Matt Cassel is itching for preseason playing time as he tries to master the intricacies of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s system with the Minnesota Vikings.
Carson Palmer knows just how Cassel feels, and the comfort of being in his second year with Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians means the veteran quarterback likely will watch most of the game Saturday night from the sideline.
Though he hasn’t named a starting quarterback yet, new Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said Cassel will play most of the first half against the Cardinals as he looks to be tightening his grip on the job over first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater.
Cassel was sharp in his one series in the preseason opener, going 5 for 6 for 62 yards and leading the offense to its only touchdown. The Vikings are running a new offense under Turner, so Cassel is lobbying to get more playing time in the preseason to prepare himself for Week 1 at St. Louis.
“I think the more that I can play in the preseason, the more prepared you are,” Cassel said. “There’s nothing like the competition. These (preseason games) are the best tests for us.”
Palmer was equally impressive in the opener against Houston last week, going 5 for 5 for 84 yards and a touchdown. That coupled with his impressive performance during training camp leads Arians to believe he doesn’t have to push it with added playing time in the preseason.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Palmer said. “There’s good and bad to it. Obviously we want to play, but we don’t want to be out there and have anything crazy happen and miss real time in the regular season. You compare this year to last year. Last year we desperately needed those reps, against a different color uniform playing different coverages and different pressures.”
Cassel entered camp in a battle with Bridgewater for the starting job. Bridgewater’s unflappable demeanor and tireless work ethic have impressed coaches and teammates, but he was predictably up-and-down in his NFL debut against the Raiders.
Bridgewater was 6 for 13 for 49 yards and had a fumble on a sack, and he followed that up this week with five interceptions in two days of practice. The Vikings are throwing a lot of exotic looks on defense at Bridgewater, and Zimmer thinks that the young quarterback is just taking some time to adjust.
“I just want him to play,” Zimmer said. “He has got so much going on in his mind right now. I just want him to play. That’s what I told him (Wednesday), and I will tell him again before (Saturday’s) ballgame. Just go play. You have been doing this since you were 5 years old. Go out and play, have some fun. Throw the ball in there; if you make a mistake, then we will fix it and go on.”
Bridgewater, who figures to play much of the second half against Arizona, admitted this week he has been doing too much thinking as he tries to absorb a new offense and adjust to the speed of the NFL game.
“I’ve been overthinking,” Bridgewater said. “A lot has been thrown at me so far. Eventually, things will slow down.”
Zimmer also is looking for a clear-cut starter to emerge at strong safety and middle linebacker, while Arians will take a long look at his kicker.
Veteran Jay Feely will do the kicking for the Cardinals and may be in danger of losing his job after rookie Chandler Cantanzaro hit all three of his field goals and impressed with some booming kickoffs in the opener. Feely will kick again in Week 3 and Cantanzaro will kick in the preseason finale so each kicker has a chance to kick indoors and outside.
After going 11 for 12 for 113 yards in his debut last week, Cardinals rookie quarterback Logan Thomas will not play. He’s competing with Ryan Lindley for the third spot on the depth chart and Lindley will get his chance in the second half this week.
“I’m not anxious to see a lot of snaps (for the starters),” Arians said. “I hope we play really well, get out of there and let the young guys continue to make tape and make a case to continue to be here.”
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