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Looking To Force More Turnovers

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 28, 2009 – 3:30 pm

The Vikings defense hasn’t done much wrong so far this preseason. As we mentioned in an earlier blog, they lead the NFL in sacks through 2 preseason contests.

But the defensive unit is also excelling in other areas. For example, the Vikings defense currently ranks #1 overall and #1 against the pass. They’ve also allowed just 16 points so far in the preseason, which is the lowest among all teams.

While addressing reporters after practice on Friday, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress was asked where he’d like to see improvement in his defensive unit. The above-mentioned statistics might cause one to think there isn’t much room for improvement, but Childress put an offensive spin on his response.

“As Leslie (Frazier) says all the time, taking the ball away,” Childress said. “They’ve done a decent job of getting fumbles on the ground. We’d like to have more interceptions, tips, those kinds of things. You’re always mindful of that and being able to turn the ball to the offense on a short field.”


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Berrian Progressing Toward Return

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 28, 2009 – 2:20 pm

Vikings speedy WR Bernard Berrian didn’t play against the Chiefs last Friday night because of a leg injury he suffered in the team’s 1st preseason game on August 14 at Indianapolis. But the 6-year pro has been back out on the practice field lately participating in portions of practice.

Head coach Brad Childress, like the rest of the NFL’s head coaches, prefers not to address injuries in the preseason but when asked specifically about his star WR after practice on Friday he did say that Berrian has “a chance” to play on Monday night in Houston.

“He’s progressing,” Childress said. “To put a percentage on where he’s at…you always have to be careful. Guys will tell you when they’re ready to go back; them and the medical staff. He’s pushing through.”

With Brett Favre slated to play the 1st half on Monday, it would be beneficial for Berrian to be on the field for at least a portion of the first 2 quarters. The QB and WR haven’t played in a game together since Favre’s arrival a little more than a week ago, but the 2 have worked on the side before and after practice to begin developing a rapport.

However beneficial it might be for Berrian to get some reps with Favre during the preseason, it’s clearly more of a priority to ensure Berrian is back to full strength once the regular season commences on September 13. Berrian was a vital piece in the Vikings passing attack in 2008, leading the team in receiving yards, hauling in 4 of the team’s 5 longest TD passes and leading the league in yards per catch (20.1) among WRs with 40 or more grabs.


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The Schism That Unites

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 28, 2009 – 8:28 am

The 1st definition of the word “schism” that comes up in an internet search is: “division or disunion, esp. into mutually opposed parties.” But something strange has happened at Winter Park – the schism that reportedly exists in the Vikings locker room regarding support, or the lack thereof, of QB Brett Favre has actually united the players even further.

Said Vikings RB Adrian Peterson on Wednesday about the existance of a divide in the Vikings locker room regarding Favre: “That’s something new to me. I’m not sensing nothing like that at all. I don’t know where that came from. That’s news to me.”

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress shared a similar sentiment on Wednesday as well, saying “I certainly don’t see anything that points to that.”

“Brett has fit in great. He’s one of the guys,” safety Madieu Williams said on Thursday, according to ESPN.com. “Everybody has welcomed him with open arms. He’s fit right in. He’s been a great locker-room guy.”

Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press caught up with All-Pro G Steve Hutchinson after practice, who said, “I understand where the media is coming from, because they have to write about him. But there’s only so many ways to say there’s no truth to it.”

Jensen also spoke with WR Sidney Rice, who said, “There’s nothing like that in the locker room. Everyone is focused on their assignments, and doing what they can do to make this a better team.

“There’s no ‘We want Tarvaris. We want Brett.’ We can’t control those things, no matter what we say. That’s up to the head man, and his decision goes every time.”

Pro Bowl CB Antoine Winfield told Jensen: “Guys are happy he’s here. I’m happy he’s here. Hopefully he can take us to where we need to go.”

It got to the point on Thursday at Winter Park where players were either amused by the notion of a schism or simply annoyed by it. Chip Scoggins observed in the Star Tribune’s “Access Vikings” blog that LB Chad Greenway, walking off the field, said: “Schism. You guys are making up words now.” And DE Jared Allen quipped: “I’m not answering any schism questions. It’s all [expletive].”

Rice perhaps had the best quote, saying the players have transcended being stuck on their personal opinion about which QB gives them the best chance to win and instead have the attitude that no matter the identity of the starting QB, all of the QBs have the support of everyone in the locker room.

And that’s really the best attitude to have. It’s unrealistic to expect a locker room full of 79 players and a full coaching staff to have a unanimous sentiment regarding a hot-button topic like the identity of the starting QB. But it’s not unrealistic to expect that same locker room to unite behind whomever is identified as the starter. That’s what has happened in Minnesota.


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A Little Vocabulary Practice at Football Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2009 – 4:21 pm

At practice on Thursday Vikings defenders worked a little bit on the Tampa 2 defense. The offense ran through some plays in the West coast offense. And some players even gave their vocabulary a little exercise, attempting to use the word “schism” in the proper context.

As ESPN.com’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert referenced, LB Chad Greenway yelled “Schisms! Watch out for media schisms!” as he ran off the field. Chip Scoggins wrote in the Star Tribune’s “Access Vikings” blog that P Chris Kluwe gave it his best attempt as well when he saw camera crews scatter during the early stages of practice. “Uh-oh,” Kluwe said, “there’s a schism in the camera crew.”

All the “schism” references come because of a report on ESPN that cited a source as saying there was “a schism” in the locker room regarding support for QB Brett Favre. As for Favre’s reaction, the QB didn’t seem too concerned with the report or with the meaning of the word “schism.”

“I don’t even know what that means, I’ve got no reaction,” Favre said. “I’m just doing what I can do to hopefully help this team win and just trying to fit in. I’m not worried about that. That’s for you guys to have some fun with. Once again, I have no idea what that means. I’m assuming it’s controversial.”

Favre made a good point regarding the word schism and the identity of the source who used the word to describe a possible sentiment in the Vikings locker room.

“I can assure you, I don’t think any guy in the locker room, me included, would use that word,” Favre said. “We’d probably come up with something a little different. You guys have to come up with something a little more locker-room related.”


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A Few Notes and Reminders

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2009 – 11:06 am

– The Vikings waived WR Glenn Holt today. That transaction leaves the Vikings with 9 WRs on the roster and a total of 79 players. The 1st roster cut downday is Tuesday, September 1, when all clubs must trim their rosters to 75 players. The cutdown day for all teams to be at 53 players is Saturday, September 5.

– Don’t forget to join Leaguesafe’s Paul Charchian on vikings.com today at 12:30 CT for a live fantasy football chat.

– Our Monday Morning Mailbag feature will continue on Monday, the day the Vikings and Texans square off. You can submit email questions/comments to me at wobschallm@vikings.nfl.net.

– Remember to follow the Vikings official Twitter account (@VikingsFootball) to stay on top of all the latest news and developments.

– We will be chatting live during the Vikings-Texans Monday Night Football preseason game on Monday night, just as we did for the Vikings-Chiefs preseason game last Friday. We had 3,100 people join the chat last week and a total of 2,400 comments.


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Vikings Getting It Right On QB Sacks

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 27, 2009 – 7:08 am

The Vikings have come out on the right end of both their preseason contests so far in 2009, and that is partially due to their ability to be on the right side of QB sacks in both games.

Through 2 preseason games, the Vikings remain the only team to not give up a sack and the defense leads the NFL in collecting sacks, with 9.

Asked to evaluate the play of his offensive line so far this preseason in light of those facts, Childress said: “From that standpoint, pretty good. You have to attribute that to line work, running back work (and) quarterbacks getting the ball out of the hand. There were far too many of those (sacks) last year. As I mentioned to you before, it always doesn’t fall at the feet of the offensive linemen. It usually is somebody not getting open or a guy missing a protection or a technique flaw, or something like that. So they are coming (along) that way.”

On the defensive side, the Vikings have been getting after opposing QBs. It started with a relentless pursuit on one of the league’s top signal callers – Peyton Manning. In the preseason opener, the Vikings sacked Manning 3 times on the opening drive and then went on to tally 3 more sacks throughout the game.

Against Kansas City last week, Vikings defenders notched 3 more sacks to bring their total to 9, just 2 short of last year’s preseason total. With 2 more games to play, the Vikings are on track to improve their sack total from 2008.

The team hopes its propensity to sack the QB in the preseason will translate to sacks in the regular season as well. The Vikings finished the 2008 season ranked 4th with 45 total sacks, and Childress knows cuts at the position following this preseason will be difficult to make.

“God willing, they are tough cuts,” Childress said. “It’s a very violent position, defensive line. You can’t have enough of those guys…We just want guys that are fresh. We want fresh legs in there…So that is why you have the wave. You only have the wave if you feel good about the people that you can wave in there.”


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Childress: Backup LB Battle “Neck and Neck”

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 26, 2009 – 2:42 pm

We mentioned yesterday in this space that the 3rd CB/nickel back position battle is still up in the air. Another position battle that’s been hotly contested since OTAs and through both training camp and the preseason is the backup LB position.

Reserves Jasper Brinkley, Heath Farwell, Erin Henderson, David Herron and Kenny Onatolu are the candidates to backup starters Chad Greenway, E.J. Henderson and Ben Leber, and at this point Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress characterized the position battle as “neck and neck.”

“It’s a hell of a battle; it’s neck and neck,” Childress said after preactice on Wednesday. “That’s what makes you a good football team. We’ve got guys striving at the linebacker position and striving at the special teams positions. It makes you better.”

As Childress mentioned, a big factor in determining who makes the final 53-man roster heading into Week 1 of the regular season will be special teams and which of the candidates can best display their ability to contribute in multiple phases of the game.

Childress also said on Wednesday that he has yet to decide on a 2nd-half QB rotation for Monday night’s game at Houston; he already said earlier in the week that Brett Favre will play the 1st half.


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Just Like Iverson? Peterson’s Interesting Favre Analogy

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 26, 2009 – 2:11 pm

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson tends to run wild on opposing defenses. But it was his imagination that was running wild on reporters when he met with them after practice on Wednesday.

Asked what he’s noticed about Brett Favre in the short amount of time he’s been able to play with him, Peterson provided an interesting analogy.

“When Brett is under the center,” Peterson said, “you’ve got to look at it like it’s Allen Iverson on the basketball court. You never know when it can come and you’ve got to be prepared for it.”

At first it may seem silly to compare Favre and the NBA’s Iverson, but upon further review you can see where Peterson is coming from. Both players developed into crafty veterans and Iverson, like Favre, has an element of improvisation to his game that serves as somewhat of a trademark but has also led to plenty of success.

But Peterson also kept his analysis at a football level.

“You can see he’s been throwing the ball for a long time,” Peterson said. “He definitely knows how to get the ball wherever it needs to go.”


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SI’s King Ranks Harvin Most Impressive Rookie

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 26, 2009 – 8:18 am

In his weekly Monday Morning QB – Tuesday Edition column, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King was asked about some of the most impressive rookies he’s seen in the preseason and he ranked Vikings WR Percy Harvin #1 on his list.

In his explanation for ranking Harvin 1st, King says: “Impact player beginning opening day.”

Also in his list of the 10 most impressive rookies in the preseason, King lists former Wayzata High School star James Laurinaitis 3rd. Laurinaitis was drafted this past April by the St. Louis Rams, and King said in his explanation for ranking him 3rd that he “[T]ook over starting mike ‘backer job after three pro practices.”

Laurinaitis’ position coach in St. Louis is Paul Ferraro, who was the Vikings special teams coordinator for 3 seasons (2006-2008).


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3rd CB Spot Still Up in the Air

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 25, 2009 – 5:45 pm

Heading into training camp, one position battle receiving a fair amount of attention was the 3rd CB/nickel back position. It’s a position battle with several dynamics and, according to Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, it’s a position battle still up in the air.

“It’s still a very competitive spot,” Frazier responded when asked about the nickel back position. “We have familiarity with Antoine Winfield because he’s done it before and had a lot of success. The fact that Benny (Sapp) has also played the nickel position gives us some leeway there. But we’re still trying to ascertain where Asher Allen and Karl Paymah are. The fact that Marcus McCauley wasn’t able to play this past week threw a wrench in things, so now we get him back to become part of the evaluation process. It’s still up in the air to a degree.”

As Frazier mentioned, the extra dynamic at play in the nickel back competition is that the veteran Winfield has shown he has the skill set to excel in that role.

“He has made a ton of plays in that nickel spot, a la Ronde Barber in Tampa,” Frazier explained when asked if he would consider moving Winfield inside to play the nickel. “Just because of how effective he is in the run and the pass and matching up against some of the other teams third wide receiver. Either way he has been so effective for us both outside and inside. So we can handle it either way.”

When Winfield is positioned as the nickel back (covering the slot receiver on the inside), it opens up a spot at an outside CB position. As a result, the winner of the 3rd CB position needs to show an ability to play both inside (as a possible nickel back) and outside (as a possible CB while Winfield plays the nickel).

“Ben Sapp is doing a good job for us,” Frazier said. “Asher Allen has come in and done a great job. We know Antoine Winfield can do it if he has to and Karl Paymah made some good plays the other day as a third corner. We’re still in the position where we’re evaluating and deciding who’s going to be that third corner. The way it’s going right now is great for us. They’re all playing so well that whoever wins that spot should make us better.”


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