Vikings' Zimmer calls Walsh's misses 'a concern'
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings signed kicker Blair Walsh to a four-year, $14 million extension at the start of training camp. He hasn't lived up to it so far.
MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings signed kicker Blair Walsh to a four-year, $14 million extension at the start of training camp. He hasn’t lived up to it so far.
In Saturday night’s 20-12 preseason win over Oakland at TCF Bank Stadium, Walsh missed three field-goal attempts, two inside of 40 yards and one inside of 50, and an extra point. Granted, there was rain and wind, but it was a disastrous outing regardless.
Walsh missed wide right on a 35-yard field-goal attempt in the first quarter, wide left on a 38-yard attempt in the fourth and wide right on a 49-yard attempt in the fourth. His extra-point miss in the second quarter was at the new distance this season of 33 yards.
“It was discouraging in the moment, but when you look back on what I’ve done in camp that’s the most frustrating thing is you want to take the results of what you did pre-game and in camp,’’ Walsh said. “I’m not doing it right now, and I’m not translating it over, and I need to fix it.’’
Is Vikings coach Mike Zimmer concerned about Walsh’s tough outing?
“Yeah, a lot of things concern me,’’ he said. “Not just that.’’
In the preseason opener Aug. 9 against Pittsburgh, Walsh missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. So he is now a meager 2 for 6 on field goals in the preseason, with all attempts inside the 50.
In his first three seasons, Walsh was 68 for 77 on field-goal attempts from inside the 50.
On extra points, Walsh in the regular season is 108 for 109, with all his attempts at the old distance of 20 yards. Although the distance was moved back this season, Vikings special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, speaking earlier this summer about Walsh, said, “I would expect him to be 100 percent.’’
Walsh at least did make extra-point attempts in the second and third quarters.
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr on Saturday played in his first game since Nov. 30, 2014.
Barr missed the final four games last season because of a left knee injury that required surgery. He sat out the first two preseason games with knee inflammation.
Barr said he believed he could have played better but that it felt “great” to get a win. He knocked down a pass at the line in the first half but wondered if it could have been an interception.
“The ball is coming out quick, so I shortened my rush and got my arms up, and hopefully next time it will be an interception,’’ Barr said.
Barr missed much of spring drills because of knee issues and also was limited early in training camp to get his conditioning back. He said it was difficult Saturday playing a game that had a 1-hour, 5-minute weather delay in the second quarter.
“It’s tough,’’ Barr said. “It’s frustrating not really being able to get into a rhythm.’’
Zimmer said Barr did “OK’’ in his return. He said the Vikings “blitzed him once or twice just to kind of get his feet wet.’’
There were at least three Super Bowl Most Valuable Players on hand Saturday. They included Oakland linebacker Malcolm Smith, who starred for Seattle in Super Bowl XLVIII, Raiders radio analyst Jim Plunkett, who quarterbacked Oakland to victory in Super Bowl XV, and Washington executive Doug Williams, the winning quarterback for the Redskins in Super Bowl XXII.
Williams was on hand to evaluate players, namely those who might get cut. He did like what he saw from Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
“I like Teddy,’’ Williams said. “Give him some time and some guys around him and he’ll be good.’’
Battle in the middle
Rookie Eric Kendricks got his first preseason start in the battle to become Minnesota’s middle linebacker.
Audie Cole had started the first two preseason games. Also in the mix for the starting job is Gerald Hodges, who had been outside linebacker in his first two seasons.
Zimmer had said before the game the plan was to use all three players. He said he started Kendricks, a second-round pick last May out of UCLA, because he wanted to see him against first-string players rather than against second-stringers.
“I wouldn’t read too much into any of this stuff,’’ Zimmer said. “We played Kendricks to start the game at (middle linebacker) and then we played Hodges and then we played Audie. We’re just looking at different combinations.”
Not dressing out Saturday for the Vikings were running back Adrian Peterson (sitting out preseason), center John Sullivan (muscle spasms), cornerback Antone Exum (hamstring), defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee surgery), tackle Carter Bykowski (shoulder surgery) and tight end MyCole Pruitt (sprained ankle). Also not playing was wide receiver Jordan Leslie.
Joe Berger filled in for Sullivan. Also new to the offensive line was right tackle T.J. Clemmings, starting after Phil Loadholt was lost the previous week to a torn left Achilles and placed on injured reserve.
Ponder booed in return
Just as he expected, quarterback Christian Ponder was booed Saturday night in his return to Minnesota. But he didn’t respond with what he had thought about doing.
Ponder, who had a mediocre Vikings tenure from 2011-14 before signing last March with Oakland as a free agent, returned for a 20-12 preseason loss at TCF Bank Stadium. Earlier in the week, Ponder had talked about taking a bow when the boos came.
“It never happened because it kind of happened late when I was running onto the field already, so I probably wimped out,” Ponder said.
Ponder entered the game with 6:25 left in the second quarter, shortly after an hour and five minute weather delay spurred most fans to leave. Still, there were enough left to make the boos noticeable.
“I was prepared for it, so it didn’t really affect me,” Ponder said. “It made it kind of fun coming back. It was good to see a lot of the guys, a lot of the staff and a lot of the players and reconnect with them. But you know, it was expected, so I got a little chuckle out of it.”
Ponder completed 7 of 11 passes for 69 yards. He played three series, leading the Raiders to two field goals.
“The first drive went pretty well,” Ponder said of a drive that included a 39-yard pass to Seth Roberts. “We’d like to finish with touchdowns rather than field goals, but it was good to get points on the board. ... There were some good things and some things that I can improve upon, but it was good to be out there.”
Ponder is battling Matt McGloin for the backup job behind starter Derek Carr. McGloin completed 5 of 7 passes for 20 yards and didn’t lead the Raiders to any points.