Veteran CB Sheppard Ready To Take Vikings Secondary To Next Level

Posted by cjsiewert on August 1, 2010 – 8:19 pm

Coming off a season that had the Vikings defense ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and just 26th in INTs, the new-look secondary for the Purple seems to be making strides in improving those rankings for the Vikings 50th season.

During the offseason, the Vikings acquired a pair of CBs to infuse competition and a promising future to a bolstered secondary unit – 9-year veteran Lito Sheppard and rookie Chris Cook.

Throughout the first 3 days of training camp, Sheppard has been involved with the 1st and 2nd-team defenses by rotating with 2nd-year CB Asher Allen. This weekend’s practices saw Allen taking reps with the 1st-team base package while Sheppard worked in the 2nd-team nickel package with both CBs rotating with each other often. This rotation between the pair of CBs may or may not be an indication of how playing time will be distributed during the season, but for the time being both players are seeing significant time with each defensive package.

“I think it’s more of counting reps and keeping them to a minimum,” Sheppard said when asked about the rotation. “I don’t know what they [coaching staff] got planned, I just go out there and do the best I can and be out there on day one.”

Even with Sheppard coming into his 1st-year with the Vikings, the 2-time Pro Bowler feels confident in his ability to contribute to the team’s defense to help improve off of last season. When asked about what is important when joining a new team, Sheppard was focused on the team aspect.

“I think it’s getting my teammates getting to believe in what I can do,” Sheppard said. “Me getting the feel of everybody and vice versa. I’m pretty familiar with the system. I’ve been in this type of system for seven years of my career so I got a real good feel about that but it’s just getting the other guy’s confidence in me and I can get the job done.”

Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress praised Sheppard’s ability to adapt to a new defensive scheme early in training camp and feels that he’ll be able to pick up the system quickly.

“I think the biggest thing he’s doing is getting back up to our kind of defense,” Childress said of Sheppard. “He has some familiarity with Les’ defense. He’s just learning some of the nuances. He’s another quick study guy, he’s played in a couple of different systems now. He’s got man-cape abilities and there’s another guy who’s got instincts.”

Sheppard joins another seasoned veteran on the Vikings secondary unit with 12-year veteran Antoine Winfield, who is coming off an ankle injury that plagued him throughout the 2009 campaign. The opportunity to play with another experienced CB had #29 excited about what the pair can bring to the table in 2010.

“It’s good to have a chance to play with him,” Sheppard spoke of Winfield. “I think with both of our experience we can definitely take this secondary to the next level.”

As Mike mentioned earlier, rookie CB Chris Cook had a monster day on the practice fields Sunday afternoon and with that in mind I’ll have a few more words from Sheppard on his impressions of the rookie CB as well as Childress’ comments on the matter.

But for now I’m off to Grandma’s house where I’ve got a slab of ribs waiting for me on the dinner table.

Posted in All, CJ Siewert | 6 Comments »

Vikings Complete Practice #4; Rookie CB Cook Shines

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2010 – 4:47 pm

On what was the hottest day of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp to this point, the Vikings completed an afternoon workout that lasted just short of 2 hours and starred rookie CB Chris Cook. The 2nd-round CB was able to nab 3 INTs during practice and impress spectators and coaches alike.

The Vikings will have 2 practices tomorrow – a morning session from 9:00 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. and then an afternoon workout from 3:00 to 4:55. On Tuesday they’ll hold 2 more practices and Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress said there will be a live period in the morning session.

CJ will have more on Cook’s impressive day as well as how Lito Sheppard’s transition is coming along in his 1st year as a Viking. In the meantime, here are a few quick thoughts from today’s practice.

– Going into training camp, I thought CB Lito Sheppard would be the defensive player who would impress me the most. He’s been solid while working with the 1st- and 2nd-team defense, but LB Chad Greenway has been the most impressive to me so far.

– WR Percy Harvin was not practicing Sunday afternoon. He tweaked his ankle on Saturday morning but was then able to practice on Saturday night, so early speculation regarding his absence from Sunday afternoon’s workout was that it was related to the ankle injury. But Childress disclosed that Harvin had a death in the family and that’s the reason for his absence.

– Logan Payne made the highlight play of the day on offense, stretching out in the right corner of the endzone to haul in a TD pass.

– I listened to DE Ray Edwards meet with a few reporters following practice and when asked about his contract situation the 5-year pro explained the issue was behind him and he’s instead focused on football and helping his team achieve the ultimate goal.

– I’ve noticed the Vikings are using a rotation of Toby Gerhart and Albert Young in place of Adrian Peterson when he doesn’t take 1st-team reps. I have not counted every snap, but my guess is Young has more reps so far with the 1st team. A long way to go yet before this position battle is decided.

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Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 32 Comments »

More To Come For Rookie QB Webb

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 1, 2010 – 9:14 am

He hasn’t stepped onto an NFL field in game action yet and most Vikings fans have never seen him actually play in a game, but rookie QB Joe Webb remains one of the more popular training camp stories nonetheless. His pure athletic ability and the chance that he could be a young, developmental prospect at such a critical position are at the center of Webb Mania.

All of that said, there have been some rough patches to this point for the young QB, something Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress says is expected of a wet-behind-the-ears NFL passer.

“Just like most 1st-year quarterbacks who are taking third-string turns with third-string guys,” Childress acknowledged after the team’s evening practice on Saturday night. “[But] he’s got an aptitude and you can see the arm strength. A lot of times guys are thinking so much that they can’t let their God-given athletic ability come out. You just want to keep accelerating that curve.”

Webb threw an INT during Saturday morning’s workout and the offense as a whole, including Webb, was not sharp during the evening workout. But Childress also noted that Webb has “a good presence” under center and will continue to learn the offense and get more comfortable as camp and the preseason moves along.

Before he makes any firm judgments on the 6th round pick from last April’s draft, Childress wants to see him when the live bullets are flying.

“Typically you want to see them with pads on and you want to see them pass under pressure,” Childress explained.

While Webb won’t be able to display his mettle in full-contact game action for more than a week, he’ll have plenty to learn and experience in the mean time. We’re only 3 days and 3 practices into camp…so there’s more to come for Webb.

Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 13 Comments »