Words in February and March have turned to actions in May and June, as the Minnesota Vikings have made an emphasis on developing their deep passing game.
It’s been a rocky road trying to do that throughout the last month of offseason practices – from organized team activities to this week’s minicamp – as one day there is little to like and another shows signs of hope.
“I think we’re just doing a good job of executing the offense and doing what’s asked of us. We spent some time trying to find ways to push the ball down the field and things like that, and our guys are doing a great job of just stretching the field, getting spaced up,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “And they’re making my job easy. I can throw it to a spot and just give those guys a chance. We say that’s what it’s all about - just being able to give those guys a chance to go out there and make plays and compete for the football. So far this spring, I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that. There’s still room for improvement.”
Wednesday encapsulated that into one practice.
During seven-on-seven work early in practice, Bridgewater overthrew WR Charles Johnson on the first deep passing attempt of the second minicamp session. No long afterwards, Bridgewater went deep for WR Cordarrelle Patterson down the right sideline near the goal line, a pass that CB Melvin White was in perfect position to intercept … and he did.
But the day also featured signs of hope. Bridgewater hit Johnson a short while later on a deep throw down the left sideline.
“It’s always important because you can back people up. But the percentages on deep balls are not really very good. I don’t care who’s throwing them. It’s timing, the arc on the ball, guys are running full speed downfield, but sometimes you get pass interferences and things like that, which are good things, too,” head coach Mike Zimmer said about the deep passing game on Tuesday.
Perhaps the rules of engagement during OTAs and minicamp have contributed to a low percentage of the deep passes connecting. Cornerbacks were not allowed to execute press coverage in OTAs, forcing them to work on their skills playing off the ball.
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“A lot of times it’s hard to get him when the corners are off all the time, but we’ve still got to throw them,” Zimmer said. “But if you’re up there pressed and you see a guy get beat or he is hip-to-hip when they’re running, you take a few more shots when you’re doing that, which we’ll emphasize in training camp.”
While Bridgewater’s start to Wednesday’s practice wasn’t great, he was sharp in full-team red zone work, hitting Stefon Diggs and Johnson for touchdowns. And later, working with a full field, he connected with Adam Thielen for a 20-yard gain and then Johnson for a 30-yard pass over the middle.
DAY 2 MINICAMP NOTES
- Rookie Kentrell Brothers intercepted a Taylor Heinicke pass that the quarterback forced over the middle, a throw intended for rookie tight end David Morgan.
- German receiver Moritz Böhringer dropped an on-target pass deep over the middle from rookie Joel Stave.
- Diggs and Troy Stoudermire took most of the work returning punts, with Marcus Sherels watching.
- The Vikings continued to rotate linebackers in for Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr, with Edmond Robinson and Emmanuel Lamur sharing some first-team reps when Greenway wasn’t in.
- While the Vikings worked diligently to get Patterson the ball during one portion of practice, defensive end Justin Trattou shut down a Patterson run by staying home and eliminating Patterson’s path to the outside.
- CB Jabari Price showed off his strut after intercepting a Shaun Hill pass intended for Laquon Treadwell.
- LB Travis Lewis continued his absence from offseason practices. DT Sharrif Floyd, DT Bruce Gaston, G Alex Boone, OL Mike Harris and TE Rhett Ellison were present but didn’t practice. Barr was limited, and DT Linval Joseph and DE Scott Crichton did some individual drills but didn’t practice with the full-team defense.