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Vikings camp notebook: Defense looking for Barr to let loose

New Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, right, talks with first-round draft pick linebacker Anthony Barr during practice Monday at Blakeslee Stadium in Mankato, Minn. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)

MANKATO, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings are planning to let loose their first-round draft pick Anthony Barr in coming games, in part to see what exactly he'll be able to bring to the defense.

Barr is widely seen as a critical part of the Vikings' potential defensive renaissance. Barr comes out of UCLA where he went from a rumbling fullback to speed rushing linebacker in a span of two years.

Defensive coordinator George Edwards said Barr has come a long way in his short span as a Viking and the team plans to use him in a variety of different positions.

"I think the first game he was kind of unsure on some things, but we are happy where he's at right now and look forward to him to continue to get better as we keep progressing down the road," Edwards said. "We were pleased with what we saw out of him, but we are just looking for him to turn it all the way loose now."

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters on Sunday that the defense will start experimenting with Barr at defensive end positions, in addition to his regular linebacker work.

"Anthony is a great kid," Vikings linebacker and Mount Vernon native Chad Greenway said. "He works extremely hard. I think his biggest asset is his ability to work and continue to get better. He's got some physical abilities, but he's mentally sharp and we're just trying to work together to make our defense as strong as possible."

The Vikings host Arizona Saturday in their second preseason game at TCF Bank Stadium.

Turner on Teddy

The evaluation period is over for new Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, according to offensive coordinator Norv Turner.

Instead, it's time to coach the rookie from Louisville. Turner said he was impressed by the look of Bridgewater.

"I am not interested in evaluating Teddy," Turner said. "I'm interested in coaching him, and continuing to help him get better. We evaluated Teddy before the draft and we know what he is capable of doing. Now we just have to keep coaching him and coaching him, so he knows exactly what he needs to do on each play."

Turner added Bridgewater showed all of the abilities of a successful quarterback in the league.

"When he did things right, he was quick with the ball, he made good decisions and for the most part, he got the ball out quick," Turner said. "He is very elusive, It shows off his athleticism. He is going to have great escape ability, and it's hard for guys to rush you when that is the case."

Turner said he would expect both Bridgewater and starter Matt Cassel to take more snaps in the second preseason game, but the reps are going to be decided by Zimmer.

Speed to burn

For the first time in purple, rookie Jerick McKinnon turned some heads during Friday's preseason opener.

The third-round pick out of Georgia State is looking to move into the backup role behind perennial all-pro Adrian Peterson. McKinnon had 45 yards on 12 carries in the game against Oakland but is lightning quick and runs a sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash, meaning the Vikings might be wise to get him the ball when they can.

"I think I did pretty good for the first game," McKinnon said. "I set high standards for myself and I always feel like I can do things better than I did. I'm just trying to get better, not only as a running back but as a special teams player as well."

He said Monday that he's trying to make the most of his skills to impress the coaches. He added pass protection is the one skill he needs to work on the most.

"I didn't have any crazy mistakes or anything like that," he said of his first game. "It was fun, running around in an NFL uniform, being a part of the Minnesota Vikings organization, and it was just an overall great experience."