Notebook: Anthony Barr, Robison shift spots in Vikings' DL experiment
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
MINNEAPOLIS - Anthony Barr's second NFL sack credit came from defensive end as the Minnesota Vikings continue to search for the proper third-down, pass-rushing combination for the regular season.
Barr, Brian Robison and Everson Griffen shifted around multiple spots in Saturday's 30-28 win over the Arizona Cardinals, including a set that put Robison at three-technique, with Griffen at left end and Barr at right end.
Barr's sack on first down ended the Cardinals' two-minute drill before halftime to keep the Vikings' deficit at 14-13.
"The defensive backs did a good job of covering, forced the quarterback to scramble," Barr said. "It definitely is difficult, because there's not a lot of carryover between the two positions. On the same call, the linebacker does one thing, the defensive end does another. So you have to really separate those two in two different categories, so that's where the challenge comes in."
Mike Zimmer called for an improved pass rush after the team's preseason opener and the Vikings' starting defensive line produced against the Cardinals' first- and second-string offensive line. Barr got the lone sack on Drew Stanton, while Griffen and Sharrif Floyd forced errant passes by Cardinals starter Carson Palmer.
"We got them into third-down situations and were able to mix the rush around a little bit tonight," Zimmer said. "I think we got some pressure on them."
With Griffen's $42.5 million extension to be a fulltime defensive end, the Vikings lost their situational pass rusher as Griffen played more at defensive tackle during his first four seasons than he did from end. The Vikings hope Barr, who also took snaps inside, can fill that role along the defensive front to keep players like Robison and Griffen interchangeable.
The Griffen, Robison and Barr front included Tom Johnson at nose tackle. Johnson played nose in a 3-4 front during his tenure with the New Orleans Saints.
"Whether it's myself or Everson or Barr, you're not going to know where those rushers are coming from," Robison said. "Because you know he might be on right side one time, left side one time or inside one time; might be blitzing from the back end, you just never know where they're going to be."
The Vikings used the second preseason game to continue mixing and matching their defensive linemen to find the most productive four rushers on third downs, which included Barr at end and linebacker Gerald Hodges filling his spot as the nickel linebacker next to Chad Greenway.
Robison's experience on the inside helps the Vikings use both he and Griffen in similar roles, however Robison wouldn't mind if Barr could fill that spot along the interior.
"It creates mismatches sometimes," Robison said. "Would I rather rush off the edge? Absolutely. But bottom line is it's an opportunity to face a different guy and give our team a chance to win."
Chris Crocker debuted for the Vikings as a starter next to safety Harrison Smith as the Vikings mixed in Jamarca Sanford, Andrew Sendejo and Kurt Coleman.
A couple starting spots are up for grabs on the Vikings defense, including middle linebacker, third cornerback in nickel and the second safety next to Smith. Sanford finished with four combined tackles, the most among all Vikings safeties.
"I didn't notice Crocker all that much," Zimmer said. "Jamarca had some good plays, a couple bad plays. Sendejo the same thing. It was a little bit of a mixed bag, so we'll evaluate more on tape."
The surprise performance
The announced crowd of 51,763 chanted Teddy Bridgewater's name once again at TCF Bank Stadium, but it was fourth-string running back Joe Banyard that stood out most among the Vikings' offensive reserves.
Bridgewater finished with 177 passing yards, while Banyard compiled 132 total yards through rushing, receiving and returning opportunities, including a 56-yard run to mark the Vikings' longest play of the game. That run was the sixth-longest in the team's preseason history, longest since Jordan Todman's 76-yard touchdown run in 2012.
Banyard handled two of the five kickoffs, including a team-high, 44-yard return.
• Cornerback Shaun Prater left the game in the first half with what Zimmer called a 'mild concussion.' He did not return.
• Cornerback Jabari Price was helped off by trainers in the fourth quarter with an apparent shoulder injury. After the game, he vowed he wouldn't miss any practice.
• The Vikings were the least-penalized team in the NFC a season ago, however they saw 10 yellow flags fly in their direction for 102 penalty yards - including a 33-yard defensive pass interference call on cornerback Derek Cox that helped set up the Cardinals' go-ahead touchdown run in the fourth quarter off a botched snap on fourth down.
• Referee Craig Wrolstad clarified the play, which was reviewed and ultimately upheld after a Cardinals lineman batted the ball sideways to Zach Bauman, who scored the six-yard scamper. Wrolstad said: "The ball was snapped. It was a backward pass...The snap is considered a backwards pass. Any backwards pass can be advanced by any team, any direction, on any down. So, it wasn't a fumble, because the snap was never possessed by any of the players."