Vikings confirm Cassel to start again Saturday
EDEN PRAIRIE - Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer confirmed Monday, as expected, that quarterback Matt Cassel will make his third straight preseason start Saturday at Kansas City.
Although Zimmer has yet to name the starter for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener, Cassel will be under center barring injury when the Vikings travel to St. Louis.
Cassel, who is competing with rookie Teddy Bridgewater, hit 12 of 16 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown and added 30 rushing yards in last Saturday's 30-28 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
"Matt is doing great," Zimmer said. "Honestly, he takes charge of the football team. I still like to have them compete and we still have to keep competing.
"I think Matt has a great command of the offense. He is getting better at it all the time, he is making the correct throws and you know what he is taking care of the football."
A week after completing 5 of 6 passes during a 10-play touchdown drive and then taking a seat, Cassel played the entire first half against the Cardinals.
Cassel will return to Kansas City, where he played for the Chiefs from 2009-12.
Zimmer said that Bridgewater could see some duty with the first-team offense against the Chiefs.
Bridgewater set franchise preseason passing records while leading the Vikings from behind twice in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals.
Bridgewater played the entire second half and bounced back nicely from a poor preseason opener and some rocky training camp practices. He completed 16 of 20 passes for 177 yards, no turnovers, a 136.9 passer rating and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 2-yard touch pass to Rodney Smith with 11 seconds left.
Meanwhile, the defensive unit is giving offenses multiple looks and personnel.
Defensive end Brian Robison said he prefers to rush the passer from his left end spot. But he's not complaining. After seven seasons of playing in a conservative Tampa 2-oriented defense that rarely changed its fronts, Robison said he's enjoying some of the benefits with the changes.
In Saturday's game, there was a third-and-two play in which Arizona quarterback Drew Stanton had to throw the ball away from his own goal line to avoid heavy pressure. At the snap, rookie linebacker Anthony Barr was lined up as a down lineman at right end. Right end Everson Griffen was lined up at Robinson's left end spot. And Robison was rushing from the tackle spot.
"(Barr) can give us that versatility on defense to where we can all kind of move around and have different parts of the defense and allow us to keep offenses offbeat," Robison said. "(Offenses) can't key in on one guy. If they have one guy they need to take care of, they can't because they don't know where he's going to be.
"So whether it's myself, (right end) Everson (Griffen) or Barr, you are not going to know where those rushers are coming from. You might be on the right side one time, you might be on the left side one time, you might be inside one time. You might be blitzing from the back end one time. You just never know where you're going to be."
Barr has flown further under the radar so far.
While fans have fixated on Bridgewater, chanting his first name during training camp and the first two preseason games, Barr, the ninth overall pick, has quietly secured the starting strong-side linebacker job and led the team in sacks with 1 1/2 through two games.
Robison, 31 and in his eighth season, was asked to evaluate the 22-year-old Barr as a down lineman rushing the passer.
"I think he's got a little bit of a learning curve there," Robison said. "He's not used to having his hand in the dirt, but his willingness to learn is refreshing to see."
--Nose tackle Linval Joseph, who suffered a minor gunshot wound to his calf as an innocent bystander during a shooting incident at a downtown Minneapolis nightclub on Aug. 9, started his rehab process on Monday. He won't practice this week or play the third preseason game, but is expected to start when the regular season begins.
--Cornerback Josh Robinson, who continues to nurse a hamstring injury, is testing the coaching staff's patience. Zimmer was visibly impatient when asked Monday when safety Robert Blanton and Robinson would return. "Blanton will return today," Zimmer said. "The other guy, who knows?"
--Cornerback Jabari Price, the rookie seventh-round draft pick who has been turning heads this summer, will miss Saturday's game because of an arm or shoulder injury. The team wouldn't reveal the exact nature of Price's injury. Without Price and Robinson, the Vikings are relying on punt returner Marcus Sherels as their No. 3 corner. --Linebacker Gerald Hodges will miss Saturday's game because of a knee injury.
--Cornerback Shaun Prater suffered a head injury on Saturday. He missed Monday's practice, but Zimmer said he was expected to return Tuesday.