Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

–Minnesota remembers the last meeting well. “We got beat bad,” defensive end Everson Griffen said. “It was a learning experience. We played around like 10 – it was like 9 p.m. our time though. It was like really late California time but we don’t make excuses, we got beat. They ran some good plays. They out-schemed us. We couldn’t get them down on the ground. We learned a lot of things.”

–Jerick McKinnon will miss the chance to play against his former team. McKinnon, the Vikings’ third-round draft pick in 2013, signed a four-year, $30 million contract with San Francisco in the offseason. But McKinnon tore his ACL in practice on cutdown day and was placed on injured reserve. The 49ers signed Alfred Morris during the preseason and he could start Week 1 at running back and split time with Matt Breida. “I was real excited to get to go up against him,” Griffen said. “I know he was all pumped up and fired up.”

–Minnesota got younger by releasing defensive end Brian Robison and having cornerback Terence Newman announce his retirement. Robison, the longest-tenured Viking and tied for ninth in team history with 60 sacks, was a surprise cut as the team got to the 53-man roster limit. The 12-year veteran had lost his starting spot to Hunter last season and the Vikings decided to go young with Tashawn Bower and Stephen Weatherly as the backups at defensive end.

Newman retired, but he isn’t gone. Newman, who was three days shy of his 40th birthday when he retired, joined the coaching staff and he will work with the team’s defensive backs, particularly the nickel, slot backs. “At some point, you have to be true to yourself and say, ‘Hey, do I want to keep going forward, have a chance to maybe tear up your back or neck or whatever,'” Newman said. “Some of the younger talent, obviously, you have to either say, ‘I’ll be selfish,’ and maybe take the roster spot or get somebody else an opportunity to live their dream. So, it was pretty easy. Everybody’s asking me if I’m OK and all this. I’m good. I’m still in football. I still have an opportunity to chase a Super Bowl ring.”

–Minnesota is hoping Cousins can end the revolving door at quarterback. No quarterback has led the team in passing for three straight seasons since Daunte Culpepper from 2000-04. Keenum led the team in passing last year with 3,547 yards. Bradford led the team in 2016. Teddy Bridgewater had back-to-back seasons as the passing leader, but injuries forced the Vikings to move past Bridgewater and then Bradford.

–Zimmer was unwilling to announce who will start at center against San Francisco. With Pat Elflein not expected to play, Minnesota has Brett Jones and Danny Isidora as possibilities. Jones has started in the NFL at the position. Isidora is a guard who got his first game action at center last week in the fourth preseason game. Isidora started the game with Jones at left guard. Jones played center in the second half with Isidora shifting to right guard. “I think that might be the natural position for him,” Zimmer said of Isidora. “He hasn’t done it before, so for him to do it in basically a week, I think, has been impressive. He’s been good this week, as well.”

–The Vikings made one waiver claim after setting their initial 53-man roster. Minnesota claimed punter Matt Wile from the Pittsburgh Steelers and released Ryan Quigley. Quigley was last in the NFL last season in gross-punting average and was 27th in net average, but he didn’t have a touchback on any of his 71 punts. He entered training camp uncontested for his spot, but the punting team struggled in the preseason with punts and coverage. Quigley averaged 46.0 yards per punt in the preseason with a 36.4 net average. Wile averaged 49.0 yards on eight preseason punts with a 48.8 net average. “His hangtime is really good,” Zimmer said of Wile. “His average is good. We just didn’t feel like we were punting very well in the preseason.”

–Safety Harrison Smith: The easy answer here is the quarterback and Minnesota really needs Cousins to be close to an MVP-type. Quarterbacks seem to always be the default pick league-wide, and for good reason. But we’ll stick with the leader of the defense and arguably the best safety in the league in Smith. This defense just looks different when Smith is in the middle of the action and at his best. Look at the NFC Championship Game last year for an example of Smith’s impact. Smith, admittedly, didn’t play to his ability against Philadelphia. He missed a key tackle at one point, allowed tight end Zach Ertz to have a big day and couldn’t get back as Torrey Smith caught a long touchdown on a flea flicker. The Eagles had 346 yards passing and 456 total yards in the game. But Harrison is also coming off his first season as a first-team All-Pro. He had 93 combined tackles, 1.5 sacks and five interceptions. He’s adept at blitzing, a sure tackler in run defense and covers a lot of ground in pass defense, allowing Zimmer the ability to design more surprises for opponents.

–Cornerback Mike Hughes: If everything goes to plan for Minnesota, there are only two possible answers for the team’s top rookie. Hughes, the first-round pick (No. 30 overall), has proven to be a quick learner. Other than kicker Daniel Carlson, the rest of the team’s rookies are seen as development types. Hughes isn’t expected to have a big role at the start of the season – maybe serving as the fourth cornerback against San Francisco in Week 1 – but he could force his way into more playing time. He’s practiced inside and outside and picked up both spots in head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense. Hughes will also get the first shot as the team’s kickoff returner to start the season.