In any NFL Training Camp, you're bound to have your ups and downs while working out the kinks. Schemes intended to maximize protection sometimes end up in blown coverages. Passes intended for open receivers sometimes clang to the ground. And large vehicles intended to film practice sometimes crash through fences. Today was one of those days.
Yeah, we'll get to that last one a little later. For now, let's focus on the football.
THE SIMPSON SITUATION
Before I get into my notes, I wanted to follow up on the Jerome Simpson situation. I stated in my morning recap that the more people I talk to in Mankato, the more I felt like he wasn't going to make the team. Now I have a slightly different theory.
Of course this is all predicated on Simpson actually getting suspended--there's a very distinct possibility that he doesn't. I'm not sure how his offenses are categorized, but basically the league might not put a DUI and getting weed mailed to your house under the same punishable umbrella (as dumb as both offenses are). For argument's sake let's say Simpson does get suspended for 2, 4, 6, or whatever number of games. Couldn't they do the same thing they did with DeMarcus Love last year?
Love was suspended for the first four games of 2013, yet the Vikings kept him on the team because he didn't count against the active roster of 53. As soon as he was reactivated, the team decided they didn't need him and cut him loose. Couldn't they repeat that with Simpson? If Simpson returns from his suspension and the Vikes decide they're still all good in the wide receiver department, they could waive him. But if they suffer a couple major injuries while he's suspended, they could put a guy on IR and give Simpson another shot. Again this is all assuming Simpson actually does get suspended and there are likely some cap ramifications involved, but it's food for thought at the very least.
FRIDAY AFTERNOON NOTEBOOK
- Fun cameo appearance: former lineman David Dixon was there with his kids. He still looks nearly identical to his playing days, which is odd because linemen usually gain or lose about 75 pounds after retirement.
- The absentees: Josh Robinson, Andrew Sendejo, and Robert Blanton were all at practice, but not in pads nursing their various maladies. A.C. Leonard was still missing altogether due to what we've only heard as "headaches". [Insert Percy Harvin joke here.]
- Chad Greenway was all suited up, but he didn't participate at all this afternoon. After asking around I was told that they were simply giving him a break, which according to Greenway was his first camp practice off in his career. The team feels confident that Greenway knows what he's supposed to do out there and wanted to give other linebackers a shot.
- And wow, did they give other linebackers a shot this afternoon. If the linebackers on the roster were songs on Mike Zimmer's iPod playlist, he hit the shuffle button today. First we noticed Brandon Watts getting run with the first team next to Jasper Brinkley and Anthony Barr. Then we saw Gerald Hodges in for a couple plays. Then we say Larry Dean (you read that right) behind the starting defensive linemen. So for those asking: no, the linebacker rotation is definitely not set in stone yet. (So there's still hope for the Michael Mauti supporters!)
- The secondary wasn't immune to the playlist shuffle either. Kurt Coleman was in the starting mix today and made a nice impact, picking off a Matt Cassel pass in 11 on 11. Captain Munnerlyn and Xavier Rhodes still got the lion's share of first team snaps but Derek Cox, Jabari Price, Shaun Prater, Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford, and Kendall James were all getting subbed in and out throughout practice. In other words, just about everyone is getting a shot to prove themselves.
- Teddy Bridgewater had a pretty skittish day overall. It looked like the rookie was thinking a little too much about his passes, taking the extra half second before his throws. As a result, a lot of his throws were slightly off target. He wasn't "pro day bad" all day but it certainly wasn't his best effort. Meanwhile, Cassel started off slowly but finished the 11 on 11 portion of practice looking solid. He was the better quarterback overall today. (Remember kids, we're only a week into Training Camp. Mama told us there'd be days like this.)
- Derek Cox is Teddy Bridgewater's worst nightmare! OK maybe not but Cox picked him off for the second straight day after Adam Thielen slipped on a comeback route. Even before Thielen slipped, Cox was in excellent position to make the play. The free agent corner is really making a name for himself this week.
- The punt return group was the same as it has been for a while: Marcus Sherels, Jerick McKinnon, Jarius Wright, Thielen, Erik Lora, and Kain Colter (with Robinson watching). Sherels still looks the best. McKinnon and Colter showed flashes. Thielen looked good again. And Lora should probably find another way of making the team because he dropped no less than three punts today. To be fair, Lora made a couple nice catches with the third unit in the full-field drills.
- It was a pretty impressive day for the defensive linemen in 11 on 11, especially the starters. Brian Robison and Everson Griffen met in the backfield on a couple occasions. Sharrif Floyd was very good and Linval Joseph might have been even a little better. I wasn't impressed with Tom Johnson in the D-line drills but he was in the backfield very often against the second team O-line. Scott Crichton was flying around the edge as he is wont to do. Corey Wootton was solid in rushing and even dropped back in coverage nicely a couple times. I think this Zimmer fella and his staff might just know how to coach up the defense.
- However, the offensive line held their own in the individual drills. Matt Kalil held Griffen in check in the few battles I saw. The defense had to fight for every inch on almost every occasion.