Notes From Tuesday’s Practice, Coordinator Press Conferences

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 4:33 pm

The Vikings had a long, grueling practice on Tuesday afternoon as they continue their rigorous preparation for the 2011 regular season, which begins in just under 3 weeks. The team worked in full pads for the approximately 2-hour practice and they did so in humid, sticky conditions.

Coaches paused more frequently for extra water breaks and the tough work in even tougher conditions gave the squad an idea of their conditioning. All indications are the team’s conditioning is good, especially considering how well the first-team defense and offense played against the scout teams.

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier indicated after Saturday’s preseason win over the Seattle Seahawks that the team would do a little bit of game-planning for their next opponent – the Dallas Cowboys – to try and simulate a week of preparation in the regular season. The Vikings did so today, with both the first-team defense and offense working against a scout team that was presumably simulating looks the Cowboys have given opponents so far during the preseason.

Here are a few notes from Tuesday’s action…

– The Vikings secondary was the standout group in practice, with S Tyrell Johnson collecting on INT in 7-on-7 drills and CBs Marcus Sherels and Antoine Winfield grabbing INTs during full team periods of practice. Johnson showed great range on his INT, coming from the deep right side of the field to the middle. Sherels also had a tremendous pass break up (PBU) during 1-on-1 drills in the period right after his INT.

– CB Chris Cook also performed well in 1-on1 drills and drew praise from DBs coach Joe Woods when he locked rookie WR Stephen Burton up at the line of scrimmage to disrupt the route. Cook made another nice play late in practice when he trailed WR Dominique Johnson all the way across the field on a drag route and extended his left arm to break up the pass.

– On the first play of the first period of full team work for the first-team defense, LB Erin Henderson intercepted a pass and returned it to the endzone. That marks the second consecutive day Henderson has grabbed an INT in practice.

– The first-team offense looked just as impressive going against the scout team defense. QB Donovan McNabb found WRs Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin several times, with Berrian able to get over the top of the defense at least three times that I saw for long receptions all over the field.

– DT Kevin Williams (foot) is on the mend a bit, so Letroy Guion got first-team reps at the 3-technique.

– Harvin made the play of the day and it came early in practice. He was running a route deep down the right side of the field and McNabb launched a pass in Harvin’s direction. By the time the ball came down it was actually falling into bracketed coverage, but Harvin cut in front of the coverage, leaped off of one foot and grabbed the ball with one hand, hauling it in and controlling the ball all the way to the ground.

– Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac was asked a few times about the starting safety position opposite Husain Abdullah and he did not indicate whether Tyrell Johnson or Jamarca Sanford had an edge in the competition. In fact, Pagac said both players have played about the same number of snaps and the competition may not be decided soon. The coaching staff is still talking about how to split up playing time this week against the Cowboys, but look for Sanford to get the start because Johnson started last week in Seattle.

– Pagac did not have an update on Kevin Williams’ status and he said he expects the defensive starters to play roughly 20-25 plays before exiting the game on Saturday night.

– Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave did not give much indication as to how long the offensive starters would play on Saturday night and instead explained that the coaching staff still had to make those decisions.

– Here was Pagac’s response when asked to assess the defense’s performance against Seattle: “Improvement of tempo; I thought we were running to the ball a little bit better. Our tackling was better. We still had a couple missed tackles, but our tackling was much better. Just the attitude that we played with and obviously the sudden change situation when we had the turnover for the touchdown and then that goal line stance after a long series. That means a lot to us, is something that we preach about all the time and the kids responded.”

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Pagac Anticipates DT Guion Making Impact In 2011

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 3:51 pm

Marcus Sherels’ 64-yard INT return for a TD was the premier defensive highlight in last Saturday’s 20-7 preseason victory over the Seattle Seahawks. But the turning point in the game may have actually occurred on the following Seattle offensive series.

The Seahawks offense responded well to Sherels’ pick 6, driving the ball from their own 27-yardline to the Vikings 2 in 10 plays, setting up a 1st-and-goal situation just six feet from the endzone. But that’s where the Vikings defense bowed up and stopped Seattle RB Justin Forsett on four consecutive runs.

DT Letroy Guion was credited with 2 tackles on those four plays but his impact was even greater. He was a disruptive force in that series of plays and it did not go unnoticed by the Vikings coaching staff.

“One guy in particular, Letroy Guion, he lit it up in that situation,” Vikings Defensive Coordinator Fred Pagac said on Tuesday. “He did a nice job for us.”

Pagac is a true throwback and is not one to shower praise on his players. But he made a point to specifically mention Guion’s role in the goal-line stand and he also indicated Guion is expected to make an impact on the Vikings defense this season.

“We think Letroy is going to be a heck of a football player for us,” Pagac commented. “We’re anticipating him being a big part of our defense this year. He’s coming along and he has the athletic ability. He’s strong, has quickness and has toughness.”

Guion stands at 6-4, 303 pounds and plays primarily the 3-technique behind starter Kevin Williams in the Vikings defense. The Vikings drafted him in the 5th round (#152 overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft and he was inactive for 15 of the Vikings 17 games that season. But in 2009 he took a step forward by playing in 7 games and then he became a regular in the DT rotation last year.

Speaking of the rotation, Pagac was asked if he took extra pride in the goal line stand from Saturday because it was his second-team defense that was in the game taking on Seattle’s first-team offense. As I said earlier, Pagac is a throwback and is not one to provide much hyperbole. He made it clear that while the goal line stand was a feather in the defense’s cap, it’s also something that he expects his players to accomplish.

“Again, as far as our front’s concerned,” Pagac said, “we’re planning on rolling those guys all year long, so in my mind they’re a part of our ones so they’ve got to play hard all the time, too.”

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Vikings Sign RB Caleb King, Release OL Huntley

Posted by Mike Wobschall on August 23, 2011 – 8:58 am

The NFL held the 2011 Supplemental Draft on Monday, but the Vikings elected not to select any players. On Tuesday morning, however, the Vikings signed a player who was eligible for the supplemental draft but was not selected.

The Vikings signed rookie free agent RB Caleb King, who played college football at the University of Georgia and will join a backfield in Minnesota that includes Lorenzo Booker, Tristan Davis, Toby Gerhart, Adrian Peterson and Alexander Robinson.

To make room for King, the Vikings waived OL Rod Huntley.

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