Senior Bowl Update: Vikings Coaches Taking Advantage Of Opportunity

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 25, 2012 – 4:55 pm

All of the attention this week in Mobile, Alabama during Senior Bowl practices is on this group of senior football players, as it should be. This is their time to shine, in front of hundreds of NFL coaches, scouts and GMs, and with no underclassmen present to steal the spotlight.

But given that Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier and his staff are heading up the North squad this year, and given the intensity with which the Vikings staff is coaching, I wanted to take a quick moment to acknowledge the effort and hard work Coach Frazier’s group has committed to this week and to this North squad.

I wrote a full piece on this subject, which you can view by clicking here. But I also wanted to share one highlight of the story here with Blog readers.

An example of a Vikings coach taking advantage of the opportunity to coach in the Senior Bowl and get the most out of these senior football players with the NFL draft just 3 months away is DBs coach Joe Woods, who has been with the club since 2006. Some coaches motivate and instruct subtly, some are more vocal and boisterous. Woods doesn’t blur the line – he’s one of the team’s most vocal coaches, and that makes it easy and fun to watch him at work with his players.

Woods actually was in quite the fish bowl during Wednesday’s practice as he worked with the North squad’s DBs during the individual drills portion of the workout. He was working with his players on changing direction, especially on the art of players shifting their body weight from one direction to the other as they responded to instructions from Woods during the drill. As Woods barked out instructions and his players labored through the drill, a rather large crowd of distinguished NFL personalities gathered to watch.

To one side was Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who worked with Woods in 2006 on the Vikings staff and before that in Tampa Bay. Standing next to Tomlin was Atlanta Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff. On the other side of the drill was Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll, a former Vikings defensive backs coach as well. And standing behind the drill watching from the NFL Network set was Mike Mayock, a former defensive back himself and one of the top NFL draft and college football analysts in the country.

Certainly these individuals were not gathered to watch how an assistant coach conducted the drill, that’s not the point. They were gathered to watch the talented crop of individuals that comprise the North squad’s DBs group. But while Tomlin, Dimitroff, Carroll and Mayock watched those players, they were also subjected to the passionate style with which Woods coaches, not just here in Mobile but also back with the Vikings on a daily basis during the season and during the offseason program.

I’m not the only one noticing the excellent job Frazier and his staff are doing with this year’s North team.

“The Minnesota coaches are real,” Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Denard told the Star Tribune’s Dan Wiederer earlier in the week. “Coach Frazier put a lot of fire in our eyes. I like the way he talks. He let us know this was a big step and that we need to go hard every play all day long to stand out.”

The North squad players are not the only individuals standing out. Frazier and his staff are standing out as a passionate and talented group of coaches. Coming off a 3-13 season, the Vikings have a lot of holes to fill on the roster and a lot of improvement to make overall during the offseason.

If their performance during Senior Bowl practices this week is any indication, the Vikings coaching staff is already hard at work.

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The Sporting News Names Jared Allen Defensive Player Of The Year

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 25, 2012 – 1:44 pm

The post-season awards continue to roll in for Jared Allen following the best season of his career and a season in which he set a new Vikings single-season record with 22.0 sacks. His latest honor is a significant one, as the fine folks at The Sporting News have named Allen their Defensive Player of the Year.

This is not the “big” defensive player of the year award – that is the AP’s version of the award – but this is still a signiciant award because The Sporting News collects votes from players, coaches and executives in doling out post-season honors. Here is part of what The Sporting News wrote about Allen in making the announcement:

“With 22.0 sacks, the Vikings end was just one shy of breaking Michael Strahan’s NFL record of 22.5, and a panel of 632 NFL players, coaches and executives chose him as Sporting News’ defensive player of the year by two votes (113-111) over second-place DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys.”

We’ve made the case in the past here on the Blog that Allen should be named the AP’s Defensive Player of the Year, but we won’t find out if the AP’s voters correctly voted him as such. Other players across the League certainly had standout seasons, but I continue to think that no NFL defender played consistently at a higher level than Allen in 2011. There were only 3 games this season in which Allen did not register a sack, and he also had 6 multi-sack games and 3 games with 3+ sacks. Adding to his impressive season is the fact that Allen also had 4 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries and 1 INT. He was consistently the Vikings best player all season, and opponents had a hard time stopping him even though it was their #1 priority coming into the game.

The Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year award is just the latest post-season award to come Allen’s way. He was named a Pro Bowler and is currently in Hawaii preparing for that game, he was named to the AP’s All-Pro team and he earned another defensive player of the year honor from the prestigious 101 Awards.

Another interesting aspect of The Sporting News’ announcement that Allen was named Defensive Player of the Year is that the publication shared comments they’ve gathered from players around the League regarding the season Allen had. Here are a few of them:

Bryan Bulaga, RT, Packers: “If you just watch him—his motor and effort and the way he plays—it’s intense. It’s hard to say anything bad about the guy because he does everything well. He plays the run well; he has a good motor against the run. His whole game is built on his intensity and motor. And he’s deceivingly quick. He’s got good hands, so in the pass rush he’s able to get around guys by continually working his hands and doing that kind of stuff.

“Obviously, he’s one of the best pass rushers in the game. If you look at what he ended up with—what, 20 (sacks)?—he just missed (the record). Wow. That kind of just shows you the type of guy he is. He’s a great player. I think he plays the game properly. He plays hard, he’s intense, doesn’t give up on plays. When his team is down, that’s the last guy you’re going to see giving up on a play. As a coach, those are the type of guys you want. No matter what the situation, he’ll continue to work and work and work. That’s what he does.”

Dominic Raiola, C, Lions: “He’s a relentless competitor. There’s no secret why he’s so good and why he gets paid that money and why he’s been around for so long. He’s somebody you’ve got to account for. You’ve got to include him in the game plan just because he does get after the quarterback. … He’s relentless. When you’re relentless, you’re going to get to the quarterback.”

Tyler Clutts, FB, Bears: “Jared Allen is a motor guy who just goes and goes and goes and goes. He’s a guy who you can’t ever not account for—even when the play looks like it’s done. You have to always get help on him. He’s just a slippery defensive end, which makes him dangerous to every quarterback.”

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Fast Facts From The 2012 Senior Bowl

Posted by Mike Wobschall on January 25, 2012 – 7:10 am

Yesterday I explained how an influx in underclassmen declaring for the NFL draft has added significance to the annual Senior Bowl. Today I thought I’d pass along a few interesting facts provided by the Senior Bowl that further illustrate the influence of this week and this game on the draft process.

– A total of 12 first-round draft choices played in the 2011 game and 83 players off of last year’s roster were drafted.
– The 2011 Senior Bowl featured two Top 10 picks (Von Miller and Jake Locker).
– The Senior Bowl has had a Top 10 pick for 15 straight years and double-digit 1st-rounders for 7 consecutive years.
– The 2012 Senior Bowl rosters include 20 All-American selections and countless All-Conference picks.
– The South won the 2011 contest 24-10 behind Florida State QB Christian Ponder, who was named the game’s MVP after throwing for 132 yards and 2 TDs.
– More than 250 media members have been approved for credentials to cover the week’s events and the Senior Bowl game.
– The South leads the all-time series in this matchup 30-26-3.

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