Much attention was paid to Vikings 1st round pick Percy Harvin as he made his regular season NFL debut in Cleveland last weekend. Harvin had a profound impact on the game, hauling in a 6-yard TD reception and accumulating 157 all-purpose yards on 8 touches.
But there was another 1st day pick who had an impact on the game as well. Phil Loadholt, taken in the 2nd round last April, played in his 1st NFL regular season game and got the start at RT. Without sitting down next to a coach or scout in the film room, it appears Loadholt performed well, considering Adrian Peterson rushed for 180 yards and 3 scores and the Vikings offense scored 30 total points.
Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell indicated on Thursday while meeting with reporters that Loadholt indeed had a good first outing.
“He’s a rookie, under those circumstances – starting a game on the road, his first NFL start – I think he did a nice job,” Bevell said. “He competed in there; he’s a physical guy, he’s a giant man.”
Loadholt’s size, as Bevell referenced, gives him the potential to be a truly dominant lineman in the NFL. And the good news for the Vikings, according to Bevell, is that Loadholt doesn’t seem to be the type of player who will rely simply on his size to do the work. He’s willing to put in the extra effort on a play-to-play basis.
“What I really like about him is he finishes plays,” Bevell explained. “You watch some of those tapes [and] you can see him downfield trying to get that extra block. That’s what I like about him.”
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Darrell Bevell, Percy Harvin, Phil Loadholt
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During last weekend’s 34-20 season opening victory against the Browns, Vikings CB Cedric Griffin caught as many passes as Braylon Edwards, Cleveland’s top WR. Griffin, Pro Bowler Antoine Winfield and the rest of the Vikings defense held the Browns top 2 WRs to a total of 3 catches for 22 yards, including just 1 catch and 12 yards receiving for Edwards.
The impressive effort against Cleveland’s top wide outs was punctuated by Griffin’s impressive over-the-shoulder, toe-tapping interception along the sidelines in the 3rd quarter, a play Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said is a product of Griffin’s hard work over the past couple of seasons.
“That interception he made in that ball game, and even the one he made against Philadelphia (in the playoffs last year), I would say a couple years ago, Cedric Griffin would not make those types of plays,” Frazier told reporters on Thursday. “He has worked so hard on improving his ball skills and then working as hard as he has on improving his cover ability, it’s showing up in his play.”
Griffin certainly has natural ambition to improve – that’s how he’s made it to the NFL level. But he’s also improved because he plays alongside one of the top CBs in the entire league – Winfield. There are games, such as last week’s contest in Cleveland, when teams simply refuse to throw or run to Winfield’s side of the field. As a result, Griffin has gotten plenty of practice, both during the week between games and also on Sundays.
“Ced is not unaccustomed to people saying ‘Okay, we’re going to throw at #23 because of Antoine,’” Frazier said. “The good thing is he’s improving, he’s getting better.”
Frazier specifically said Griffin has improved his man-coverage skills as well as his ball skills, and that he came to training camp this summer a lot faster and quicker, and with his weight down a touch.
“But a lot of it goes back to he’s playing with a lot of confidence,” Frazier said. “To hold Braylon Edwards to one catch for twelve (yards) when you know that’s the guy they’re going to try to get the football to in the passing game, that’s quite an accomplishment. And I take my hat off to him and he’ll have tremendous challenges this weekend with Calvin Johnson, but I feel he’ll be up to the task.”
Tags: Antoine Winfield, Cedric Griffin, Leslie Frazier
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Vikings LB E.J. Henderson has a tremendous impact on the field each Sunday. But he also makes a difference in the local community, namely through his E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation.
Those 2 elements of Henderson’s life will merge in 2009. Henderson has made a commitment to pledge $100 for every tackle he makes during the 2009 season to his youth foundation.
“It is great to be back playing football,” Henderson said. “This is one way I can share my passion with the kids.”
Since the summer of 2007, Henderson has been working through the E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation to change the lives of youth growing up in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Twice a week, various groups of youth spend time at the Foundation in a 90-minute session that includes: an online academic program specifically tailored to each student; participation in a life skills program designed to develop character through lessons on responsibility, determination, perseverance and related topics; and a rigorous fitness session.
Henderson views his work in the community as addressing an opportunity, not a problem.
“Most people look at the plight of inner city youth as a problem,” Henderson said. “The E.J. Henderson Youth Foundation views this as an opportunity.”
Henderson, who has averaged nearly 100 tackles per season throughout his career despite missing 12 games due to injury in 2009, led the team with 9 tackles in last Sunday’s season-opening win at Cleveland. He’ll have a chance to add to his pledge this Sunday when the Vikings travel to Detroit to take on the Lions.
Tags: E.J. Henderson
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In case you didn’t notice it on the vikings.com home page, you’ve got to check out a feature on NFL.com called “Anatomy of a Play.”
The feature is hosted by NFL Network and Vikings preseason TV analyst Mike Mayock and features interesting insight from him, Vikings RBs coach Eric Bieniemy, QB Brett Favre and Adrian, among others.
The feature does an excellent job of breaking the play down from an Xs and Os standpoint, but it also shows multiple angles of the play and allows you to hear audio from the players themselves as they talk about the play on the sidelines.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Eric Bieniemy, Mike Mayock
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The blog entry before this one featured some praise from Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz about Vikings DT Kevin Williams. So it’s fitting then to mention that yesterday Vikings S Tyrell Johnson spoke about the influence the defensive line has on the entire defensive unit.
“It does start up front and Kevin is a big leader for our team,” Johnson said yesterday after practice. “He and Pat and the whole defensive line, when you see those guys making plays up front and you see their enthusiasm, it does trickle down to the secondary and linebackers and it makes us want to play that much better.”
The Lions offense will have a tough time on Sunday if the Vikings are somehow able to manage to play better than they did on Sunday. On the surface, Cleveland scored 20 points. But when you consider that 7 of them were the product of a punt return and 7 more came via a late-game TD that was trivial, you can see that the Vikings defense was dominant all day.
The Vikings held Cleveland to 3 of 12 on 3rd downs, forced 2 turnovers and kept Browns possessions to 4 plays or fewer a total of 7 times in 12 possessions. In fact, Cleveland penetrated Minnesota territory just 3 times all day.
But each game stands on its own merits and the Vikings defense will have to regroup on Sunday and put forth another solid effort to aide in a road victory.
Vikings assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier will meet with local reporters today following practice, so it’ll be interesting what he has to say about the Lions offense.
Tags: Kevin Williams, Leslie Frazier, Tyrell Johnson
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Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz met with Twin Cities reporters on Wednesday via conference call and had a flattering evaluation for Vikings DT Kevin Williams.
As defensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans from 2001-2008, Schwartz said he’s seen a lot of Williams over the years.
“I have seen a lot of Kevin Williams,” Schwartz said. “We really liked him coming out in the draft (in 2003) and did a lot of work on him and knew that he would be long gone by the time we (had a chance to get) him. Playing the NFC North last year we saw a lot of film of Minnesota. So we saw a lot of Kevin over the years and particularly last year. (He is) really, really a skilled player, maybe one of the best three-techniques in the NFL, maybe the best.”
The praise from Schwartz is noteworthy because of his experience (1993-present) in the NFL and his defensive background. Schwartz is also familiar with the effect dominant DTs can have on a defense – he coached Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee for 7 seasons.
Schwartz said Haynesworth is like a 335-pound locomotive that is hard to stop once he gets moving. But Williams, according to Schwartz, is a different type of player.
“Kevin has a very unique skill set in that he can play with power and he can also play with speed,” Schwartz explained. “He can also use moves. He’s not a one-trick pony. He’s got a well diversified game and it makes it hard on people that are blocking him because he can throw all of those different pitches at any time.”
Tags: Kevin Williams
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