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5 Observations From OTA #2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 4:10 pm

The Vikings conducted OTA #2 on Wednesday on the outdoor practice fields at Winter Park in more favorable conditions than Tuesday’s action. It was partly sunny with little breeze and moderate temperatures, creating a good teaching environment for the coaches and a comfortable climate for the players.

Both head coach Leslie Frazier and QB Christian Ponder met with reporters following practice, and we’ve posted both of those press conferences to the website. So check that out after reading the following 5 observations from Wednesday’s practice…

Looking for a big year
CB Chris Cook made a great play during the 7-on-7 period of practice, leaping to high-point a deep pass along the right sideline. Cook immediately bounced to his feet and sprinted down the sideline, accompanied by defensive teammates serving as would-be blockers. Veteran Antoine Winfield was asked after practice about Cook, and he said: “We’re looking for a big year out of him.”

A lot like Frazier
Winfield hung out for nearly 20 minutes after practice speaking to reporters, and he was eventually asked about new Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. Said Winfield of his new coordinator: “Reminds me of Leslie Frazier. Soft-spoken, straight to the point and he expects us to work hard each day.”

Play the pass, too
If the Vikings were to play a game today, the starting middle LB would likely be Jasper Brinkley. Known as a hard hitter and sound run-stuffer, some may question Brinkley’s ability to play the pass. But Brinkley is determined to prove those people wrong. Last week on Vikings Tonight, a weekly 30-minute radio show hosted by Paul Allen and co-hosted by yours truly on the Vikings Radio Network, Brinkley was our guest. When I asked him if filling the gaps in the run game was his forte, Brinkley quickly responded by saying: “Not to neglect my pass coverage, I can play that. That’s one of the things people always try to say that I can’t do. But I will be able to prove this year than I can do it.” You have to love that determination from Brinkley, and you also have to love how Brinkley is following through on his commitment. After practice on Wednesday, there was a group of 6 DBs catching passes from the JUGS machine. Joining that group of 6 DBs was one other player – Brinkley.

Felder finds an INT
At one point during practice a CB made a great play on a pass to collect an INT. The player was wearing jersey #43, so I had to glance down at my cheat sheat to figure out the identity of that player. It was Bobby Felder, an undrafted rookie out of Nicholls State. If he keeps making those kinds of plays, Felder could play himself into a roster spot. I was glad to see him grab the INT.

Play of the day
The play of the day – of the plays I saw, anyway – was a tremendous reception made by an unlikely target. QB Joe Webb dropped back to pass and lofted a pass fairly deep down the left sideline. As I panned to my left to watch the conclusion of the play, I expected to see either Devin Aromashodu or Jerome Simpson run under the pass. But instead it was FB Matt Asiata, who was sprinting toward the ball and completely extended himself to make the diving catch and land inbounds.


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Ponder Continues Progression During OTA #2

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 1:46 pm

Vikings QB Christian Ponder will enter just his second season in 2012 and right now he’s going through his first offseason program in the NFL due to the lockout that kept players away from facilities last year. That, combined with the natural disadvantages offenses face this early in the installation process, makes it no surprise that Ponder is finding adversity at times during OTAs.

It happens to every young NFL QB. Facing adversity is not the issue, though. It’s how the QB handles that adversity and how the QB bounces back from it that matters most. In that respect, the Vikings are in good shape with Ponder at the helm.

 “Today was a good starting point,” Ponder said after OTA #1. “A little rusty. I think guys were a little nervous. But a starting point.

“I’m a pretty big self-critic. I’ll probably go in and get upset at myself. There were some positives. No turnovers, which is a good thing and something I need to improve upon. Our main goal an offense right now is to get better on first and second down. And I’m going to see a lot of stuff on film that I’m going to get mad at myself, but I need to realize this is a starting point and we have nine more of these (OTAs).”

As of now, the Vikings have eight more OTAs because the team conducted OTA #2 on Wednesday afternoon. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier said Wednesday marked improvement for the entire squad from Tuesday’s work, and Ponder acknowledged that he saw improvement from the offense on Wednesday as well.

“I thought today was a lot better than yesterday,” Ponder said during his post-practice press conference. “Yesterday was an okay starting point for everybody. The defense kind of got the better of us yesterday, but today I think the offense came back and played a lot better. Overall I think I’ve progressed a lot the past two days. I think the whole offense has done a lot better.”

One moment that illustrated Ponder’s progression so far during OTAs came about midway through Wednesday’s practice during 7-on-7 work. On the first play of the period, Ponder lofted a pass deep down the left sideline for WR Devin Aromashodu, but CB Chris Cook made an exceptional play on the ball and grabbed the INT. On the next play, Ponder dropped back and rifled a pass into the center of the field to hit WR Stephen Burton between two defenders. The pass was perfectly timed and was the proper read. As Ponder jogged back to the huddle, Vikings Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave barked “Way to bounce right back!”

Later in the 7-on-7 drill, Ponder found Burton once more on a perfectly-placed intermediate pass among three defenders to the right side and he finished the drill by finding a speedy Jerome Simpson running a deep crossing route.

There is still work to be done for Ponder and the Vikings offense, and they will be the first to acknowledge that. But given Ponder’s football acumen and attitude, that work will be done quickly and it will be done well.


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CB Asher Allen Retires

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 12:11 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier met with reporters on Wednesday afternoon to discuss his team’s progress through the first two Organized Team Activities (OTAs). But one matter of business Frazier addressed had to do with a player who is not at Vikings OTAs.

Asher Allen, a 3rd-round pick of the Vikings in 2009 out of Georgia, has decided to retire, and the Vikings have consequently placed him on the Reserve/Retired list.

Allen played in 37 games with 21 starts for the Vikings over three seasons, tallying 129 tackles, 1.0 sacks, 4 INTs, 18 pass breakups, 1.0 tackles for loss and 1 forced fumble; he also had 12 special teams tackles.

The Vikings now have 16 DBs listed on the roster.


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Great Debate: Jared Allen vs. Jason Pierre-Paul

Posted by Mike Wobschall on May 30, 2012 – 6:47 am

Last week I bemoaned the fact that CBSSports.com NFL columnist Pete Prisco left both Chad Greenway and Percy Harvin off his Top 100 NFL Players list. This week, though, I want to point out another NFL analyst’s opinion regarding a Vikings player and agree with it.

NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks took an insightful and interesting look at two of the NFL’s elite pass rushers – Vikings DE Jared Allen and NY Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul. In his column, he asks and analyzes which of the two is a better pass rusher right now. It’s an interesting topic because both players are truly elite , and there’s an argument to be made for both.

Brooks, a former NFL player and scout who now works for the NFL-owned network and website, breaks this debate down into five categories and lists which player has the advantage in that category. He gives the edge to Pierre-Paul in athleticism, but describes Allen as “the veteran technician with the relentless motor” and gives him the edge in explosiveness, rush moves, disruption and motor.

In conclusion, Brooks gives the nod to Allen, saying: “While Pierre-Paul is only a year or so away from becoming an absolute monster on the edge, Allen is a consistent force capable of producing game-changing turnovers whenever he steps onto the field. With more than 100 sacks over eight seasons, I’m willing to take production over potential in this debate.”

Once again, you can’t go wrong having either player on your team. Allen and Pierre-Paul are in different stages of their careers, with Allen in the prime of a Hall of Fame career and Pierre-Paul two years into what appears to be an incredibly productive career. But both bring the same valuable trait to their teams – elite edge-rushing and game-changing ability from a premier position in the NFL.

I know we have a natural bias on this website, but let us know what you think about this debate by leaving your thoughts in the comments section below this entry.


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