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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Mailbag: Receivers jockeying for position, and other OTA musings

By Andrew Krammer

Note: Some of these questions were answered on the latest Purple Podcast with Judd Zulgad, Andrew Krammer and ESPN.com’s Ben Goessling. Send any questions you have on Twitter to @Andrew_Krammer, or email, and we’ll often use both the blog and podcast to answer.

The Vikings enter the second week of Organized Team Activities on Tuesday as players inch toward putting on pads. There are a handful of notables gleaned from the first media-open practice last week, including receiver musings, Trae Waynes playing behind Terence Newman and the offensive line shuffle. But let’s start with a broad brush and one fine point at quarterback.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN What is the feel from the team early on in OTAs and does Teddy really have a new release point?

— Justin Hinnenkamp (@HinnenkampJ) May 26, 2016

AK: Measured. Last week’s practice offered the first glimpse of how a full-team session would be run, obviously under certain NFL restrictions, coming off an 11-win season. There seemed to be an increased tempo in the voluntary workouts compared to previous years. Players jogged to different drills only catching a breath when 11-on-11 exercises began or a few-minute full break in the middle of the AM practice. Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer paused roughly 90 players and convened to deliver a few choice words when passing drills created too much contact between defensive backs and receivers. At the end of last year’s training camp, the hard-nosed taskmasker made the entire team run a lap when he was upset with a lack of attention and effort. This year’s message was sent on the first day of OTAs, with Zimmer saying: “We were kind of cocky and talking smack to one another, so I had to remind them who we were.” He appears set on protecting the approach from the influence of success.

Regarding Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings want to tweak his throwing motion to come a little bit more over the top. That will be a point of emphasis this summer as Bridgewater enters his third season at the helm. It’s one of a couple noted areas of development from this coaching staff, including a will to see Bridgewater take more calculated chances down the field.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN way too early thought on CP84?Better than 2015 OTA?JM21 prime for breakout (sproles/SD) yr?

— J. Miller (@jrm531) May 26, 2016

AK: Entering a contract year, Cordarrelle Patterson needs to show something new to boost his NFL prospects overall. His talent flashes in places like practice, where you see him get an opportunity to run freely from the pressures of press coverage or a quarterback under duress. You could see it in a handful of plays last week, including a leaping grab on a crossing route with Trae Waynes in coverage. If Patterson can make those plays in the preseason, then perhaps he’ll tempt coaches to use him more on Sundays. He sits in a crowded room with first-round pick Laquon Treadwell joining Patterson, Stefon Diggs, Jarius Wright, Charles Johnson and Adam Thielen. Two newcomers had a rough outing last Wednesday as sixth-round pick Moritz Böhringer and receiver Troy Stoudermire dropped a combined five passes.

McKinnon has a new number (21) and what could be an increased role in the offense. He mixed in with the first unit last week as Teddy Bridgewater ran plays from the shotgun. Though Adrian Peterson obviously continued to lead the running backs. Many factors depend on McKinnon having a ‘breakout’ season, including Peterson’s usage and whether or not the offensive line can rebound. There are many reasons to think the Vikings offense won’t be a replica of 2015, one that fed Peterson a league-high 327 carries. This includes the veteran additions of offensive minds in Pat Shurmur and Tony Sparano under Zimmer’s directive to get fresh ideas into those meeting rooms. When the offense is on display in three months, McKinnon is the player I’d bet on being more involved in 2016. How much more? That’s the unknown with Peterson the focal point.

With an aging Greenway and a rising talent in Hunter, can Hunter play some outside linebacker? @Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN

— Johndy Khang (@johndy_khang) May 26, 2016

AK: This year will likely be Chad Greenway’s final lap, as he signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal to return to the Vikings for an 11th season. Championship prospects, combined with Greenway enjoying a healthy season last fall, led his desire to return for another year at age 33. Though as alluded in the question, he may have to compete to keep his part-time role as the weak-side linebacker in the Vikings base 4-3 defense. Don’t bet on defensive end Danielle Hunter being that guy to push him, however. Hunter impressed coaches with his studious approach, which translated into six sacks — the second-most among all NFL rookies. He flashed in practice last season as a stand-up, 3-4 outside rusher mimicking DeMarcus Ware, so they started to rush him from a two-point (standing) stance during the final 12 games of the season. But a transition to 4-3 linebacker likely isn’t in the cards as Hunter backs up another aging veteran, defensive end Brian Robison.

At weak-side linebacker, keep an eye on Emmanuel Lamur, the 26-year-old former Bengal who stands six feet and four inches tall. The Vikings signed Lamur to a two-year deal with $2 million guaranteed and moved him from strong-side linebacker, which he played in Cincinnati, to Greenway’s side.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN what happens to Berger? Could he slide to gaurd or a versatile back up like previous years?

— Randy Trujillo (@Randyt84) May 26, 2016

AK: Joe Berger remained as the first-team center during last week’s OTA practice open to the media with veteran John Sullivan behind him on the second team. Sullivan, who turns 31 in August, underwent two back surgeries last fall on the same herniated disk. The Vikings didn’t touch his contract this offseason as Sullivan is set to make $5.4 million, none guaranteed. The expectation should be for Sullivan to start. If he makes a full recovery, Berger remains a valuable cog capable of playing all three spots along the interior of the offensive line. Or if needed, the 34-year-old Berger could make his 18th consecutive start at center in Week 1 at Tennessee.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN why haven’t we had any Treadwell coverage since the start of otas

— Cody Groesser (@Cody_FTBALL) May 26, 2016

AK: The Vikings’ top pick, receiver Laquon Treadwell, ran with the second-team offense behind Charles Johnson. Under Zimmer, the Vikings don’t make a habit of handing over starting roles, even in practice, to rookies. But they also don’t discriminate against inexperience, having watched Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs, among others, make immediate impacts. Make no mistake, Treadwell, who turns 21 in June, is expected to contribute and lift the offense right away. He did tweak his ankle during the team’s rookie minicamp earlier this month and he seemed hobbled a bit while practicing last week.

@Andrew_Krammer @1500ESPNJudd @GoesslingESPN Any chance Johnson makes the roster over Patterson?

— Bradley Peterson (@BradleyPeters13) May 26, 2016

AK: This is an interesting thought, though it may never come to this. If you’re giving me just one choice, I’d have to take Patterson over Johnson with the way this roster is constructed now. That’s only because neither may contribute much on offense this season, and Patterson provides explosiveness in the kick return game. I’d think that’s how the Vikings may lean, too, but again they may never have to make that choice having kept five of six receivers from last year while adding Treadwell.

Email: Everyone dumped on Mike Wallace, but Teddy couldn’t connect with Jennings either – and Jennings should’ve been a better fit (another possession receiver). So are expectations too high for a turnaround with Treadwell? Or can Teddy turn the corner? — Jill

AK: Let’s first compare Bridgewater’s connection rate with Wallace (17 starts) and Jennings (12 starts), since they have a similar sample size, and we’ll see Jennings was a better fit despite how it may have appeared. During Bridgewater’s rookie season, Jennings caught 45 of 67 targets [67%] for 579 yards and five touchdowns in the pair’s 12 starts together. Four of those five scores came in the final six games, when Bridgewater found a stride with an average QB rating over 100. He did not have such a stretch last season. Wallace and Bridgewater started off on the right foot, connecting on 20 of 24 throws in the first four games. That quickly deteriorated as Wallace had just eight catches over the next seven games. He finished the season with 39 grabs on 72 targets [55%] for 473 yards and two touchdowns.

For Bridgewater, the Vikings sought a wide target to boost a struggling passing attack and landed with Treadwell. He’s physical, not as fast as his counterparts and set to be just 21 years old this summer. The most important part is physical, and the Vikings believe Treadwell will fight for the football in a way neither Jennings nor Wallace provided Bridgewater. However, they’re not banking on just Treadwell, but also a retooled offensive line led by first-year position coach Tony Sparano and new left guard Alex Boone. As mentioned above, the Vikings also have a couple points of emphasis for Bridgewater’s own development, including a tweak of his throwing motion and a more aggressive on-field approach.

The post Mailbag: Receivers jockeying for position, and other OTA musings appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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