“It all starts up front.” How many times have we heard a football coach use that phrase? Quite a bit. So, as the Vikings start their OTA season – they have 12 more on the schedule after today – I want to share a couple of observations from today’s practice on the Vikings front lines.
– We’ll start with the defensive line, widely considered a strength of the Vikings under Head Coach Brad Childress. And while Childress and Vikings DL coach Karl Dunbar have done a nice job coaching and tutoring since 2006, another individual was coaching up a rookie after practice today.
Brian Robison, entering his 4th pro season after being drafted in the 4th round by the Vikings in 2007, was working with the Vikings 4th round pick from this past draft – Everson Griffen. A couple of things struck me about this. From a numbers standpoint, Griffen and Robison are competing for playing time. So it speaks to Robison’s character that he would spend extra time working with a teammate – and rookie – who is also vying for snaps.
Robison was working with Griffen on hand positioning (when battling an offensive lineman) and instincts, and specifically telling the young rookie how important it was to shed blockers while still maintaining a focus on the QB/ball carrier.
Hopefully Griffen took note of what Robison was showing him because those 2 players actually have a lot in common and there are plenty of reasons why it would behoove Griffen to emulate how Robison has carried himself as a pro. Both guys have versatility, both were drafted in 4th round, both will have to work their tails off to maintain a roster spot and both guys have a lot of physical, raw talent and strength.
– Now to the offensive line, where the Vikings have 14 players who have participated in the first 2 OTAs and 10 of those 14 players are 23 years of age or younger. I spent a good 15-20 minutes during the early portion of practice on Wednesday observing the OL group, which is coached by OL coach Pat Morris and assistant OL coach Jim Hueber.
After watching for an extended period of time, the biggest thing I came away with was how much Morris and Hueber stressed technique and intelligence. More so than demanding powerful blocks, the Vikings OL coaches emphasized hand placement, footwork and knowing the assignment.
I think the attributes most commonly associated with the OL are grit, power and strength. While those are important elements to this part of the team, there’s no doubt that intelligence and technique are just as vital.
Tags: Brian Robison, Everson Griffen
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The Vikings have concluded their 2nd OTA of the week and had another day of ideal weather conditions, practicing for approximately 90 minutes again on the outdoor fields at Winter Park. A few of the veterans who participated on Tuesday were not participating Wednesday, but by and large it was a similar group of players and a similar practice format.
Wednesday’s practice was also open to the media and Head Coach Brad Childress met with reporters following the workout, so we’ll have reaction from Childress as well as highlights from practice posted on the site this afternoon.
Reporters were able to speak with players as they walked off the field following practice and the most popular interviews included QBs Tarvaris Jackson, Sage Rosenfels and rookie Joe Webb. Each player was surrounded by reporters and cameras following the workout.
Webb of course was the Vikings 6th round pick (#199 overall) in last month’s draft and has experience playing both QB and WR at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The Vikings drafted Webb because of his versatility and supreme athleticism and left open the possibility of him playing both/either positions in the NFL. Following rookie minicamp, Webb expressed optimism that he would be able to take some reps at QB as the offseason program moved forward.
And that’s exactly what he was doing during Wednesday’s practice. When asked about taking snaps at QB during OTAs, Webb, who wears jersey #14, said “it felt great to be back under center” after playing a lot of WR in college and that both offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and QBs coach Kevin Rogers have been doing a great job with him as he focuses on mechanics.
When asked what he preferred between QB and WR, Webb gave the diplomatic (and appropriate) answer of saying he’d work on whatever it is the coaches asked.
Much of the discussion with Jackson centered on QB Brett Favre and his pending return to the club. Favre is under contract for 2010 and hasn’t announced his retirement, but that hasn’t stopped speculation about his future. Jackson said he had a gut feeling about what Favre’s decision would be for 2010 but declined to share it with reporters. Jackson did say, however, that he felt he learned a lot from Favre during the 2009 season and that he’s exchanged text messages a couple of times with the future Hall of Famer.
We’ll have more from OTA #2 this afternoon, so stay tuned to vikings.com today and the rest of the week.
Tags: Joe Webb, Sage Rosenfels
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Are you following the Vikings on Twitter? If not, you should because just like the vikings.com Blog, it’s a great way to stay on top of Vikings news.
It’s an especially great way to follow the Vikings during offseason workouts and OTAs.
Remember, you don’t need a Twitter account yourself to follow the Vikings on Twitter. Just go to Twitter.com and follow @VikingsFootball.
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We wrote this morning about rookie OL Chris DeGeare and his first day of OTAs, explaining that the versatile 5th rounder has an opportunity to fill a void on the Vikings depth chart that was created when Artis Hicks bolted for the Washington Redskins via free agency.
DeGeare won’t be the only individual vying for that job, though. There is a roster full of young OL who will work to show Vikings coaches that they are good enough for the job. Also, as Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune pointed out yesterday, it’s certainly not out of the question for the Vikings to add a veteran free agent to the mix.
One such example pointed out by Zulgad is Chester Pitts, an experienced G who was with the Houston Texans from 2002 through last season. Before the 2009 season, Pitts had started in all 112 career games; he played and started in 2 games last year before an injury derailed his campaign.
Pitts told Sirius NFL Radio last month that a handful of teams are interested in his services, including the Vikings, and that he will work out for teams on July 15. He is recovering from knee surgery and expects to be healthy enough to workout by that date. Pitts played LG in Houston but it’s widely believed he could transition to RG.
As Zulgad pointed out, Pitts – who turns 31 this June – could join the Vikings and compete with Anthony Herrera for the starting RG spot or he could join the Vikings and add depth to the Vikings OL while also providing veteran leadership.
Tags: Anthony Herrera, Chris DeGeare
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The Vikings will hit the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park for OTA #2 today. Today’s action will be open to the media and Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress will meet with reporters following practice. The team is schedule to workout from 11-12:30, so expect player and coach reaction shortly after the conclusion of practice.
In the meantime, we have a couple of things to keep you occupied. If you haven’t already done so, check out video highlights and then scroll down the vikings.com Blog to read my observations from OTA #1 on Monday.
Also, I spoke with rookie 5th round pick Chris DeGeare after practice on Tuesday. He has an interesting story to tell as OTAs get underway this week, so check it out by clicking here.
And finally, as always, remember to submit your Monday Morning Mailbag comments/questions by emailing me at email@example.com. Remember to include your name and town in the email.
Tags: Chris DeGeare
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