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Competition On Offensive Line Remains Thick; Practice Notes

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 15, 2011 – 3:05 pm

The Vikings returned to the practice fields on Monday afternoon after playing in their first preseason game of 2011 on Saturday night in Tennessee. Training camp has shifted from the University of Minnesota, Mankato to Winter Park’s outdoor practice fields at the Vikings home facility.

“It was nice to be able to have a practice here at Winter Park on our field,” Frazier said after practice. “The first time we’ve actually worked with our players on this field. It’s hard to believe…it’s what, August 15 and this is our first time standing on this field together as a team. It was good work for us, good for our coaches to be around our players in this environment and it feels good to be back at Winter Park.”

Aside from being back “home” again for practice, it was also nice to see RG Anthony Herrera back in the action. Herrera didn’t participate in the Mankato portion of training camp and he didn’t play in Saturday night’s preseason opener because of injuries, but on Monday Herrera was back in the action and he was working with the first-team offense.

Herrera wasn’t the only one working with the first-team at RG, though. In fact, I noticed quite a bit of rotation at first-team RG and at second-team RT. Herrera and Scott Kooistra spent time with the first-team at RG, while Chris DeGeare, who started at RG on Saturday night, was actually playing RT with the second-team. Also playing with the first-team at RG was Ryan Cook.

It was a bit of a surprise to see Kooistra at RG because he’s played primarily OT during training camp. He does have experience playing guard, though, so it wouldn’t be a total surprise to see him make the move inside. For now, Frazier indicated Kooistra will concentrate mainly on OT.

At this point Herrera appears to be the team’s choice at RG, but there is uncertainty with whether he’ll be able to play by Week 1. With that being the case, both DeGeare and Cook are also in the mix for the starting position.

“You don’t want to eliminate Ryan Cook,” Frazier explained. “Cook still has an opportunity to compete for that position and it’s competition right now because we’re not certain where Anthony is going to be. We just have to see how he progresses.”

Expect to see the Vikings continue to experiment with different combinations along the first- and second-team offensive lines; that’s why we have training camp and the preseason. The goal is to get the best five guys playing along the first-team offensive line and then a group of reserves who have position flexibility.

Let’s get to a few practice notes…

– The Vikings worked for about an hour and 10 minutes under mostly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and a slight breeze. Frazier had his players working in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts and the team worked in front of part of the Vikings ownership group.

– After a quick warm-up and individual position drills, there was a special teams period. It was interesting to watch RB Adrian Peterson working on the side with RBs coach James Saxon during the special teams period. Obviously Peterson doesn’t play on special teams, but it was good to see him and coach Saxon work on some footwork-related issues during the time off.

– Of the seven players who were held out of Saturday’s preseason game, only LB Kenny Onatolu and TE Visanthe Shiancoe didn’t practice on Monday. Onatolu continues to be sidelined by a foot injury and Shiancoe tweaked his hamstring late in the Mankato portion of training camp. Frazier said the goal is to get Onatolu back for the Dallas preseason game on August 27. Shiancoe remains day-to-day.

– S Mistral Raymond, who had a terrific training camp in Mankato but who also tweaked his hamstring on the final play of the final practice in Mankato, did not play on Saturday night. But he was back at practice on Monday and Frazier said the rookie felt no residual effects of his injury during Monday’s work.

– Also sitting out practice on Monday were: LB Heath Farwell (hamstring), DE D’Aundre Reed (calf) and OL Thomas Welch (glute). Frazier described Reed as day-to-day and he also said Welch is expected to be able to practice on Tuesday.

– FB Ryan D’Imperio made a nice one-handed grab on the first play of 7-on-7 drills. He was circling out to the right flats and McNabb led him a touch too much. But D’Imperio stuck his left hand out and was able to haul in the pass. Another one-handed catch was made in 7-on-7 and it was a familiar face doing it. TE Kyle Rudolph, who had another one-handed grab earlier in training camp, was running down the left seam and McNabb led him perfectly. LB Mark Washington was in coverage and actually was shadowing Rudolph perfectly. But Rudolph went full extension to the ground and came up with the one-handed grab.

– Speaking of LB Mark Washington, he got his hands on an INT during 7-on-7.

– WR Bernard Berrian made an impressive catch in the middle of the field. Rookie CB Brandon Burton was in on the coverage and was draped all over Berrian, but McNabb forced the pass into Berrian’s area and #87 came up with the grab. Another impressive play was turned in toward the end of practice and it was rookie QB Christian Ponder who did it. He lasered in a pass to Juaquin Iglesias on a deep out route down the right sideline. The pass was perfectly placed, right past the out-stretched arms of the defender but close enough to the field so that Iglesias could make the catch and get both feet in bounds.


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Vikings Special Teams Give Strong Showing

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 15, 2011 – 7:11 am

It’s generally not something you find football fans talking about, but it’s a vital part of every team and it’s an important factor in every game. We’re talking about special teams. And this preseason for the Vikings, it’s an especially important group to watch because there’s a new special teams coordinator in town with Mike Priefer aboard.

After one preseason game, it’s so far, so good for Priefer’s special teams groups. In what was mostly an uninspiring performance from the Vikings on Saturday night in Tennessee, the special teams groups looked strong. Let’s take a moment to point out a few of the strongpoints…

– P Chris Kluwe had a nice night, booming five punts and generating an average of 41.6 yards per punt and 39.4 net yards per punt; a net average of 39.4 yards would’ve ranked Kluwe 4th among all punters last year. Also, Kluwe put two of his five punts inside the 20-yardline and only three of his punts were returned.

– The Vikings punt coverage unit performed well in unison with Kluwe, allowing just 3.7 yards per return on three attempts.

– On kickoff returns, the Vikings averaged 26.0 yards per try, which would’ve ranked them 2nd in the NFL last year. In kickoff return coverage, the Vikings allowed just 19.0 yards per return, which also would’ve ranked them 2nd best in the NFL last year.

– Give credit to the group of Kluwe, K Ryan Longwell and long snapper Cullen Loeffler because they didn’t have a botched snap, hold or kick all night. Longwell was true from 37 yards out to give the Vikings their only points.

– WR Jaymar Johnson, who is trying to earn a spot on the WR depth chart, certainly helped his cause by performing on special teams. He returned a punt 40 yards in the second half, displaying a quick burst and then excellent top-end speed on the play. Another WR – Devin Aromashodu – who is also trying to win a spot on the WR depth chart helped himself on special teams as well by notching a tackle.

– Others who chipped in with special teams tackles were LB Larry Dean, S Eric Frampton and LB Heath Farwell.


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