Notebook: Peterson confident practice is enough to fit to new offense
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MINNEAPOLIS - This will be the third consecutive preseason Adrian Peterson has sat out all four games.
However, this is the first exhibition schedule he's missed while being tasked to learn a new offensive system, one that will present changes to his game, as he prepares for the Sept. 7 opener at St. Louis.
"I think he's really zeroed in and focused in on what we're trying to do," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "We've added some different runs, some runs that are a little different in terms of style. He's taken to them and I think he's getting very comfortable with them."
Under Turner, Peterson has also prepared to be more involved as a receiver, which is new to the former NFL MVP. Just about 10 percent [206 rec.] of Peterson's career NFL touches have come in the passing game.
Whether by design or not, the Vikings' most successful seasons with Peterson have been when he's caught the ball more, including 2009 [career-high 43 receptions] and 2012 [40 receptions].
Peterson has been limited to practice time to assimilate himself into the new offense as the risk of injury isn't worth exhibition game reps -- and Peterson alluded Turner isn't revealing all the run plays with backup Matt Asiata in the preseason.
"A lot more runs out of the gun, that's different," Peterson said. "I didn't really run the ball out of the gun a lot last year. Even in single back, or with a fullback in front of me, we have some different runs that we're able to implement when the season starts."
During exhibitions and practice, the Vikings have executed a variety of run plays outside of the traditional inside-the-tackles offense Peterson is used to. Turner wants to get Peterson out in space more, which will originate from lining him up all over the formation.
Though he has a stigma of dropping passes, Peterson has improved in that category. Throughout his career, he's been targeted 271 times in the passing game and has dropped 30 passes, which equates to an 11-percent drop rate.
Since 2011, he's dropped just eight of the 109 targets [7 percent], which was calculated using Pro Football Focus' targets and drops stats. His drop percentage since 2011 falls in line with Jamaal Charles, who sees more targets, and Marshawn Lynch, who is a better comparison to Peterson in terms of the type of workload.
"I've been running the ball my entire life," Peterson said. "So I'll be able to adjust quickly."
The Vikings were the least penalized team in the NFC a season ago and they've kept the flags to a minimum during the NFL's trial run of new penalties and 'points of emphasis.'
Minnesota has drawn just 18 flags [averaging six per game] in the three exhibitions; their opponents have averaged nine penalties per game as the NFL has instituted new penalties and further emphasized flags for verbal abuse, defensive contact and hands to the face.
"For the most part, guys mess up and grab sometimes," Mike Zimmer said. "But we don't teach that stuff. Obviously it happens, but we haven't had to change how we coach or anything like that."
On Saturday in Kansas City, cornerback Josh Robinson played just seven snaps, including one in which he was flagged for a 42-yard pass interference.
"I know everybody's upset about the PI, but he's in good position there," Mike Zimmer said. "I think it could've gone either way with the call, but went against us."
Defensive end Corey Wootton is one of a handful of Vikings players with more than one penalty this preseason as he's had to adjust to rule changes in the trenches.
"I feel like every preseason you see that a little bit," Wootton said. "You just got to base it off how they're calling the game. If it's a stricter game, you just have to be mindful of hand placement, late hits."
Prater at safety?
Shaun Prater had a 34-yard interception return against the Chiefs on Saturday and when asked what he'd like to improve on, the fourth-year cornerback kept it concise.
"Score the touchdown."
Prater completed his third training camp under Zimmer this offseason and so far, Zimmer likes what he's seen and eventually wants to try his hand at safety.
"He's a tough, feisty kid that can do a lot of jobs," Zimmer said. "He can play nickel and corner. Not too sure yet we shouldn't look at him some at safety just because of his temperament and he's doing things a lot better now."
However, Zimmer won't try that out in Thursday's preseason finale as he sorts through his many options for strong safety next to Harrison Smith.
Linebacker Anthony Barr sprained an ankle on Saturday and will not play in Thursday's preseason finale, per Zimmer.
Gerald Hodges (ankle) returned to practice on Tuesday, which raises his chances of playing on Thursday.
• Robinson saw his first action of the preseason on Saturday. Though he saw just seven snaps, Zimmer talked the third-year cornerback up as the Vikings continue to search for a outside corner in nickel packages: "I'm confident and hopeful [Robinson] will continue to progress to where we need him to be."
• The Vikings will continue to evaluate their middle linebacker options between Jasper Brinkley and Audie Cole, said Zimmer: "We may just stay a lot more, even this week, may stay a lot more base defense so we can continue to evaluate them."