The date of Rick Spielman’s annual in-season meeting with beat reporters changes depending on when the Vikings bye week falls. This year’s opened with a trade to acquire rookie center Nick Easton and a sixth-round pick in exchange for Gerald Hodges. That trade and the team’s thought process is addressed here.
As for other topics, the following is a rundown of Spielman’s views on seven points:
1. Second half shows progress
Spielman said second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater, who made his 16th career start Sunday at Denver, showed progress in the second half when the Vikings faced a tough situation.
“He’s continuing to progress. Like I said, this game here, especially in the second half when we had to throw the ball, he went 13-for-15 and had 131 yards,” Spielman said. “That’s a sign of a young guy maturing. If we can get over that, just push it over the edge a little more. Teddy is probably the most unselfish football player on this team. If he’s only going to throw the ball 18 times, he could care less if we’re going to win. That’s the mentality we’re trying to get with all our football players.”
Adrian Peterson has returned to action and the top of the NFL’s rushing leaders through four games. Spielman said coaches are self-scouting this week to review what has worked the best so far. One thing that is clear is that Peterson looks like the player Vikings thought would return.
“I think, because we didn’t have him last year, I think that’s part of the process coaches and players are going through, ‘What do we do well?’ I think what Adrian has shown through these first four games is that he looks like Adrian Peterson,” Spielman said. “That run he had in this Denver game, once he hit that crease, I didn’t see any less speed than I saw before. In just watching him practice, he’s Adrian Peterson, and he’s a unique player and we’re fortunate to have him.”
3. Passing the depth test
With Charles Johnson out and Jarius Wright hampered, Spielman said it was good to seeAdam Thielen and rookie Stefon Diggs fill the void. Thielen and Diggs each had six catches against the Broncos, joining an effort of 21 combined catches by Vikings receivers, led by eight fromMike Wallace.
“We have six very good receivers,” Spielman said. “The depth at receiver is the best it’s been since I’ve been here.”
4. Playing right tackle right away
“You watch him on tape, and he does a lot of great things,” Spielman said. “We’re very excited, but you also know when you’re a rookie, and especially up on the offensive line, you’re going to have to go through some growing pains with him. When you break him down (on film), he’s going to get beaten here or there, but you see just as many snaps on the positive side, and we think he is a prospect that has a tremendous future here and it’s only going to continue to improve and grow as we go through the season.”
5. Kendricks’ immediate instincts
Spielman said second-round pick Eric Kendricks’ role in the defense will continue to evolve. Kendricks made his first start Sunday in Denver when the Vikings opened in the nickel package.
“He’s played four games in his NFL career,” Spielman said. “For all these young guys, their roles get defined as we go along. He’s a very instinctive football player, and each it seems like the more reps he’s getting, the more comfortable he’s getting with the speed of this game and he makes plays when he’s out there. We drafted him because of how strong we felt about him coming out of college. He is a very instinctive linebacker that makes a lot of plays.
The Vikings are highly pleased by theimpressive play of Harrison Smith at one safety position but still want to solidify the other post. Andrew Sendejo started the first three games of the season but was out against Denver because of an injury. Robert Blanton filled in for Sendejo against the Broncos, and the evaluation process is ongoing. Spielman’s take:
“We’re trying to find out what that solution is next to Harrison. Sendejo has played well. Blanton struggled a little last week but has played well in the past. (Antone Exum Jr.) continues to progress, and we’re bringing Anthony Harris along too. I know the coaches are evaluating all of our personnel.
“This is a great week to look at who we have,” Spielman added. “Coach Zim said it best, ‘Who can I trust to put out there on the field to get the job done?’ He said those are the guys I’m going to play. We have a group of 53 guys and a 10-man practice squad. Our coaches are looking at who we have and what’s going to give us the best opportunity to win each week.”
The Vikings also added former Golden Gopher and Bears draft pick Brock Vereen to their practice squad.
“When the opportunity came, when he was released by Chicago, we didn’t have a spot on the 53, but we went at him pretty hard to try to bring him back here,” Spielman said. “He’s from the University of Minnesota. We’ve got a couple of guys from the Minnesota area on our roster, and most of those kids that you get out of this area are tough, hard-nosed, passionate football players that love to play the game. I think Brock fits right into that.”
7. Kicker not up for debate
Kicker Blair Walsh is 6-for-8 on field goals and 8-for-9 on extra points this season, but Spielman said the Vikings still have confidence in their kicker:
“Blair is going through a little bit of a slump here right now, but there’s no question that he is our kicker,” Spielman said. “I know Coach Zim made that statement, and Blair is working extremely hard at trying to get through this, and we’re doing everything we can with (Special Teams Coordinator Mike) Priefer to get through this. People forget Blair, a couple of years ago, he was a young kicker that was in the Pro Bowl, and sometimes these guys go through issues. All of a sudden, Jeff Locke has had some struggles last year, and this year, he’s punting lights out right now. Part of having a young football team and young players is sometimes you’re going to have to get them through some of that adversity, but no, Blair Walsh is our kicker.”