringer had one dropped pass on Tuesday.
- The quarterbacks didn’t look as sharp as they did last week. Both Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill missed low on some short passes and had passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Stephen and Johnson were the defensive linemen that got their hands on passes, and backup safety Antone Exum perfectly timed a blitz, and then his leap with both hands in the air, as he deflected a Hill pass into the air that LB Audie Cole intercepted and returned.
- With Berger getting first-team chances at left guard, Zac Kerin delivered the second-team reps at center.
- Fourth-round draft pick Willie Beavers got work with the first-team offense at left guard in OTAs, but Tuesday he was getting second-team work at right tackle as the coaching staff looks to find the best spots for some of the young offensive linemen, along with developing versatility among their backups. Beavers also got work at right guard this week.