Thursday afternoon’s practice saw Vikings players wearing just helmets and soft shoulder pads, so although there wasn’t full-on contact, the men in purple continued to hold an up-beat practice. Also, the afternoon practice ran for just an hour, giving the team a lighter workload after a morning session filled with game-ending and hurry-up situations.
Even with the afternoon practice running a bit on the lighter side, I kept my eye on the men in the trenches to see how the battle between the offensive linemen was fairing. Not being able to go full contact diminished the ability to gauge how each individual offensive lineman was performing, but it was a good opportunity to see the hand and footwork of each player.
It is easy to say that the regular starter’s mechanics – LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, RG Anthony Herrera and RT Phil Loadholt – were up to par, but I was equally impressed with a pair of lesser-known OL, 2nd-year T Patrick Brown out of Central Florida and 3rd-year T Chris Clark out of Southern Mississippi
Both Brown and Clark participated on the 2nd-team offense by rotating with each other at LT. It was good to see this pair of Ts competing during practice but it was even more encouraging to watch them stay after practice, along with Loadholt, to work on their conditioning.
“It’s your job on the line every day,” Brown acknowledged of his extra efforts to improve. “I think about it every time I come out here. Every mess up is something that’s gonna stick in the coach’s mind.”
Brown has an obvious awareness of what is at stake during training camp but he also mentioned that getting his rookie year out of the way and gaining close relationships with the veterans on the team has allowed him to have a tighter focus on making the 53-man roster.
“I definitely feel a lot more comfortable,” Brown said. “Rookie year is always a whirlwind, you have a lot of nerves. You hear all the stories about all the vets and seeing them at the Pro Bowl. Here, Steve Hutchinson and John [Sullivan] have helped me out a lot.”
Since Thursday afternoon’s practice wasn’t the best time to gauge the battle down in the trenches, I’ll have a more detailed analysis once the team holds another “live” practice, but until then stay tuned to vikings.com.
Tags: Chris Clark, Patrick Brown
Posted in All, CJ Siewert | 6 Comments »
As we mentioned earlier this morning, a group of NFL officials and a regional supervisor are visiting 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp for the next few days. Along with attending practices and team meetings to work with players and coaches, the group has also met with reporters to explain some of the rules changes that will go into effect this season.
I want to start by saying it’s impressive that the NFL has taken the initiative of player safety so seriously. Most of the rules changes are made with player safety – and the safety of the officials – in mind and this tactic will help to preserve the great game of football and the success of the NFL.
I’ll list, word-for-word, the new or adjust rules at the end of this blog entry for those interested in the minutia. For those who want a quick read and then want to move on to something else, here are the basics…
– Protection for defenseless players (receivers, long snappers, QBs in the act of throwing, kickers/punters after the ball is kicked, etc.)
— Defenders on the line of scrimmage during a FG attempt, punt or PAT must line up with their entire body outside of the snapper’s shoulder(s).
— The ball will be ruled dead if the runner’s helmet comes off.
— Penalty yardage for interference with the opportunity to make a catch has been adjusted; it will now be a spot foul.
— After the half has expired, dead ball personal fouls will be enforced at the start of the next half/overtime.
— New overtime rule (explained below).
— Replay review timing (explained below).
— Eligibility numbers for defensive linemen, LBs and centers have expanded.
— Loose balls striking objects (video boards, score boards, camera wires, etc.) results in dead ball.
Also, here are the points of emphasis for the 2010 season:
— Exaggerated gestures toward officials
— Late hits
— Low blocks
— Positioning of umpire
The point of emphasis on the position of the umpire will now have the umpire lining up in the offensive backfield instead of behind the defensive linemen. The reasoning for this is the safety of the umpire. The difficulties in this change include spotting the ball after a play, keeping track of substitutions, illegal players downfield and a presence among players immediately after a play. The positive about this change is that the umpire will be able to spot a holding call more clearly. In addition, umpires will resume their traditional position behind the line of scrimmage during the last 2 minutes of each half.
Here are the rules changes word-for-word:
Rule 4-7-4: If a replay review inside of one minute of either half results in the on-field ruling being reversed and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock, then the officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal.
5-1-2: The eligible jersey numbers for defensive linemen, LBs and centers have expanded.
7-2-2: During a FG attempt, punt or PAT, a team B player, who is within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap, must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads.
7-4-1: The ball will be dead if a runner’s helmet comes off.
7-4-3: If a loose ball in play strikes a video board, guide wire, sky cam or any other object, the ball will be dead immediately and the down will be replayed at the previous spot.
10-2-2: The penalty yardage for interference when a kicking team player attempts to catch a muffed kick has been eliminated.
12-2-8, 13: Protection for defenseless players has been standardized and expanded.
14-1-7: After the half has expired, dead ball personal fouls by the offense or defense will be enforced on the succeeding kickoff.
16-1-3, 7: In overtime of postseason games, a FG by the team that possesses the ball first will not end the game.
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 6 Comments »
Although they weren’t fully padded up and there was no tackling to the ground, Vikings players were competing about as hard as you’ll see during a training camp practice on Thursday morning and it was a delight to watch. Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress had his squad working on game-ending and hurry-up situations, which ramped up the competitive atmosphere and probably provided some great tape for the coaches to go in and digest early this afternoon.
In 2009, the Vikings had 2 game-winning drives on offense and 1 game-winning drive on defense. The game-winning offensive drives came in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers (Brett Favre to Greg Lewis ring a bell?) and then in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens (Longwell 31-yard FG), and the game-winning drive on defense also came in the Baltimore game when the Ravens were forced to try a 44-yard FG to pull out a win.
“A good little segment today,” Childress said in his opening remarks while meeting with the media after practice. “A couple of two-minute situations that we faced here in the last four or five years. You can’t get enough of that work and just as we reviewed last night, the teams that are coming one way to beat us or we were trying to go one way to beat somebody else, games in this league come down to that quite frequently.”
The first 2-minute situation called upon the 1st-team offense to drive from their own 37-yardline in 2 minutes with 2 timeouts, needing a TD to win the game. Tarvaris Jackson guided the offense down the field and a laser to TE Visanthe Shiancoe put the offense right around the 10-yardline. Jackson hurried the offense down the field to kill the clock, and then with time for 1 final play Jackson hit WR Greg Lewis in the endzone for the TD.
The second 2-minute situation charged the 2nd-team offense with driving from the 80-yardline with 2 minutes to go and 2 timeouts, needing a FG to win. On the 1st play of the series, the play was blown dead because of a sack and loss of 10 yards. Three plays later on 4th down, LB Ben Leber broke up a pass but was called for pass interference, which extended the drive. Another pass interference call several plays later pushed the offense into scoring range and K Rhys Lloyd ultimately came on to split the uprights on a 48-yard FG as time expired.
“Any situation we deal with (in practice), we want to make it game-like,” Jackson told me after practice. “We want to make it as close to the real game as possible so when you get in that situation it’s not new to us.”
A few other notes from this morning’s practice…
– During the early parts of practice, the offense installed its hurry-up package and all 3 teams had an opportunity to execute it against air. Not surprisingly, Jackson looked the most comfortable of the 3 QBs during the drill, Rosenfels was not quite as comfortable and rookie QB Joe Webb struggled the most.
– NFL officials joined the team for practice this morning and will be with the team over the next couple of days. I’m sure this is a common ritual around the league and it’s something the Vikings have done every year under Childress. The officials work with the players and coaches during practice answering questions or pointing out points of emphasis for the coming season; they even call penalties during the team portions of practice.
“We invite those guys into all of our meetings at night and we don’t have any secrets,” Childress said. “If they’ll share with our people – how they’re looking at things and how they’re calling things – it’s their expertise so we don’t make it a closed-door affair. It’s an inclusive deal and they can jump in with offensive linemen, or the secondary, or the wide receivers, wherever they can get better. We’re glad to have them here.”
– One of the Vikings “special categories” periods of practice was an all 3rd-down session. The 1st team offense picked up 1st downs on 3 of 4 plays, the 2nd team was 2 for 4 and the 1st team was 1 for 4.
– I watched the defensive line vs. the offensive line during the 1-on-1 period of practice. Individuals who stood out while winning their 1-on-1 battle were: C Ryan Cook, DT Fred Evans, DT Letroy Guion, LG Steve Hutchinson, LT Bryant McKinnie and DE Brian Robison.
– There was a spirited session of the inside skeleton passing drill between the LBs/Ss and RBs/TEs. In the final matchup of the drill, LB Chad Greenway went up against Shiancoe. Greenway forced an incompletion and the LB group broke out in over-emphasized rejoice to chide Shiancoe. As the players began running away to the next drill, Childress held everyone up and asked for Greenway and Shiancoe to have a rematch. So the 2 players lined up again, this time with the whole team present to watch. At the snap, Shiancoe made a nice move on Greenway to release from the line of scrimmage and wiggled his way open. But Greenway didn’t quit and was able to catch up to Shiancoe and rip the ball from his arms to force another incompletion. The LB group broke out in cheers again and Shiancoe took it very well. It was a fun part of practice and a great display of competitiveness.
– Players who were out of action today included: WR Percy Harvin (personal), WR Sidney Rice (PUP), CB Benny Sapp (illness), CB Cedric Griffin (PUP), RB Darius Reynaud (leg), RB Adrian Peterson (leg) and LB J Leman (leg).
– With Harvin and Rice experiencing extended time away from camp, WR Greg Lewis has gotten reps exclusively with the 1st team offense and he’s taking advantage of the situation by making a positive impression on Childress. When asked about Lewis’ performance so far during camp, Childress referred to Lewis as a “jack of all trades” and a “crafty” player at his position.
– Childress was also asked about DT Letroy Guion and the kind of camp he’s having. Here was his response: “He’s had a good camp. He looks like he’s matured. He came in a couple pounds heavy, but nothing to write home about. I think that’s probably balanced out. I think he understands more about what we’re doing and what we’re asking of him defensively. I think he’s doing a better job rushing the passer and he’s always been stout in the run game.
– The offensive line has looked much better the past 2 days with C John Sullivan back in the fold.
Tags: Ben Leber, Greg Lewis, John Sullivan, Letroy Guion, Sage Rosenfels
Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 10 Comments »
Wednesday afternoon’s practice was kept to just about an hour as the special teams unit got in its 1st “special teams only” practice of the 2010 Verizon Vikings Training Camp. Kickoff return specialist Percy Harvin did not participate in the special teams practice as he continues to handle personal matters, but Darius Reynaud – who returned 30 punts for 308 yards in 2009 – found himself returning a number of punts and kickoffs.
Special teams was an area the Vikings addressed during the offseason as they acquired kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd. Lloyd possesses the ability to pin the ball deep in opponent’s territory and has proven this skill with a league-leading 30 touchbacks in 2008 and another 21 in 2009 to rank 6th in the NFL.
To complement Lloyd in the punting game, P Chris Kluwe has provided consistency in the Vikings special teams unit over the past 5 seasons. The 6-year veteran had the top punting average of his career at 37.8 yards in 2009, including 24 punts of 50+ yards. A key component to Kluwe’s drive to improve his punting abilities consists of his directional kicking.
“I know a lot of guys use the Aussie rules, end-over-end kick,” Kluwe mentioned of directional punting. “For them it’s easier to control and put it down there, but I’ve always felt more comfortable with just trying to put it down in the corner. I think it’s something that I’ve gotten pretty good at and will continue to try and improve.”
As mentioned, the special teams practice lasted only for about an hour, so there really wasn’t a whole lot of action but here are a few notes from Wednesday afternoon’s practice…
– The 1st half of practice consisted of both the punt and punt return teams with Asher Allen, Taye Biddle, Jaymar Johnson, Reynaud, Lito Sheppard and Marcus Sherels returning punts.
– Rookie CB Chris Cook showcased his speed as an outside gunner on the punt team by consistently being the 1st man to reach the punt returner.
– Kluwe provided his ability to punt the ball well with impressive hang-time and distance. Kluwe consistently punted the ball around the area of 45 yards.
– The 2nd half of practice involved the kick return team with Johnson, Reynaud and Ray Small returning kicks.
Tags: Chris Cook, Chris Kluwe, Darius Reynaud, Rhys Lloyd
Posted in All, CJ Siewert | 1 Comment »