OTA observations: With Bridgewater gone, Cassel takes first-team reps
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The order of red jerseys at Winter Park on Thursday afternoon looked pretty familiar.
Matt Cassel took the reins of the Minnesota Vikings' starting offense as first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater attended a NFL Player's Association event in Los Angeles. Akin to much of last season, Christian Ponder took second-team snaps as both quarterbacks continued to learn a new system under offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
"[Turner] was coaching up everybody from the guys in the first group to the second and third group," Cassel said. "Then it's about getting to know each other. Out here, they're able to watch and see what players do well and build that system around that."
The team's 11-on-11 drills appeared to be won by the defense, as custom this early in the offseason. A few interceptions were had, one each by defensive back Robert Blanton and linebacker Mike Zimmer. Defensive lineman Corey Wootton nearly grabbed Ponder's second pick before bobbling it to the ground.
Ponder looked shaky during Thursday's team drills, completing 10 of 18 passes for one interception, Wootton's near-interception and an additional pass batted down at the line (as tracked by Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press). Ponder also had another dropped interception from safety and sixth-round pick Antone Exum.
With Matt Kaill recovering from surgery, Cassel worked behind a starting offensive line that saw both Kevin Murphy and undrafted free agent Antonio Richardson get time at left tackle. Defensive end Everson Griffen quickly got to the quarterback through both replacements for would-be sacks, but coaches let plays continue through pressure.
• Harrison Smith and a combination of Kurt Coleman and Robert Blanton saw first-team snaps at safety with both Andrew Sendejo (back) and Jamarca Sanford (muscle pull) out on Thursday.
• Fred Evans filled in at nose tackle for Linval Joseph, who is still recovering from an undisclosed ailment that coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings knew about before signing him in March.
• Blanton's interception was a leaping grab over the middle off Ponder, who was working with the second-team receivers.
• Linebacker Chad Greenway saw reps at middle linebacker as he worked with both Audie Cole and Jasper Brinkley in the first-team defense. Second-year linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges worked with the second team, along with free agent pickup Dom DeCicco. (First-round pick and linebacker Anthony Barr will miss most offseason work before training camp as he finishes up his degree at UCLA).
• One of the offense's top plays of the day was a belated drag route by Cordarrelle Patterson, who caught a bullet from Cassel and blew by both Xavier Rhodes and Blanton before they could get their hands on him.