Berrian Looks To Be In Top Form

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2010 – 2:44 pm

WR Bernard Berrian signed a big-money free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2008 season in a move designed to improve the team’s passing game by stretching opposing defenses to open things up underneath. And unlike many big-money free agents across the sports spectrum, Berrian delivered on expectations.

Berrian led the NFL in yards per catch at 20.1 and also set career highs with 7 TDs and 964 receiving yards.

His 2009 campaign was another good one, although not as sensational. Berrian ranked 3rd on the team in receiving yards after leading the team the year prior and the slight drop-off was due to an injury he suffered in the preseason. That injury had him a tick off.

But that is not the case so far during 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. Berrian is healthy and in my eyes he’s been one of the team’s most impressive performers. He makes the routine plays routinely and his speed is as evident as ever.

“I feel like I’m having a solid camp,” Berrian acknowledged, “but there are still things I can get better at and some things I can work on. There is still room to improve.”

Watching him in camp, you’d be hard-pressed to find something #87 can improve upon. But he cited route details, getting in and out of breaks and sinking his hips going into those breaks as areas of his game he’ll work to improve.

“I think one of the best things for Bernard is being out here,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “He did miss a lot of time, particularly in camp and early in the season last year. He was hobbled with the injuries he had last year. I think it is great for him to be out here. By the end of the year he had started to catch up a little bit. Like I said the other day, his best game was the last game (NFC Championship Game) against New Orleans.”

While Berrian is working to perfect detailed areas of his craft, Vikings WRs coach George Stewart says Berrian has already improved other areas of his game as well.

“The thing that he’s doing that has impressed me more than anything else, is with Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin being away, he’s stepped up his leadership role,” Stewart explained to me. “Bernard has always been quiet, very reserved and has played at a high level. But he is stepping up in that leadership role, which you need at a young position.”

In a Vikings world where the headlines are focused on QB Brett Favre and his status, it looks like one of Favre’s most reliable weapons is quietly regaining his top form from 2008.

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DeGeare Getting It In Gear

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2010 – 12:31 pm

Even with a solid “live” practice on Tuesday morning and then several periods of good pad-crunching action, it’s hard for observers to get a true gauge of where interior linemen are in their development as NFL players. To this point, though, Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell seems pleased with how DeGeare’s 1st NFL training camp is progressing.

“Chris is a big boy,” Bevell said of the 6-4, 335-pound rookie. “He is a strong, physical guy. He has a really good anchor down inside. I still see the wheels turning a little bit. There are times when you can speed things up a little bit. I like what I see out of him. The physical ability, the balance he has, he does a nice job.”

Bevell’s comments don’t appear to be hyperbole. When starting LG Steve Hutchinson has been out of action so far during camp, it’s been DeGeare who’s slid in to replace the perennial All-Pro.

“I know Hutch is that solid number one,” DeGeare said, “but it’s always good to get extra work in with the first-team defense. That’s part of the process and the more I can get the better.”

When DeGeare was selected by the Vikings in the 5th round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the book on him was that he had great position flexibility because he is able to both guard and tackle. But for now, DeGeare says position flexibility is not his focus.

“I feel like down the road it (position flexibility) is, but right now I want to get comfortable with my position” DeGeare explained. “They don’t want me swimming and trying to learn a bunch of positions. We’ll see what happens from there.”

The Wake Forest product explained that the key to learning a position in the NFL is knowing the playbook thoroughly, including the adjustments to protections that can be made along the offensive line, and also getting a lot of reps in practice to get a feel for the pace of the game.

As I finished up my conversation with DeGeare, I asked him who the toughest challenges were on the Vikings defensive line. Aside from the Williams Wall, DeGeare named DTs Letroy Guion and Jimmy Kennedy as beasts who provide a good challenge up front. Of course DeGeare (Wake Forest) and Guion (Florida State) go back a couple of years to their days together in the ACC.

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Notes From Morning Practice; E.J., Brinkley Shine

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2010 – 11:07 am

Mother Nature took it easy on us Wednesday morning and provided modest (compared to Tuesday) heat and humidity for a 2 hour and 10-minute workout in which the Vikings were suited up in shoulder pads, helmets and shorts. There was a fair amount of pad crunching going on, so I took my notebook out and jotted down a bunch of notes.

Here they are…

– The 1st portion of practice is typically dedicated to special teams, especially kick coverage. Following the kick coverage period, the Vikings worked on FGs and K Ryan Longwell looked sharp in his drill work. The last FG attempt from Longwell is occasionally designed to fall short so the team can practice returning a long missed FG; RB Darius Reynaud was the returner on Wednesday. It’s a part of the game that a team could easily go a whole season without seeing, but it’s interesting to me to take note of the minutia that teams go through to thoroughly prepare themselves for an upcoming season.

– RB Adrian Peterson was one of a handful of players who didn’t participate this morning. So rookie Toby Gerhart and 3-year veteran Albert Young shared the 1st team duties. When I saw Peterson without his shoulder pads as he headed out to practice, I wrote a note to myself to be sure to pay attention to which guy(s) got 1st-team reps. It seemed to me that Gerhart and Young shared equally the reps. At this point in camp, it’s my opinion that Young is ahead of Gerhart in the competition for Peterson’s complement, but I think ultimately it’ll come down to a trio (or more) of RBs who complement Peterson rather than a traditional 1-2 punch.

– LB play was impressive today, especially during team drills such as the 9-on-7 drill and LB vs. RB/TE passing and pass protection drill. During the 9-on-7 period, middle LBs Jasper Brinkley and E.J. Henderson stood out to me, consistently penetrating the line of scrimmage to cause disruption in the backfield or right at the line. Henderson broke up a pair of consecutive running plays, once on his own and then the 2nd time with DT Pat Williams. On the 4th and 5th plays of the period, it was Brinkley who caused the disruption, meeting up with Gerhart off RG and causing RBs coach Eric Bieniemy to tell Gerhart to bounce it outside and “trust your vision.” Near the end of this period, Reynaud registered the best run when he broke free off LT thanks to a nice seal block by rookie TE Mickey Shuler.

– Here are quick summaries of 2 players who looked good offensively: WR Bernard Berrian because of his smooth route running, leadership and sure-handedness. TE Garrett Mills because of several good “hands” catches (where the player doesn’t trap the ball against his body) during individual, 1-on-1, and team work.

– Finally, I should give you the attendance report from practice. The following players were not participants today: WR Percy Harvin (personal), WR Sidney Rice (PUP), CB Benny Sapp (illness), CB Cedric Griffin (PUP), Peterson (lower body) and LB J Leman (leg). It was good to see C John Sullivan (leg) and Shuler back in action after they had missed a few sessions.

That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more from 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp.

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Vikings Back To Work For Day 6

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2010 – 7:29 am

Wednesday is Day 6 of 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp and the Vikings will hit the fields for practice #9 this morning and then practice #10 this afternoon. The morning session will go from 9:00 a.m. to 11:10 a.m. and the afternoon session is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. and will end around 3:15 p.m.

Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell will meet with reporters after Wednesday morning’s practice and then the afternoon session will be a special teams practice. CJ will be here for the special teams practice and will have a report later today. I’ll be at both practices and will keep a global perspective on your favorite football team.

Feel free to chime in on the comments section below this entry to let us know what you’d like to see here on the Blog and also remember to follow the Vikings on Twitter (@VikingsFootball) for real-time updates on the team.

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A Sobering Reminder In The Intense Heat

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 4, 2010 – 7:21 am

As record high temperatures continue to bake the United States, the Vikings and 31 other NFL teams will continue their preparations for the 2010 season at training camps. The humidity here in Mankato is already high this morning and it’s expected to climb as the day goes on.

With that in mind, I found a note from ESPN’s NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert to be an appropriate and sobering reminder about the dangers of being out in these temperatures. Seifert, who was on the Vikings beat for the Star Tribune for 8 years, is on a tour of NFC North camps and on August 1 – the 9-year anniversary of Vikings T Korey Stringer passing away from complications related to heat stroke – Seifert chimed in with some thoughts.

“I think of Korey every time I step onto a steamy training camp field,” Seifert wrote. “I hope you do as well, and I hope that his completely preventable death helped convince the general public that heat stroke is real, that it’s dangerous and it is deadly.”

He goes on to say more and you can read it by clicking here. It’s just a reminder of how we lost a great man that hot summer day in 2001 and how we can go about preventing it from happening again.

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