Vikings uncertain who will start at QB against Lions

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Another year, another juggling act for Vikings coach Mike Zimmer.

In two of his first three seasons in Minnesota, Zimmer has had to adapt and adjust to an evolving quarterback situation because of injuries.

And this year is no different. After starter Sam Bradford suffered a non-contact knee injury in the regular-season opener against the Saints, he’s been sidelined the past two weeks and replaced by backup Case Keenum.

“I'm not the quarterback whisperer I guess,” Zimmer said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.

Zimmer added he’s unsure whether Bradford or Keenum is going to start Sunday against the Lions (2-1) in the teams’ divisional opener. Regardless, the rest of Minnesota’s offense has seemingly responded and played well under both quarterbacks, something Zimmer said he wishes “we wouldn’t have to find out.”

In Week 1, the Vikings (2-1) racked up 475 yards of total offense behind Bradford’s 346-yard, three-touchdown performance that netted him NFC Player of the Week honors.

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Then with Bradford unable to go Week 2 at Pittsburgh, it paved the way for Keenum. However, Minnesota’s offense struggled to get on track and Keenum struggled to get into any sort of a rhythm, mustering a lackluster 167 yards passing.

Last week, though, the offense was clicking and Keenum turned in a brilliant performance, completing 25 of 33 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Vikings past the Buccaneers.

Yet, it’s an all-too-familiar scenario for Minnesota. Last year after Teddy Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee and torn ACL prior during a preseason practice, Shaun Hill started in the opener before the Vikings sent two draft picks to the Eagles for Bradford, who started every game the rest of the 2016 season.

Then in Zimmer’s first year in 2014, Matt Cassel suffered a season-ending foot injury in Week 3, which led to a battle between Christian Ponder and Bridgewater for the starting job. Bridgewater eventually won the role and took the reins in Week 6.

Zimmer’s best season in Minnesota came in 2015, when Bridgewater started all 16 games to lead the Vikings to the NFC North title and a playoff appearance with an 11-5 record.

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“Last year, that was obviously a really difficult situation at the beginning of the year, and then with the trade and everything else,” Zimmer said. “But I think guys felt good about Sam coming in, and then they’d been through it before. One of them said, ‘You know Coach, we’ve done this before, so it’s not that big a deal.’

“They just kind of go about their business and try to do what they do. I like this team, they’re good, they’re competitive, they work hard, they do the right things.”

Lions safety Glover Quin said there’s not an extra workload and he doesn’t split his time watching film when preparing for two different quarterbacks in Bradford and Keenum, who both haven’t had much success against the Lions.

Bradford is 0-4 in his career against Detroit, including two narrow losses by a combined nine points in 2016, while Keenum is 1-1 but set a Rams franchise record with 19 straight completions in a loss to the Lions last season.

"I don't think it matters that much. Different quarterbacks like different things,” Quin said. “Sam likes what he likes, Case likes what he likes. The biggest thing is you watch film and you see what they like and what they don't like. I watch other things on film other than those things. I like to pick up on little subtleties that can help me. Once you get on the field, if you're paying attention to the game and paying attention to what they're doing to you, what they're trying to do to you, how they're attacking you, you can figure out what they like.”