In my previous entry I spoke of the busy day that the Vikings WRs had during OTA #3 Thursday at Winter Park. After practice I got to speak with Greg Lewis about his veteran leadership among young core or WRs at OTAs, how he goes about his business in preparation for a new year and his familiarity with Head Coach Brad Childress and newly-acquired CB Lito Sheppard from their days together in Philadelphia.
“I’ve been through the most and I’m just trying to give them what people have given me and told me to try and help them inprove,” Lewis spoke of the younger WRs participating in the OTAs. “Because everybody wants to make the team but in reality everybody’s not. I’m not one of those guys where I’m not going to try and help somebody else achieve their goal. If they’re doing good then that’s pushing me to better as well, so it’s making everybody better.”
To check out Lewis’ comments in their entirety, click here.
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As Mike pointed out earlier, OTA #3 has wrapped up after a nice, bright sunny day on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park. The practice consisted of many different position specific drills and concluded with a couple of non-contact series between the offense and defense.
During practice I took a close look at the WRs. The 6 WRs who participated today included Taye Biddle, Marquis Hamilton, Jaymar Johnson, Greg Lewis, Aaron Rhea and Kelton Tindal.
Here’s how the WRs day went…
Shortly after practice began, WRs coach George Stewart – who is in his 27th season of coaching – had his receivers work on their footwork and reaction skills. The first drill consisted of each player running a quick 3-yard sprint and then quickly turning around to catch an incoming pass. Coach Stewart consistently emphasized the importance of quick foot work and agility while always having your hands ready. Other drills involved more of the same but with varying distances and routes. Again, with these drills Coach Stewart cemented the importance of footwork when running routes.
After the individual footwork and reaction drills, the WR core worked on crossing routes. I was impressed to see the early continuity forming between this young WR group and the QBs.
Following a quick session of the offense versus the scout defense, the WRs joined the DB core to run a 1-on-1 drill with Tarvaris Jackson and undrafted rookie free agent R.J. Archer throwing passes. As Mike mentioned earlier, this drill is not as intense with league rules forbidding contact throughout OTAs, but the DBs were extremely emphatic in the occurrence of an INT as well as the WRs showing the same emotion with a big reception.
Once practice concluded after about a 10-minute offense versus defense sequence, the WRs dispersed to the locker room with the exception of 2nd-year WR Jaymar Johnson and 8-year veteran Greg Lewis, who both stayed after practice with Jackson to get a little extra work in. I got the chance to speak with Lewis after practice about his role as the veteran WR and his close familiarity with Head Coach Brad Childress as well as newly-acquired CB Lito Sheppard. I’ll let you know what Lewis had to say later tonight, so be sure to check back for his comments.
Tags: George Stewart, Greg Lewis, Jaymar Johnson
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OTA #3 is in the books after another 90-minute or so workout on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park. The weather was more of the same – sunny and warm – as the Vikings coaching staff worked with young players and selected veterans for the 3rd consecutive day.
As noted earlier, today’s OTA observations will focus exclusively on defense (tomorrow’s will focus exclusively on offense). Also, CJ will be chiming in a bit later after observing the Vikings WRs for most of practice. He also spoke with WR Greg Lewis after the Vikings concluded their on-field work.
A few (defensive) observations from today’s work…
– After opening up with some special teams drill work – a staple of Brad Childress’ practices – the Vikings defense focused on turnovers. Players were split up into groups by position and the defensive coaches conducted drills that condition players to be aggressive in forcing fumbles and also recovering those fumbles. One drill had DBs chopping their feet and moving laterally across obstacles for 10 yards and then sprinting forward to scoop up a fumble and return it to the endzone. Another drill required DL and LBs to execute a pass rush move (swim, rip, bull rush) and then rake the ball from a tackling dummy. Yet another drill asked DBs and LBs to punch the ball out of a ball-carriers possession and the recover the fumble.
Standouts in those drills included CBs Chris Cook and Lito Sheppard (lateral shuffle and fumble recovery) and DE Brian Robison (pass rush and stripping the ball).
– Of course there is no contact permitted during OTAs – per NFL rules – and that alters somewhat how teams practice, or at least what the focus may be during parts of practice. I’ve noted this in previous observations, but one emphasis Vikings coaches preach during these OTAs is pre-snap and after-the-snap positioning.
Coaches are teaching the players – most of whom are new to the team or in their 1st or 2nd year – how to read and react to certain situations and formations. DL coach Karl Dunbar spent almost 2 periods of practice explaining to his players how important it is to pay attention to how an OL was lined up.
“Whether we have pads or not, or whether there is contact allowed or not, we want to work on our positioning,” Dunbar told me after practice. “It’s situational football. We want them to know how to read and react to splits (along the offensive line), depths, motion by a receiver and shifts in the formation. Why is that running back lined up 5 steps deep instead of 7? Why is the split wider between the guard and tackle? Those are things we need to understand so we can react to certain situations.”
– Although because of the no contact rule the 1-on-1 drills aren’t quite as intense and realistic, there is still a lot of valuable work that can be accomplished. In today’s 1-on-1 DB/WR drill, rookie CB Chris Cook – selected with the 34th overall pick in last month’s draft – came up with an INT. On the very next play, former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher CB Marcus Sherels had blanket coverage against WR Taye Biddle as QB Tarvaris Jackson launched a deep pass down the field.
– LBs and Ss went up against RBs and FBs in a passing drill, where the offensive players came from out of the backfield to run pass routes as the defenders dropped into coverages to cover them. The highlight of the drill came when newly-converted RB Darius Reynaud bolted from the backfield, used an inside move to get past a LB, and then straightened out his route to catch a pass down the middle of the field. S Madieu Williams, however, was right there and would’ve applied a crushing hit to Reynaud as he made the catch had they been in a game situation. RBs coach Eric Bieniemy, who coaches as hard and as well as anyone, was all over the play. He first acknowledged the inside move Reynaud used to get past the LB, but then corrected Reynaud by pointing out the inside move brought him to the middle of the field where the S could break up the play. Bieniemy explained the proper route would’ve had Reynaud making the catch near the numbers instead of down the middle of the field.
– The last observation from today’s practice actually has nothing to do with defense. I wanted to compliment the Vikings turf management crew on the job they’ve done with the practice fields. They look great, even after 3 consecutive days of on-field work. I’m sure Minnesota weather – the winters especially – aren’t easy on the turn and the Vikings staff does a nice job of grooming the surface.
Tags: Chris Cook, Darius Reynaud, Eric Bieniemy, Karl Dunbar, Lito Sheppard, Madieu Williams, Marcus Sherels
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Vikings Organized Team Activities (OTAs) continue today and tomorrow and vikings.com’s coverage of the OTAs continues as well. OTAs #3 and #4 are not open to the media, so we’ll be your exclusive source for OTA-related news. If you haven’t already done so, check out practice highlights from OTA #1 and also be on the lookout for another highlight package from tomorrow’s OTAs (will be posted shortly after the conclusion of OTA #4).
We’re going to mix things up a bit in our written coverage of Thursday and Friday OTAs. First of all, CJ will be at Winter Park assisting with coverage of today’s action. Secondly, I’ll be focusing my coverage of today’s OTAs exclusively on offense and then tomorrow the focus will shift exclusively to defense.
Finally, remember to submit your Monday Morning Mailbag questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also remember that you can enhance your knowledge of all Vikings-related news by following our official Twitter account – @VikingsFootball.
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On Wednesday morning we wrote about rookie OL Chris DeGeare, the Vikings 5th round pick who arrived a touch late to this week’s OTAs so he could participate in graduation ceremonies at Wake Forest University. DeGeare, who earned a degree in Sociology from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) school, became the first member of his family to earn a college degree.
A versatile player with soft temperament but solid strength and power, DeGeare played both G and T at Wake Forest, spending most of his career at G but then switching to LT as a senior. We pointed out on Wednesday that DeGeare may have an opportunity to fulfill the role formerly held by Artis Hicks as a swing offensive lineman who can play multiple positions along the offensive line, something that would enhance his skill set and make him an attractive option to make the roster and round out the OL depth chart.
While I’d maintain that DeGeare has the capability to be that type of player, it should also be noted that Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said after Wednesday’s practice that the 6-4, 335-pound rookie is sticking to G for now during workouts.
“We are keeping him in there at guard right now,” Childress said. “Typically those offensive linemen are swimming right now but he has done some good things in the one-on-one stuff. He has to communicate with both people on the sides of him and learn a whole new system. Physically he can stand in there and do what he needs to do. It’s just a matter of getting it rote so that he doesn’t have to think he can just play.”
We also mentioned on Wednesday the reports that are linking free agent G Chester Pitts with the Vikings. Pitts is a 9-year pro who was drafted by the Houston Texans – starting all 112 games in which he played – but is coming off a knee injury that caused him to miss 14 games in 2009.
Pitts has said that as many as 5 teams, including the Vikings, have called inquiring about his services and he also said he’s scheduled a workout day for July 15.
“We are always inquiring,” Childress explained. “I think that we have talked to his agent. I don’t think that anyone in the organization has talked to Chester Pitts, maybe the exception of Sage Rosenfels because they are former teammates.
“I wasn’t aware that there is a workout day. I was thinking about being on a beach somewhere.”
Tags: Chris DeGeare
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