Vikings Special Teams Unit Thrives On Talent, Continuity

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 6, 2010 – 3:28 pm

The Vikings are often described as “a team with a lot of talent,” with names such as DE Jared Allen, QB Brett Favre, RB Adrian Peterson and DT Kevin Williams often used to justify the description. When you add in the fact that the Vikings had 10 Pro Bowlers a year ago, the description becomes even more accurate.

The names mentioned in the above paragraph are deployed primarily on offense or defense. But according to Vikings special teams coordinator Brian Murphy, his side of the ball has talent to boast of as well.

“Coach Childress, Rick (Spielman), George (Paton), Scott Studwell and those guys have done a very good job of loading our roster, not only on the front end but those guys that you play with on special teams,” Murphy explained on Monday. “We’ve upgraded every year, that talent pool. I think for the most part we’re consistent this year and have most of the guys back, which I think is a plus. But the way the 53 shook out, it’s a real credit to those guys and the work they put in to make sure every phase has their share of talent.”

Several recent Vikings draft picks have been or currently are core members of Murphy’s special teams unit. From the 2009 draft, Asher Allen, Jasper Brinkley, Percy Harvin and Jamarca Sanford all contributed significantly on special teams. Letroy Guion, Jaymar Johnson, Tyrell Johnson and John Sullivan were all taken in the 2008 draft and have been important members of the special teams unit. And from the 2007 draft you have players such as Brian Robison and even Peterson who’ve been special teams contributors over the years.

But it’s not just draft picks brought in by the Vikings personnel staff that have become key special teams players. Undrafted free agents who’ve recently joined the team and have become important special teams players include Husain Abdullah, Eric Frampton, Erin Henderson and Kenny Onatolu.

The accumulation of talent has produced more than just a long list of names who’ve remained on the Vikings roster over recent seasons. Statistics show that the Vikings have made special teams a priority when it comes to making personnel decisions. In 2008, the Vikings ranked 21st in kickoff return average allowed and in 2009 Murphy’s unit improved to 15th. The Vikings were ranked 32nd in punt return average allowed in 2008 (14.9 yards per return) and in 2009 that ranking jumped up to 12th (7.9 yards per return).

On the other end, the Vikings jumped from 20th in 2008 to 13th in 2009 in kickoff return average and they jumped from 24th in 2008 to 12th in 2009 in punt return average. Harvin earned a Pro Bowl berth as a returner last season and Heath Farwell joined him as a special teams Pro Bowler as well.

Credit goes to the Vikings personnel staff for bringing in players who’ve become special teams contributors. But credit also goes to Murphy, who has been able to take a collection of early-round draft picks, late-round draft picks and undrafted rookie free agents and turn them into a special teams unit that has improved in key areas over the last couple of seasons.

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Vikings List 7 On Initial Injury Report

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 6, 2010 – 2:34 pm

The Vikings have issued their 1st injury report of the 2010 season and 7 names appear on the list. NFL teams are required to submit an injury report on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before a Sunday game, so of course the Vikings and Saints injury report schedule is a bit different that it will be for most of the regular season.

Anyway, here’s a rundown of the Vikings and Saints injury reports.

A pair of Vikings defenders did not participate in practice today – CB Chris Cook (knee) and DT Jimmy Kennedy (knee). A quartet of Vikings were limited participants – RB Toby Gerhart (knee), CB Cedric Griffin (knee), S Jamarca Sanford (ankle) and C John Sullivan (ankle). QB Brett Favre (ankle) was a full participant.

The Saints listed 8 on their injury report. RB Chris Ivory (knee) and LB Stanley Arnoux (ankle) did not participate. LB Jonathan Vilma (groin), T Zach Stief (knee) and CB Tracy Porter (knee) were limited. S Pierson Prioleau (knee), TE Jimmy Graham (ankle) and WR Marques Colston (kidney) were full participants.

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Celebrate Back To Football Thursday And Help A Local School

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 6, 2010 – 1:46 pm

Vikings fans, thanks to an NFL program promoting the beginning of the 2010 season and benefitting education, you could win $10,000 in fitness equipment for your local school as well as a special Vikings fitness assembly with players, cheerleaders and Viktor the Viking on December 7th.

The national campaign is called Back to Football Friday. But for Vikings fans, it’s Back to Football Thursday (the Vikings open their season on Thursday night). The contest runs from the Vikings season-openr opener on September 9th through September 17th.

The concept is to celebrate the start of the Vikings season at your local school in a creative way, such as decorating a classroom in a Vikings theme, encouraging students to wear Vikings apparel, etc. The key is to take pictures of the celebration and load them to; 3 essay questions (short answers) also need to be answered as part of the contest.

No, this isn’t like playing the lottery. If you register your school, you have a reasonable shot at winning! So, click on this link. The Vikings wish you luck!

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Vikings Adjust Practice Squad

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 6, 2010 – 10:45 am

Building and maintaining an NFL roster is a never-ending process and that process continued today for the Vikings as they tweaked their practice squad a bit.

The Vikings have added G Seth Olsen and T Thomas Welch to the  squad while G Thomas Austin was released.

Olsen stands at 6-4, 305 pounds and is a product of the University of Iowa. He was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL Draft but was among the team’s roster cuts last weekend. Welch registers at 6-7, 310 pounds and comes to the Vikings from the New England Patriots. He played college football at Vanderbilt and was selected by New England in the 7th round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

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Reviewing Sunday’s Developments

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 6, 2010 – 9:18 am

With the Vikings opening the season on a Thursday night, the team’s schedule – and, consequently, our coverage of the team – leading up to Game 1 is a bit unusual. Yesterday’s (Sunday’s) schedule was just like a regular Wednesday schedule and today is just like a Thursday. On top of that, it’s Labor Day Weekend.

So over the past couple of days and into today it’ll be easy for aspects regarding the Vikings and their preparation for Thursday night’s season-opener to fall through the cracks for fans. To avoid that, let’s review what happened on Sunday…

The Vikings announced a 7-member practice squad. We’ll have more details regarding the Vikings practice squad shortly, so stay tuned.

– The Star Tribune quoted WR Percy Harvin as saying “I’m ready to play ball.” That’s a positive sign for Vikings fans.

– Speaking of Harvin, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress indicated to reporters that Harvin will assume kick return duties and that Harvin, Bernard Berrian, Greg Camarillo and others will take looks at the punt return role.

– While meeting with the media following his team’s practice, Vikings Head Coach Brad Childress addressed the backup QB situation. He explained that Tarvaris Jackson gives the Vikings the best chance to win, citing his knowledge of the offensive system and development during the offseason and training camp. Childress also said: “I think you have to understand that the guy that started with the first group (Jackson) got to play 8 snaps in the St. Louis game. The second guy (Sage Rosenfels) got 36 attempts and was 24 of 36 or something. 8 snaps – 36 snaps. The guys that they played. The guys that he played. It’s a completely different set of circumstances. I would hope that if Tarvaris was in there going with the two’s (2nd-team), that he would have been able to light it up that same way.”

– When asked about the team’s interest in free agent WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, whom the Vikings took a look at in free agency a year ago before Seattle signed him, Childress said “Right now, I’d be more prone to see if we could find a younger guy or somebody that’s been around in a West Coast offense.”

– One thing that is easily lost when looking back on last year’s NFC Championship Game between the Vikings and the Saints is how dominant Adrian Peterson was that night. Unfortunately, his fumbles overshadowed his production. Peterson ran for 122 yards and 3 TDs on 25 carries, an effort that Saints Head Coach Sean Payton hasn’t forgotten: “They’re one of the best rushing teams in the league. When you look at a guy like Adrian Peterson, and what they do as a front, they’re a team that each week is a handful rushing the football. I think as you prepare to play them you have to start with defending the run, defending a great halfback and a great offensive line like they have. And now defending a quarterback like Brett Favre. They kind of threaten you on a lot of fronts. That’s a big challenge.”

– When asked what was the most important position to add depth at this point, Childress said “Right now casting a gaze towards offensive lineman. I don’t think they are quite finished hammering through.”

– Childress indicated that the trade compensation for Sage Rosenfels was a 5th round pick and for Darius Reynaud it was “possibly a 7th” round pick.

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