Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer won’t be at offseason practices for “a few weeks” as he recovers from his eighth eye surgery, but he will be keeping a good eye on things with video sent to him at his ranch in Kentucky.
During his review sessions, no doubt a few players will receive additional scrutiny as the newest ones that could earn a starting spot or significant playing time. Chief among them will be receiver Michael Floyd, whom the Vikings are giving another chance to resurrect his once-promising career that was sidetracked by a DUI arrest in December.
As the 13th overall selection of the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, Floyd has a 1,000-yard season to his credit and plenty of talent in his legs and hands to get to that place again. Zimmer believes Floyd will use his newfound opportunity with “a vengeance.”
“He’s a big, long, strong receiver with speed. Obviously he was a first-round draft pick. He’s had a couple of good years in Arizona. Last year he fell off a little bit,” Zimmer told KFAN on Monday as he was being driven to Kentucky to recover. “I do feel like he’s going to be hungry and come in. Last year was his contract year and it wasn’t as good as he wanted so I think he’s going to come out with a vengeance to try to prove that last year was kind of a fluke. I think he’s a big, physical guy that can kind of stretch the field, but he also can do a good job in the blocking area and he also can kind of body position these smaller defensive backs.”
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Floyd is a well-built receiver that was eighth in the NFL in depth of target last year, but his DUI derailed what could have been a big contract year. Now he’s in that same situation after signing a one-year, incentive-filled deal with the Vikings.
Rookie running back Dalvin Cook also will be of particular interest to the film-reviewing eyes of Zimmer in Kentucky.
Some draft analysts believed Cook was the best running back in his draft class, but he fell to the second round and the Vikings moved up to get him to complement free-agent signing Latavius Murray, who is sidelined until training camp after ankle surgery in March.
While Murray can provide the hard yards, Cook has explosiveness and elusiveness. No other college running back came close to causing as many missed tackles (92) as Cook did last year at Florida State, according to PFF.
Zimmer believes Cook will come ready to prove himself as organized team activities start Tuesday.
“The big thing for Dalvin is, a lot of times these young guys think they belong, but they’re never really sure, and then when they get the opportunity and go in and they’re going against the veterans guys and they’re going against Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith and Brian Robison and those guys, they have a chance to really wow them, too,” Zimmer said. “I think it will be fun for these guys and really all the guys.”
On defense, Zimmer’s specialty, the Vikings have been searching for a potential replacement for Sharrif Floyd. That might be needed because Floyd had a nerve damaged when he had surgery last fall and his availability for this season is still undecided.
While the team has backup Tom Johnson returning and drafted Jaleel Johnson in the third round, they also signed Datone Jones in free agency and recently picked up 2014 third-round pick Will Sutton after he was released by the Chicago Bears, who continue to make the defensive transition from a long-time 4-3 scheme to the 3-4.
“We’ve had our eye on him for quite. We actually wanted to sign him that year he came out and got drafted by the Bears in the third round,” Zimmer said of Sutton. “We felt like when they went to the 3-4 it was probably not a real good fit for him. His game is built on quickness and acceleration and penetration, so we’ve had our eye on him for a while. When he was able to come free, we did a nice job in being able to get him.
“Here’s the other thing: Andre Patterson is the best defensive line coach in football and he gets these guys to play better than they have in their entire life. Regardless of whether it’s [Sutton] or Jaleel Johnson or whoever it is, I have complete faith in Andre Patterson.”
In three seasons with the Bears, Sutton made 18 starts but last year played in only eight games.
As Zimmer recovers in Kentucky, he will be viewing and reviewing video of all the players, but the newcomers – especially the three detailed above – will be of particular interest, each of them with something to prove.