Zimmer seeks more from veterans on winless Vikings

Mon Sep 28 7:03pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) is tackled by Minnesota Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) and free safety Anthony Harris (41) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws a pass over Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, right, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)


Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) runs from Minnesota Vikings strong safety Harrison Smith (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After losing the first two games of the season for the first time in his seven years as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Zimmer acknowledged last week some surprise by the growing pains taking place on the side of the ball that's long been his expertise.

''I probably misjudged the defense a little bit, because we had so many new guys,'' Zimmer said, alluding to the lack of offseason practices due to the virus outbreak.

Following his team's latest defeat, Zimmer sounded far more disappointed.

Mistakes made and opportunities missed by Minnesota's most valuable players were especially irksome and perplexing. Despite performing unquestionably better in several areas than they had in their first two games, the Vikings lost 31-30 to Tennessee and dropped to 0-3 after squandering a 12-point late-third-quarter lead.

''The thing I have to figure out right now is to how to keep this team to understand what's causing them to lose,'' Zimmer said.

Some of the setbacks that stood out against the Titans were indicative of inexperience or inferiority at certain positions. Then there were others atypical of Zimmer's smart, disciplined teams, especially one that won a playoff game on the road last winter and has 12 players carrying salary cap hits of $4 million or more with a combined 20 appearances in the Pro Bowl.

''We could win next week 3-2. You never know what's going to happen,'' said quarterback Kirk Cousins, downplaying the notion of a lost identity over the first three games. He later added: ''Winning close games, I think that's a recipe for any team to have success in this league.''

With starting cornerbacks Mike Hughes and Cameron Dantzler sidelined by injuries that further depleted an already raw group, the Vikings surrendered completions of 44, 38 and 61 yards on scoring drives for the Titans that netted 16 points.

On the third of those, a pass by Ryan Tannehill to Kalif Raymond preceding a touchdown run by Derrick Henry that gave Tennessee a 25-24 lead, safeties Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris - one of the best tandems in the NFL - both misread the play and left rookie cornerback Jeff Gladney alone in coverage. Smith intercepted Tannehill in the end zone on the first play of the second quarter, but only after Harris was out of position on the throw.

The offense put up 30 points on 464 yards, but the last two possessions - with the outcome in the balance - ended in a punt and an interception on a total of nine plays netting 13 yards. There were also two penalties, a sack and an errant snap over those crucial closing minutes.

''It's frustrating when you feel like you played a really good game, and then you have a big moment and it kind of looks sloppy,'' wide receiver Adam Thielen said. ''Obviously, something to be able to learn from to make those corrections moving forward.''

WHAT'S WORKING

Dalvin Cook rushed for a career-high 181 yards on just 22 carries, scoring his 19th touchdown in his last 19 games including the playoffs and reaffirming the team's decision to sign him to a $63 million contract extension. Cook is third in the league in rushing, and the Vikings lead the NFL with an average of 6.03 yards per attempt.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The interior of the offensive line has been continually overpowered in pass blocking, a troubling trend tracing back to last year. Dru Samia has been overmatched at right guard in two games since replacing the injured Pat Elflein. Center Garrett Bradbury was not in sync with Cousins on the final drive when his second-down shotgun snap sailed past the quarterback for a 16-yard loss.

STOCK UP

Rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson had his breakout game with seven catches for 175 yards, giving Cousins another dynamic down-field option to help keep defenses from focusing on Thielen.

STOCK DOWN

Harris led the NFL with six interceptions last season, and the Vikings decided to keep him on the franchise tag for about $11.4 million. Judging by Zimmer's comments, they've expected Harris to perform better than he has.

INJURED

Dantzler (rib) missed his second straight game. Hughes (neck) was held out with the more concerning injury, given he missed the playoffs last season with a broken bone in his neck. Hunter (neck) is eligible to come off injured this week, but Zimmer gave no indication he's far enough along in his recovery for that.

KEY NUMBER

4 - Consecutive losses at home by the Vikings, including their last two contests at U.S. Bank Stadium last season, their longest such streak since a five-game skid in 2011.

NEXT STEPS

The good news for the Vikings? They've got another 0-3 team on their schedule this week at Houston. The Vikings are 4-0 all-time against the Texans.

Player Notes
Kai Forbath Oct 20 2:10pm ET

The Los Angeles Rams signed kicker Kai Forbath on Tuesday. Forbath was cut by the Cowboys earlier this year and hasn't kicked at all in 2020. The 33-year-old kicked in just four games in 2019 with the Cowboys and Patriots and made all 11 of his field-goal tries. He's bounced around the NFL in his nine-year career, playing for Washington, New Orleans, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Dallas and New England. Forbath was signed to compete with Samuel Sloman, who has missed either a field goal or extra point in five of the team's six games this year. Sloman currently ranks 24th in the league at the kicking position in terms of fantasy points. Against the Bears on Monday night in Week 7, you can find better streaming options.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Rodgers Oct 20 1:50pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers officially acquired defensive tackle Steve McLendon and a 2023 seventh-round pick from the New York Jets on Tuesday in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick. In six games for the Jets this year, McLendon has 14 combined tackles (eight solo). The 6-foot-3, 310-pounder signed with Gang Green as a free agent in 2016 and recorded 154 tackles (28 for loss), 7.5 sacks and 17 QB hits in 64 games (58 starts) in his time with the Jets. He previously played six seasons for the Steelers and has 244 career tackles (41 for loss), 12.5 sacks and 28 QB hits. McLendon will join a sturdy Bucs defensive line that just shut down Packers running back Aaron Jones and limited quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay's offense to just 10 points in Week 6.

From RotoBaller

Sterling Shepard Oct 20 1:40pm ET

New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (toe) returned to practice on Tuesday. If all goes well, the hope is that he will return from Injured Reserve to play Thursday night against the Eagles. Shepard led the team in receiving last year and has caught eight of his 10 targets for 76 yards in his two games in 2020, including a team-high six receptions in the season-opener. The fifth-year wideout has been out since suffering a turf toe injury in Week 2. It remains to be seen if the G-Men will ease Shepard back into the fold if he plays in Week 7, but you should check your waiver wire to see if he was dropped by his previous owner. When healthy, Shepard should be quarterback Daniel Jones' top receiving target. The matchup is a good one for New York's pass-catchers, too, as Philly's D has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to receivers through six weeks.

From RotoBaller

Derrick Henry Oct 20 1:40pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that linebacker Devin Bush (knee) will undergo surgery to fix his torn ACL on Wednesday. Bush will miss the remainder of the 2020 season. It's a big blow to the Steelers Defense, as the No. 10 overall pick from 2019 had been a big contributor in the middle of the field. The 22-year-old had 26 tackles (16 solo), two QB hits, three passes defensed and one sack in five games this season after recording 109 combined tackles, two interceptions, four passes defensed and four fumble recoveries in a very productive rookie season in 2019. The loss of Bush will be something to watch moving forward, as Pittsburgh's defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs this year. It's good news for Titans running back Derrick Henry in the Week 7 showdown of two unbeaten teams.

From RotoBaller

John Ross Oct 20 11:40am ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III has asked the team for a trade. The speedy former ninth overall pick had been inactive for three straight weeks before returning to action in Week 6, but he played just one snap against the Colts. Ross' agent said that his client is frustrated with his lack of playing time and they've had talks with the team about a trade, but those talks didn't go very far. The 25-year-old had a couple 100-yard games early last season, but then he got hurt and never quite established a firm role in the offense. Now he's behind Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green and rookie Tee Higgins on the receiver depth chart and has just two catches for 17 yards in three games this year. A change of scenery would be for the best, but it wouldn't guarantee that he resurfaces to fantasy relevance.

From RotoBaller

Tua Tagovailoa Oct 20 11:40am ET

The Miami Dolphins are naming rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa their starting quarterback heading into their Week 7 bye week, according to a source. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will now serve as the backup after Tagovailoa made his NFL debut in the blowout win over the Jets in Week 6. The rookie from Alabama completed both of his pass attempts for nine yards against New York. The biggest takeaway on Sunday was that he looked fully healthy, and the Dolphins are obviously confident that he's ready for the NFL stage as their starter. That'll come in Week 8 against a tough Rams Defense looking to bounce back after a loss to the division-rival 49ers. Tagovailoa has plenty of upside as a poised and accurate QB that can also use his legs, but he'll be a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues for his first career NFL start in two weeks.

From RotoBaller

Andy Isabella Oct 20 10:40am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella has dropped off significantly after his two-touchdown performance in Week 3. This week, in the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys, he was held without a catch and received just two targets. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray struggled in the game, completing just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards. Christian Kirk, meanwhile, reeled in the team's only two receiving touchdowns in the game and has continued to be Murray's preferred target over Isabella. There's no need to hold on to Isabella in any fantasy leagues as long as the Cardinals are fully healthy at receiver.

From RotoBaller

Arizona Cardinals Oct 20 10:40am ET

The Cardinals Defense had their best outing of the year so far in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. They held the Cowboys to just 10 points in the game and came up with two Andy Dalton interceptions as well as two fumble recoveries, both as a result of Ezekiel Elliott fumbles. The Cardinals also sacked Dalton three times in the game. While it was certainly an encouraging outing from the Cardinals Defense, don't expect a similar result in Week 7 when they face the Seattle Seahawks, who have topped 30 points in four of their five games this year.

From RotoBaller

Larry Fitzgerald Oct 20 10:30am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wasn't heavily utilized in the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Fitzgerald was targeted four times in the game and came down with three catches for 22 yards. It's been an extremely slow start to the year for Fitzgerald, who is yet to top 50 receiving yards in a game and also yet to score a touchdown this year. Kyler Murray had a rough day throwing the ball in this game, completing just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards. Fitzgerald shouldn't be trusted as a starting option for now and can be left on waivers in most leagues at this point.

From RotoBaller

Christian Kirk Oct 20 10:20am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk had only two catches in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys, but luckily they were both big ones. Kirk had a six-yard touchdown reception and an 80-yard touchdown reception, leading to his final stat line of two catches for 86 yards on three targets. The Cardinals dominated the Cowboys, winning 38-10, but their passing game struggled a bit, regardless. Kyler Murray only completed nine passes all game and totaled just 188 yards. That's three-straight solid fantasy outings now for Kirk, who should be considered a decent WR3 or flex option in most formats going forward.

From RotoBaller

DeAndre Hopkins Oct 20 10:20am ET

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a 60-yard reception in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. It was his longest gain of the season. However, he wasn't able to do much else in the game. He was targeted eight times on Monday night and came down with just two catches for 73 yards. It was a rough game from a passing standpoint for the Cardinals as quarterback Kyler Murray completed just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards. Christian Kirk had the team's only two touchdown receptions in the game. It was the first game this year in which Hopkins was held under six receptions. Look for him to bounce back strong when the team faces the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7.

From RotoBaller

Kenyan Drake Oct 20 10:10am ET

Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake had a much-needed breakout game in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. Drake rushed the ball 20 times for 164 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first game with over 100 yards from scrimmage this year as well as his first time averaging over five yards per carry in a game. Drake had his stat line bolstered significantly by a 69-yard touchdown run with under two minutes left when the game was already decided, but it was a true breakout game for Drake regardless. He's been a frustrating slow-starter for fantasy owners this year, but hopefully his Week 6 breakout will be a sign of things to come.

From RotoBaller

Chase Edmonds Oct 20 10:10am ET

Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds wasn't able to contribute much to the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Edmonds had five carries for 23 yards in the game and caught one of his two targets for six yards. The Cardinals dominated the last three quarters of the game and leaned heavily on No. 1 running back Kenyan Drake to seal the victory, giving him a total of 20 carries in the game. Even though Drake has struggled out of the gate this year, the team is still sticking with him as their primary ball-carrier with Edmonds as a pass-catching option and change-of-pace rusher. Edmonds is still worth owning in most leagues and could see an uptick in usage when the Cardinals attempt to keep pace with the high-scoring Seattle Seahawks in Week 7.

From RotoBaller

Kyler Murray Oct 20 10:00am ET

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray had a rough overall game despite the team's 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6. Luckily, it still turned out to be a decent fantasy day. Murray completed just nine of his 24 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. He also added 74 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. It was his first game of the year without a turnover, which is certainly encouraging, but he's now been held under 200 passing yards in two of his past three games. With 370 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns on the year, he's definitely doing enough to remain a no doubt QB1 in all formats, but it's been a shakier start to the season than fantasy owners were hoping to see from the second-year pro.

From RotoBaller

John Ross Oct 20 9:53am ET

Cincinnati Bengals WR John Ross approached the team about a trade. Ross is in the last year of his rookie deal and seeking a fresh start.

From TheHuddle

Le'Veon Bell Oct 20 9:13am ET

Updating previous reports, Kansas City Chiefs RB Le'Veon Bell will receive $500,000 for 25 percent playing time in an AFC title win and $500,000 for 25 percent playing time in a Super Bowl win.

From TheHuddle

Larry Fitzgerald Oct 20 1:43am ET

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald extended his streak with at least one reception to 249 games in Week 6 against the Dallas Cowboys. His streak is the longest of any player with a single team, and the second-longest overall streak in NFL history (Jerry Rice, 274). Fitzgerald's streak started Nov. 7, 2004.

From TheHuddle

Patrick Mahomes Oct 20 1:33am ET

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes tossed two touchdowns in Week 6 against the Buffalo Bills, and he set a franchise record with at least one scoring strike in 16 straight outings.

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Malik Jackson Oct 20 1:23am ET

Philadelphia Eagles DL Malik Jackson (quadriceps) might miss two weeks due to the a quadriceps injury he suffered in the Week 6 game against the Baltimore Ravens.

From TheHuddle

Michael Gallup Oct 20 1:03am ET

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup posted two catches for 15 yards on six targets in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Fantasy Spin: Gallup definitely wasn't on the same page as new starter Andy Dalton, and he was very far behind Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb for the eye of the quarterback among the wide receivers. He is only worth a look as a WR5 in fantasy leagues of 12 or more teams heading into Week 7 on the road against the Washington Football Team.

From TheHuddle