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
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