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Analyzing Position Battles – Backup LB

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 30, 2009 – 8:59 pm

We set out to analyze a few position battles right here on the blog before training camp began. The good news is that we’ve already done the RTWRs, nickel back and backup DT positions. The bad news is we still have the backup LBs and starting QB to finish. And the 1st training camp practice is roughly 2 hours from the time of this post.

So we’ll compromise. The backup LB spot will be broken down right here and then we’ll analyze the battle between Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels after Day 1 of practices.

When evaluating the importance of the backup LB spot on the Vikings roster, the same theory that applied to the importance of the backup DT position applies here: given how important the position is to the Vikings defense, it’s important for the Vikings to have solid backup options in the event of injury.

Right now it looks as if the Vikings will have a good opportunity to fill their depth chart with quality backup LBs. There are currently 9 LBs on the Vikings roster, and we know that Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber will comprise the starting group (barring injury). That leaves the squad with 2 returnees from last year, 1 guy coming back from injury and a trio of new faces.

The 2 LBs returning from last year are Erin Henderson and David Herron. Herron is more of an inside linebacker while Henderson is more of a versatile player who can play in the middle or slide outside. The main thing for these 2 players is their ability to contribute on special teams as well. If they can fend off other young players and cement roles on special teams, they will be more likely to be relied upon as reserve linebackers as well.

Speaking of special teams, the Vikings best special teams player over the past few seasons also happens to be a LB. Heath Farwell was lost for the 2008 season during the Vikings 1st preseason game, and both the depth of the LBs and the Vikings kick coverage units suffered as a result. Farwell has battled back from his knee injury and seems poised to re-insert himself in both of his former roles.

The 3 new faces in the LB corps are Jasper Brinkley, Robert Francois and Kenny Onatolu. Brinkley, a 5th round draft choice this year, is the one to watch in this group. He was a star at South Carolina after his freshman season, but then a knee injury sidelined him and hurt his draft stock. The Vikings selected him in the 5th round, and if he can fulfill his potential the Vikings may have found a real steal in the draft. Brinkley’s upside is good enough that he could be a key contributor on special teams this year and somewhere down the line become a starting LB for the Vikings.


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A Few More Notes From Childress’ Press Conference

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 30, 2009 – 5:36 pm

– Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said on Thursday during his pre-camp press conference that 79 players reported to camp and also noted that he doesn’t expect anyone to be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. He said the team appears to be in decent condition with “pretty good weights,” but also said he would re-evaluate those scenarios once the team was 5 practices into camp (which will be on Sunday afternoon).

– The roster limit for NFL teams during training camp is 80, and the reason the Vikings have 79 players in camp rather than 80 is because 1st round pick WR Percy Harvin has yet to sign a contract. It’s by no means unusual to have a 1st round pick report late to camp. More than half of this year’s 1st round picks remained unsigned, and Adrian Peterson missed a few days of camp back in 2007.

“I don’t anticipate him being in, at least right this second,” Childress said. “But I know Rob (Brzezinski) is working hard with (Harvin’s agent) Joel Segal to try to get that deal done.”

– Childress took a moment to reflect on DE Kenechi Udeze, who decided earlier this week to retire from football instead of continue his attempt at a comeback.

“He’s so worried about being a quitter,” Childress said. “He’s overcome already in his young life, to be alive and thriving, it took him a while to come to grips with that. As I mentioned to you before, his Leukemia he always referenced to me as ‘nothing more than a common cold.’ Great positive attitude; as we say, nobody died. He’s alive and living and thriving. I just wish him well.”

Udeze had participated in Vikings offseason workouts and was preparing to join his teammates for training camp. But after meeting and chatting with Childress a number of times before the start of camp, Udeze decided to go a different direction.

On the release of CB Charles Gordon: “He just was not able to overcome that ankle fracture,” Childress explained. “He’s worked as hard as anybody to try to get back, and he’ll continue to work. Not sure what the future holds for him, but I had a good meeting with him last week as well and he’s been in there every day since that surgery to find a way to fight back to the field.”


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Childress Stresses Compeition In Opening Presser

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 30, 2009 – 5:05 pm

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress held his pre-camp press conference on Thursday among a larger-than-usual contingent of media members. The pre-camp press conference typically draws the largest media crowd of camp, but this year the opening press conference was more heavily-attended because of the scope of the Vikings current QB situation.

Brett Favre’s decision to stay retired and not join the Vikings at training camp put an end to the NFL’s highest profile offseason story, but it doesn’t mean the spotlight on the Vikings QB competition will dim. With Favre out of the picture, the same 2 QBs who took reps during OTAs and mincamps this offseason – Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels – will battle for the starting job.

“You want to know a standard of performance,” Childress responded when asked what he’s looking to find in the QB competition. “You want to know what you can expect each and every time you go on the football field. I think that’s the biggest thing you look for at every position.”

Competition among the Vikings 3 QBs will gain the most traction in newspaper headlines and at the water cooler, but Childress also stressed that there will be plenty of competition up and down the Vikings roster.

“We’re going to have competition at a bunch of positions, whether it be competition for the starting position or competition to be on this 53-man roster,” Childress explained. “We’re going to let some very good football players go here before it’s over.

“I was struck by one of the quotes and I shared it with the guys. ‘These guys are competing for one of the most impermanent jobs in our society.’ It’s true. It’s very difficult to be a professional football player and let alone to be one for very long. Guys like Antoine Winfield, guys like Pat Williams that have done it for ten-odd years, are the exception rather than the rule.”


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Childress Remembers Former Colleague Johnson

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 30, 2009 – 11:58 am

Training camps all across the NFL are either in full gear or just about to get that way, so it’s an exciting time for everyone across the league. But as NFL coaches and players anxiously continue their preparations for the 2009 season, they’ll do so with heavy hearts because of the passing of former Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who has lost his battle with cancer.

The subject of Johnson’s passing was broached yesterday in Mankato because of the connection between Johnson and Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress. They coached together in Philadelphia from 1999-2005, when Johnson coached the defense and Childress served as QBs coach and offensive coordinator.

“My thoughts go out to Vicky (Johnson) and the kids,” Childress said on Wednesday. “Jim was a great guy to be around. A sage guy who had seen it all and he had a great way about him. (He had a) gruff way about him, but was easy to laugh with.”

It was probably fitting in Childress’ mind that the Vikings and Eagles faced one another in last year’s Wild Card round. The Eagles won and moved on, but that game represented the last time Johnson and Childress were on the field coaching in a game situation.

“I can close my eyes and see him standing across the field in the last game,” Childress said. “He was standing there across the field from us in the playoff game. I think he went to the press box and had to take a seat after that. Just a great human being and football lost a great person and the Eagles lost a great person. My heart goes out to Vicky and the kids.”


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