Special Teams Sets Tone For Practice; OTA #7 Observations

Posted by Mike Wobschall on June 11, 2012 – 2:51 pm

The Vikings opened up their final week of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) at Winter Park on Monday under partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures and a brisk wind. After near-perfect weather a week ago, the windy conditions for OTA #7 added a challenging element for many phases of practice.

The first phase to deal with the wind was the Vikings special teams group, specifically the punt returners. Catching punts is difficult enough, but add in winds that gusted from 15-20 mph and the task becomes increasingly difficult. It didn’t faze the Vikings returners, though, as CB Josh Robinson, CB Marcus Sherels, WR Bryan Walters and WR Jarius Wright fielded kicks gracefully.

The special teams’ performance in the first period of practice was an indication of what was to come, as the Vikings conducted a crisp and clean approximately 90-minute practice. The special teams setting a positive example for the rest of practice is something in which Mike Priefer, entering his second season as the Vikings special teams coordinator, takes pride.

“I’m very fortunate to work for a head coach like Coach Frazier,” Priefer told Radio Voice of the Vikings Paul Allen and yours truly during last week’s episode of Vikings Tonight on the Vikings Radio Network. “He gives me meeting time, he gives me practice time, he gives me individual time with guys. I like the fact that we start practice with special teams because, to me, we set the tone for the rest of the practice. We’re a high energy, high motor type period. We get a lot done in a fifteen- or twenty-minute period of time that we have. The fact that we get to start practice and get to set the tone for the rest of the day is exciting for me.”

A few other observations from OTA #7…

Who can, not who can’t
There have been no shortage of punt returners during OTAs. The four who caught punts on Monday are listed above, but several others have also been in the mix over the past two weeks. While fans are curious to know who will win the job after the position battle, Priefer and assistant special teams coach Chris White are still figuring out who will be in that position battle.

“We have eight or nine guys catching punts right now and you have to pull them out of a hat,” Priefer said on last week’s Vikings Tonight. “But the great thing is we have a lot of competition there. I’ve been at places where we have one guy, maybe two, that can even catch a punt. Here we have seven or eight guys who can catch punts.”

Sherels stands out
It was a good day of practice for CB Marcus Sherels, the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher who made last year’s Vikings squad as an undrafted free agent. If Sherels has more days like he had on Monday, he’ll once again be on the Vikings roster and in position to make an impact.

Sherels tallied a pair of pass breakups (PBUs) against what’s been one of the best QB-WR combinations during OTAs – Christian Ponder and Jerome Simpson. The first PBU came during a team offense vs. team defense period when Sherels jumped in front of Simpson on a short curl route, and the second PBU came during a 7-on-7 period of practice on a deep pass down the left sideline. On each play, Ponder placed the ball well and Simpson ran a good route, but Sherels was just able to make a great play on the ball.

Living on the edge
Ponder and fellow QB Joe Webb put their athleticism on display during a team offense vs. defense period. Both plays were similar in that the QBs were sprinting right to avoid a pursuing defender. DE Brian Robison was chasing Ponder, and the QB was able to buy just enough time to find WR Stephen Burton along the right sideline for a tip-toe completion before falling out of bounds. Moments later, Webb executed a similar play, sprinting right to avoid DE Eric Lattimore and completing a pass to TE Kyle Rudolph. The pass was thrown slightly behind Rudolph, but the second-year TE was able to reach back and make the catch before turning upfield to complete the play.

Good hands Griffen
Defensive linemen such as Everson Griffen spend much of their time rushing the passer. On Monday, though, Griffen showed off his pass-catching skills, grabbing a tipped pass to tally an INT.

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31 Responses to “Special Teams Sets Tone For Practice; OTA #7 Observations”

  1. By Troutdaddy on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply


  2. By Thomas on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    We are going to have a great year! We will surprise many who have called it a rebuilding year! We have great talent and great leadership, the sky is the limit! Skol Vikes!!

  3. By Troutdaddy on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    I sure hope that we can see one or two people emerge os strong punt returners. It seemed like last year we were relying too heavily on Harvin to do it all. I would love to see a couple of formidable guys like Wright or Walters show some zest and speed. I am also glad that Sherels had a good day. I thought he did well last year, but his consistency was not always there. I would also like to see the Vikes use their TE how they used to use Kleinsasser a few years back. I think he led the team in catches for a while and was a great rumbler. If Rudolph can create that then that would be another plus. From what I have heard so far, things sound like they are progressing and many people are feeling very positive about the new additions and the overall skill and chemistry of this team. Now it is time to whittle it down through some good old-fashioned competition. Loking forward to see who brings their A-game the next few weeks. I bleed purple… Nuf said…

  4. By kevinwi on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    as much as I like Sherels as a person, I don’t think he’s CB material. Good punt returner, but we need more return on investment for that roster spot…he doesn’t have the size to hit like a truck and he can’t compete for the ball with taller WR. If there is a CB that can be that hard hitter and also have PR capability, it will be time for a change. We were lulled to sleep last year by mediocrity…our entire defensive backfield was mediocre…and in that respect Sherles was ok….but put him in with playmakers, and he would be bottom tier. Kid has heart, I’ll give him that.

  5. By kevinwi on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Troutddaddy, Harvin was never used on punt returns last season. It was Sherles and Booker and Camarillo

  6. By Matthias on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Hopefully we have some money left to sign Percy to a long term deal. This should be one of the next moves.

  7. By OTKalil2012 on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Here ya go Fred…More O-lineman info…

    The O-line is going to be great this season !!…

  8. By xvike on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    I agree with kevinwi on Sherels. He’s just too small. He’s not as fast as one would think for a guy his size. I don’t really care for being able to hit like a truck, as long as they can make the tackle. Winfield doesn’t hit like a truck, but 9 times out of 10, he’ll make the tackle. Our DB’s were so mediocre that it made sherals actually look decent. He didn’t do all that great either when he did play. He is an average DB at best. But my guess is, he probably won’t make the roster this year as the vikings have stocked up on db’s through the draft and free agency.

  9. By Viking-ology on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    At least there is good competition, thats the main thing. Hopefully Frazier will choose the right players for peformance rather than preferance…last year he was too buddy-buddy, and that includes his staff.

  10. By OTKalil2012 on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Last season I predicted early the Vikings would have a poor 5-11 season…Then the Frazier decided to pick up mentor McNabb…

    I then predicted the Vikings to have a worse 4-12 season after that stupid move…

    I also predicted that McNabb would be replaced with Ponder after the first 4 games of the season…McNabb lasted a little longer because Frazier had a hard time admitting to his huge mistake…

    Point is I didn’t like the Vikings chances at all last season…New head coach…New offensive coordinator…Poor O-line…And a lock out…And a new QB learning a new playbook…

    Just plain a recipe for disaster !!!…


    A much better O-line I believe will DOMINATE after few starts this season !!!…A QB with new weapons and protection around him !!…A much better young secondary that will take a little time to gel…But the second half of the season..WATCH OUT !!!…

    Last year I predicted a 4-12 season…

    This year I predict a 9-7 season minimum…

    When all said and done..I believe the Vikings have a VERY GOOD shot at a 10-6 season…

    With AP getting over 2,000 yds this season…You heard it here first !!…Coming off an injury and all…

    GO VIKINGS !!!

  11. By OTKalil2012 on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    I really like CB Sherels…And hope he is on the 53 man roster when the season starts…

    Sherels may be short..But the young man makes plays…And is a solid kick returner…

  12. By Mike B. on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    what was interesting about Sid Hartman’s article is what is not being said. He is not say that Loadholt is much improved only that he should be much improved. This isn’t news this is no news. Is Loadholt perfomring better or not?

  13. By Oscar on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Everson Griffen was a running back in High School. He knows how to catch a pass. He rushed for over 1000 yards and score like 22 TDs.

    OTKalil2012 – Those first 2 games will set the tone for the season. If we can get off to a good start and win those games, I think 10-6 is accurate.

  14. By Viking-ology on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    I hope Loadholt doesn’t want to be known as the “Matador.” I’ve heard he is in a contract year and should perform well. I hate hearing stuff like that, that money is the driving force for them to do well in a contract year. Good players do it every year. Pick it up Loadholt.

  15. By OTKalil2012 on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    I think fans expectations are to high on younger offensive-man…Loadholt isn’t doing a bad job…

    Loadholt is only going into his third year…He started as a rookie…And did a decent job for a rookie…

    Last year he had to learn a new playbook…And “yes” it does matter plenty knowing the playbook and the plays going on…Blocking is not just blocking…

    Kalil is a special player…But he still will not be at his best until he matures in about 3 years…

    Loadholt will not play better this season just because he is playing for a new contract…Its because he is finally turning into a man…And knows the offense…And will have a solid O-line around him…These guys are a “unit” along the O-line…This season this young line will click…Wait and see…

    Sully is doing good…Fusco has a year under his belt and looking strong as a candidate for RG…And C Johnson is a natural LG…And Kalil is a monster eager to learn…

    Schwartz,Love,Berger, and Degeare on the bench backing them up…Adds up to some pretty solid depth also…:)

    Looking good on the O-line…Give this massive unit a chance Viking faithful…

    I think its going to be a group that will be awesome to watch this season…Can’t wait to see the holes they can open for our running game !!!

  16. By Viking-ology on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Good point OTK

  17. By OTKalil2012 on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks V-ology…

    Just excited about the talent level and how hungry our young offensive lineman are for playing time !!!…

    Just hoping for the same hungry competition developing in our secondary this fall…

    This Viking team is young…But it has a LOT of potential also !!…The talent is there…

  18. By OTKalil2012 on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Spencer…Have you been giving Cook a hard time on twitter ??…: )

  19. By Spencer on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    Haha I saw that earlier OT, and no it wasnt me. I would never insult #20.

  20. By Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus on Jun 11, 2012 | Reply

    SPENCER!! I caught you! Solidarity!

  21. By KoN on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    OTK, I agree with almost everything you said, but I believe Schwartz will start over Fusco. From everything I’ve heard, Schwartz was a very good lineman for the Panthers with the ability to play both G and RT before he was injured.

  22. By Rogerthevikefan on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    S. Burton is going to shock everyone and have a great year this season.

  23. By Semper Vikings on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    Don’t get me wrong here guys, I love the Vikings and may be one of the biggest Homers ever. but this 10-6 talk is crazy. I have been let down to many times to get over hyped with some new players coming in. You have to remember that we are playing in the HARDEST conference in the NFL. three pro bowl QBs throwing to pro bowl WRs. My goal for this team is 6-10 or 7-9. Now I know some of you are steaming right now but here me out. Besides playing in the NFC north, we are trying to predict how good players are going to be based on OTAs. Here are our ? going into this season (Please tell me if I am wrong).

  24. By Semper Vikings on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    1. We have 3 number 2 WRs not one of them has proven them selfs as a lagitimate #1… YET

    2. Yes we did get Harrison Smith, but he is going to be a rookie SS, and Mistral was obviously part of our problem in the secondary last season. (and you now our safties got burnt last year)

  25. By Tim Opp on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    I think we should not use percy on spechal teams.Although I think he he is indeed spechal in that aspect of his game. He has become to valuable to use on such a violant part of the game.

  26. By dakotakid59okilil on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    okilil2012; Really agree with most everything you said although I would love us to get to 9-7,I think thats a bit of a strech. Flip those numbers around to 7-9 prehaps.
    McNabb should have been called McFlabb.Can you belive he’s trying to come back this year? GOOD LUCK!!

  27. By NorthwoodsVikesFan on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    OTK – I admire your optimism on Loadholt, I just don’t share it. The plays that Loadholt looked bad on aren’t contingent on any playbook. He was solid everywhere except when a speed rusher whizzed by on the outside, which they did many many many times to him. I’ll bet if you check every teams playbook it says “If the defensive end tries to run around you to the outside, STOP HIM.”

  28. By NorthwoodsVikesFan on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    Mike B hit it on the head. It’s not what is being reported, it’s what is NOT being reported. Loadholt’s play last year drew extensive criticism from numerous analysts, including many former players and coaches.

    The lack of information being released about him suggests 2 things: 1, he’s not improving. But the lack of press about him not improving is suggestive in itself, which suggests 2, he IS improving, but the coaches have instructed the media to downplay it. But when has the media ever done what has been asked of it?

    So, what the H is going on with Loadholt?

  29. By Troutdaddy on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    @Kevinwi- So sorry- you are righ about Harvinp my bad. I was thinking it was punt returns and meant to say kickoff returns. yeah- Harvin did not do punt returns. For some reason I had it in the back of my mind that he did both. Thanks for correcting me.

  30. By Stoney on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    Semper, I understand your concern ref; WR & DB’s, but unless they are playing without an arm or a leg, both groups will be improved this season. They could not be worse.

  31. By NorthwoodsVikesFan on Jun 12, 2012 | Reply

    Who cares how short Sherels is if he makes plays? Apparently he’s been working to improve his game. Glad to hear the update.

    Now, what about Loadholt?

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