With the first week of the preseason officially over, the Minnesota Vikings’ coaching staff now has a better idea of the kind of players that they are working with and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
There are a few players so far that have really jumped out at me over the course of training camp: Adam Thielen, Kurt Coleman, and Teddy Bridgewater. There are also a few players that have disappointed me so far during camp, and those players include Jerome Simpson, Michael Mauti, and Christian Ponder.
For a few of these players, a good training camp is important to gain an edge for playing time the rest of the preseason and hopefully the regular season. Although a bad training camp can be overcome, it’s always a good thing to make a good first impression with Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff
Thielen is a 2nd-year wide receiver from Minnesota State University, Mankato. As a rookie, Thielen spent the entire season on the practice squad, and did not appear in any games. So far in training camp Thielen has made a great impression for the coaching staff, especially Mike Zimmer.
With four wide receiver spots on the roster practically guaranteed to Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, and Jerome Simpson (although, Simpson could be debated), Adam Thielen is one of the few guys that is fighting for that potential 5th wide receiver spot.
For a young player like Thielen to make a spot on the roster, he needs to be able to do a lot of things on the field, especially with the special teams unit. This is where Thielen has shined so far during training camp. Thielen has been fielding punts, returning kicks, and had a huge tackle on punt coverage in the Vikings’ first preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. Although his spot as the 5th receiver on the roster is nowhere near set in stone, I think it’s his job to lose, as he brings the most to the table between himself, Rodney Smith, Kain Colter, and Kamar Jorden.
Coleman came to the Vikings’ in free agency after spending his first four years with the Philadelphia Eagles. I wasn’t sure what to expect of Coleman, and really thought he was signed for depth at the safety position rather than being signed to actually competing for a starting job. But after his impressive performance against the Raiders, and a good, clean training camp so far, I’m starting to think Coleman will be seeing the field a lot more than I originally thought.
In the 10-6 win against the Raiders, Coleman recorded 3 total tackles, and picked off one Derek Carr pass. Coleman has been all over the field during camp, and continued his ball hawking ways during the preseason opener. He might not end up being the starting safety next to Harrison Smith, but he will most certainly be a viable option if either safety were to go down, or even as a rotational player here and there.
Being a quarterback taken in the first round will always come with pressure, but so far the 32nd overall pick of the 2014 draft, Teddy Bridgewater, has given Vikings’ fans something to be excited about.
During camp, Bridgewater’s passes have been tight spirals. He throws a very catchable ball, and his work ethic is outstanding. Although he hasn’t quite earned the title of starting quarterback, Bridgewater has impressed his coaches enough to receive first-team reps during the first preseason game against the Raiders. Bridgewater didn’t blow the doors off during his two plus quarters against the Raiders, but he certainly didn’t play badly either. So far, Bridgewater has played well enough to draw praise from multiple coaches, and Norv Turner and Mike Zimmer like what they see from him.
[Analysis: Defense looks great in 10-6 win against Raiders]
Jerome Simpson signed a one year deal with the Minnesota Vikings this offseason, after a bumpy first two seasons in the purple and gold. I’ve always waited for Simpson to blossom into a good receiver, but it seems as though he might be nothing more than a good athlete, famous for a front flip into the end zone.
My expectations have slowly but surely diminished for Simpson, as he is continually involved with unnecessary endeavors off the field that end with punishment from the NFL.
This training camp has been shaky to say the least for Simpson, as I have noticed him drop quite a few well thrown balls, and he only caught one measly ball for 6 yards against the Raiders. At one point, I would have considered Simpson a lock for the receiver spot across from Cordarrelle Patterson, with Greg Jennings in the slot, but now it seems as though Simpson might have played himself out of that role, and Jarius Wright seems like a much more viable option.
Michael Mauti is a 7th round pick from last years’ draft out of Penn State. Mauti has all the tools to be a great middle linebacker, but injuries greatly decreased his draft stock coming out of college.
Coming into this season I was hoping Mauti would be able to challenge for the starting middle linebacker spot, but he has been outplayed by fellow linebacker Audie Cole this offseason. Mauti still has time to make his case for playing time, especially in a defense that will routinely rotate guys in and out, but for now he’s sitting at the bottom of the depth chart, trying to keep his spot on the roster.
Ponder’s career with the Vikings has been an up and down one to say the least. Going into this preseason, I figured Ponder had a legit shot at least challenging for the backup quarterback position; after all, he did lead the Vikings to a 10-6 record just two seasons ago. This training camp hasn’t surprised me too much, though, as inconsistency has plagued his career in Minnesota.
Even though he was playing against mostly 2nd and 3rd string defensive players in the first preseason game, Ponder struggled mightily, and failed to put up any points in the two quarters he played. This training camp has almost solidified the fact that Ponder will not even get close to competing for playing time this season, barring any injuries to the other two quarterbacks. I would not be surprised if the Vikings decide to part ways with Ponder after this year, the last year of his rookie deal.