Observations From Final Minicamp Practice

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 13, 2010 – 12:15 pm

The Vikings concluded their mandatory minicamp this weekend with a 4th and final practice on Sunday morning, working out for just over an hour under cloudy skies and moderate temperatures.

Practice format for Sunday looked similar to that of Friday and Saturday, though I did notice some red zone work being done. As has been widely-reported, Tarvaris Jackson took reps with the 1st team and rookie Joe Webb took many of the 2nd team reps. But following practice, Head Coach Brad Childress said not to read too much into the QB rotation at this point because the team is trying to split up reps to expose young players to as much as possible as they try to immerse themselves in the Vikings offense.

Speaking of Childress, he addressed the media following practice and was there to cover it. We’ll have video of that press conference available in on-demand format later today so be sure to check back.

Also important to note was that RBs Toby Gerhart and Adrian Peterson were not at practice today.

Several players were stopped by reporters following practice and I tried to poke my head into as many interviews as I could. Here’s what I heard…

– Jackson was asked about his improvement from the 2009 season and he explained that the biggest improvement he’s made has been a mental standpoint and a focus standpoint. Perhaps Jackson learned from fellow QB Brett Favre during last season, but I also think Jackson is naturally progressing as a QB in this league. He has the desire to succeed and I characterize him as a player who works at improving his craft.

Jackson also said he thinks he’s grown more during this offseason than he has during any other point in his career.

– LB Jasper Brinkley spoke with reporters about his progress through the offseason as well. Brinkley was a solid contributor to the Vikings special teams unit for the first 12 weeks of last season and then was inserted into the starting lineup when middle LB E.J. Henderson went down with a season-ending leg injury. Brinkley performed admirably in Henderson’s stead and it appears the Vikings will be comfortable with the 2nd year player in Henderson’s spot until the defensive captain can return to the lineup. One particular area Brinkley acknowledged he was focusing on was pass coverage, where he is concentrating on rotating his hips better and matching up route combinations with splits between receivers.

– CB Lito Sheppard said he noticed a sense of high expectation amongst the Vikings as they come off a season in which they advanced to the NFC Championship Game. It was an interesting observation from Sheppard because the Vikings new CB is also coming off a loss in a conference championship game. He was with the Jets in 2009 and the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Jets in the AFC title game.

– Many Vikings players and both Childress and assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier spent several minutes after practice visiting with and signing autographs for members of the 932nd Medical Squadron out of Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois. The squadron was lead by Master Sergeant Mike Taylor and also includes TSgt Gilmore, SSgt Jackson and Sr. Airman Wissman. The 932nd is in town on a 2-week tour at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

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Reynaud Continues Transition From WR To RB

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 13, 2010 – 8:51 am

Adrian Peterson’s absence from this weekend’s mandatory minicamp and 2nd round pick Toby Gerhart’s hectic travel schedule and immersion into the Vikings offense over the past several days have been hot topics of conversation over the weekend.

They are the team’s 2 highest-profile RBs but neither of them will be at Winter Park as the team wraps up minicamp with a Sunday morning practice. Peterson’s absence is due to the 4th annual “Adrian Peterson Day” in the superstar’s hometown of Palestine, TX and Gerhart left town on Saturday evening to attend commencement ceremonies at Stanford (he’ll be back to Winter Park for next week).

One of the RBs who will be at Winter Park for the final practice of minicamp is Darius Reynaud, who joined the Vikings 3 years ago as an undrafted college free agent WR but is transitioning to RB for the 2010 season. In previous seasons with the Vikings, Reynaud has contributed primarily as a punt returner and occasionally as a WR. But moving Reynaud to RB may give the shifty playmaker a better opportunity to contribute more frequently on offense.

Reynaud played RB in high school and at West Virginia University, so the idea isn’t foreign to him. But there are still some natural and sizable hurdles for him to overcome.

“You know he is taking a good look at things back there,” Childress said when asked about Reynaud’s transition. “I don’t know if that is surprising because he was a running back at West Virginia. But he is doing a pretty good job.”

Childress also mentioned that the next step in evaluating Reynaud’s transition is seeing how he carries his pads as a RB. The Vikings have worked without pads during OTAs and minicamp.

Another factor in the transition will be pass protection. Reynaud, who switched from jersey #82 to #27, looks natural with the ball in his hands and has a penchant for making defenders whiff on tackles. But playing RB in the NFL is more about breaking tackles and picking up yardage.

“That is going to be a big thing to be able to see if you can master that in a short time,” Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of Reynaud learning pass protection. “Again, not his willingness to block but just all the nuances of where we are protecting and how we are getting that done and where he fits in will be his biggest challenge probably.”

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