Notebook: Vikings still trying to figure out linebacker mix

Linebacker Chad Greenway has led the Vikings in tackles in each of the past six seasons.

Charlie Neibergall/Charlie Neibergall/Associated Pr

MANKATO, Minn. — When Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer met with reporters following Wednesday’s practice, he mentioned Chad Greenway’s movement around the defense has essentially ended and Greenway would settle in at weakside linebacker.

Zimmer said Thursday that the move has more to do with trying to evaluate the other players and knowing Greenway can have success on the outside, where he’s played his entire seven-year career.

"I know Chad is a good football player, a smart guy, has a lot of value in a lot of different things he can do," Zimmer said. "So really what we were trying to do is, if he moves to inside maybe we can look at another guy outside. Or if he’s outside, we can look at another guy inside. We’re just trying to get, really, we’re just trying to get the best 11 players on the field."

Zimmer is still trying to find out who might line up next to Greenway.

"We’re just going to let it play out and keep going and keep getting these guys reps and try and figure out the best way we can and where we’re going to go from there," Zimmer said.

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Greenway has taken some snaps as the middle linebacker in the base defense as Minnesota continues to look for a solution in the middle. Greenway also has practiced as the middle linebacker in the nickel defense.

But any experimenting with Greenway in the middle in the base defense was minor. Greenway said he would take "between zero and three a day" during the offseason portion or early in training camp.

Greenway, who has led the Vikings in tackles in each of the past six seasons, said he was open to the movement, if Zimmer felt a change was best for the defense.

"I thought it was fine," Greenway said Thursday. "I think even when you get older you have to have a bigger ability to be flexible and kind of roll with the punches. Any time you let your pride or ego get in the way, it’s just going to kind of hinder your future as you go forward. For me, it’s about whatever the team needs and whatever I can do. He’s going to put me in the best positions to be successful because he wants to win. I’m hoping that it will work out."

Greenway’s responsibilities are changing dramatically in the nickel defense. But as Greenway noted, his role has been the most defined even as he moved around a bit.

"I think I’m pretty well-defined," Greenway said. "I was taking a few of the ‘Mike’ reps in base but not a lot to take away from what I normally would do. Yeah, I think for the most part, of all the linebackers, I’ve taken the most consistent as far as where I’m playing."

Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole and Michael Mauti are continuing to get looks in the middle of the base defense.

"With us keeping Chad at the weakside linebacker spot right now, it has nothing to do with him really, other than we know he can play that spot," Zimmer said. "What I’m trying to do is make it so that he doesn’t have to do a bunch of thinking now. We’re just going to let him settle in and then go from here."

The rotations in the other spots are continuing. Rookie first-round pick Anthony Barr has joined Greenway and Brinkley on the first unit’s base defense on the outside. In the nickel defense, several players have been mixed in. Barr and Greenway have played together. Rookie Brandon Watts has seen time behind Greenway as the middle linebacker in the nickel.

Greenway is one of the veteran leaders of the Vikings defense and can be seen talking one-on-one with Zimmer during practices.

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"A lot of coaching, alignments, assignments and talking about different things," Greenway said. "There’s a lot of moving parts and I think obviously it’s important to get it right. Especially being a leader or veteran, he needs to know that he can talk to his leaders and coach them and be hard on them just like anybody, and I think it’s important for us older guys to be accepting, and he knows this defense better than anybody. We obviously want to be great, so it’s up to us to how good we want to be."

Too much predictability: Running back Adrian Peterson mentioned earlier this week that the Vikings offense had become too predictable in the past and promised that wouldn’t be the case this year under offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

Former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave utilized a heavy run approach, with Peterson as the lead. Receivers Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson spoke Thursday and agreed with Peterson’s assessment.

"Yeah, I do," Simpson said when asked if the offense was predictable last year.

Simpson was asked if defenses knew how to defend the Vikings because of the predictability.

"Yeah, because we were not using everybody to the best of their abilities," Simpson said. "We were a little vanilla last year. That’s kind of the reason Adrian stayed banged up a lot because it was predictable what we were going to run."

Under-the-radar players: Zimmer was asked Thursday which under-the-radar players have caught his attention through one week of training camp.

"Jabari Price, he’s done a really nice job, I thought," Zimmer said. "He’s played some in the nickel. He’s played some outside. Rodney Smith started out slow and the last two or three days he’s shown a lot better. He’s running off the ball better now. He’s running better routes. ‘Tiny’ Richardson has been doing a pretty good job at left tackle. Zach Line has done a good job at fullback."

Price, a cornerback who was picked in the seventh round of this year’s draft, has been mentioned by Zimmer previously. Smith, a 6-foot-5 receiver, is in his second season with Minnesota. Richardson is a rookie out of Tennessee who went undrafted because of health concerns with his knees.

Line filled in during fullback Jerome Felton’s suspension last season before missing the final 13 games with a knee injury.

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Blanton still out: Safety Robert Blanton was held completely out of practice on Thursday as he deals with a hamstring injury.

Zimmer said Blanton had an edge to start at safety before he was hurt. Without Blanton, Minnesota rotated Mistral Raymond, Jamarca Sanford and Antone Exum with Harrison Smith at safety on Thursday.

"We don’t know how long he’s going to be out, first of all, so there’s really no update," Zimmer said. "And secondly, it’s to continue to look at these guys we have and try to narrow that situation down. Right now we have Mistral Raymond in there. We’re moving guys around. Harrison’s moved to the other side now because of that. It’ll all play out just like the linebacker situation."

Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson was a full participant in practice and was back to return duties during the afternoon padded practice.

Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn participated for the second straight day after being activated off the physically unable to perform list and got his first action in full team drills. He was used as an outside cornerback in the base defense and inside during the nickel.

"We’ll be careful with him a little bit," Zimmer said. "They’re pretty ready to go, I think. It’s nice to have them back out there."