The Minnesota Vikings have wrapped up training camp in Mankato and are working their way to Cincinnati on Tuesday evening to join the Bengals for a couple practices. The two teams will be practicing together on Wednesday and Thursday, and will then be playing each other on Friday in their first preseason game.
Mike Zimmer was the defensive coordinator for the Bengals before he was hired as the Vikings head coach in 2014, and he said that these joint practices probably wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the time he spent in Cincinnati. But he also feels as though the practices will help out his team because the Bengals are a talented team and his players are ready to go up against someone else.
“No. 1, I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t Marvin Lewis and them, and they’re a good football team,” Zimmer said. “I think at this time of camp, it’s about time to start going against (someone else). You saw we had a little fight out there today. Guys start getting on each other’s nerve a little bit, so it’s nice to go against someone else, and the competition will be good. They’re a really good football team. They’ve been in the playoffs the last six or seven years – I don’t know. But they’re a good team; they’ve got a lot of good talent.”
The Bengals have a lot of talented players on their roster and Zimmer wants to see how his team is able to handle them. A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are just a few of the players he mentioned.
Even though Zimmer has not said it, his team knows that he wants to win this first preseason game and put on a good showing. They have already talked about it together in the locker room and they are all interested in winning the favor of their coach out on the football field.
“We were talking about that in the locker room earlier, like, ‘Man, I know Zim, this is his old team. He’s got a chip on his shoulder about this and we got to go out there and we got to represent his team well,’” wide receiver Charles Johnson said. “We got to show them what we’re about as a Coach Zimmer football team and we’re going to go out there and try to do the things he coaches us to do each and every day. Go out there and show him that he’s a great coach and he does things right on our side, and we love him.”
One interesting thing heading into these joint practices is the similarities between the two defenses. Zimmer said that a lot of the principles are “very much the same,” but he couldn’t say much about anything more than that because he hasn’t been able to watch them this year.
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The Vikings receivers have already been busy studying up the Bengals defense, and they noticed the similarities right away.
“We were looking at a little bit of film yesterday, me and (Stefon) Diggs, and we were talking about, like, ‘Man, they look just like our defense,’” Johnson explained. “I mean, Coach Zimmer came from there, so we understood that, and how their DBs play is kind of similar to how our DBs play. It’s kind of cool because we already know what we’re going to be facing, how they’re going to play us and everything. It’s going to be like seeing our defense, just different people out there.”
Even though there are a lot of similarities, there are going to be differences too. Not everyone is going to play exactly the same with different strengths and weaknesses. But the similarities they share could be something that both offenses try to exploit over these next few days.