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Daily Improvement, Developing Young Players Among Frazier’s Priorities In Camp

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 26, 2012 – 12:45 pm

Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier beat most of his coaching staff and players to Mankato on Thursday as the Vikings reported to 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp on the campus of Minnesota State University, Mankato. This is Frazier’s sixth training camp with the Vikings, but he enters this season with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for a variety of reasons.

“It’s great to be back in Mankato,” Frazier said. “It was great for our football team to have an offseason to be able to put some things in place before we came back.”

Last year as this time, NFL teams embarked on compressed training camp schedules plus plenty of unfamiliarity because of the work stoppage that eliminated offseason programs. This year, though, offseason programs resumed, which was beneficial to all teams but especially to teams featuring young QBs and young rosters in general.

“We have a lot of work to do, as well all know,” Frazier said. “We have a lot of new faces that are going to be on our football team that are going to be starting for us and playing for us, so as a staff one of the things we’ve talked about and leading up to training camp some of the things we’ve talked about were developing the young players on our football team and trying to get those guys to be ready for that Jacksonville game and to help us throughout the season.

“And then just working to improve throughout training camp. That’s the goal, to try to improve every single day in some phase. If we can do that, we’re hoping everything can come together and we can get off to a good start and have a good football season. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re excited to be down here to kickoff the 2012 season.”

Frazier was quick to credit Vikings fans, the city of Mankato and the University for their support of the team each year during training camp.

“This is my sixth year coming down here, and the fans have always been great,” Frazier commented. “We’ve always had great participation and the people here in Mankato have been just tremendous in their support. We had a chance to get to know some of the people here on campus as well, and they’ve been so supportive.”

Frazier said the Vikings will take care of administrative duties, operational issues and physicals with the players today, followed by the first team meeting later this evening. The Vikings will hold a walk-thru Friday morning and then their first practice will be on Friday at 2:45 p.m. CT.


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Going Camping: Kalil Signs, Will Report On Time

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 26, 2012 – 10:45 am

The Vikings emerged from the 2012 NFL Draft with 10 selections. Three months later, the Vikings will emerge from the offseason and arrive at 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp with all 10 selections under contract. The last of the bunch to sign was 1st-round LT Matt Kalil.

Kalil signed his contract at Winter Park late Thursday morning and will report to training camp in Mankato on time with the rest of his teammates, easing the concerns of those who wondered about a holdout. It’s not unusual for 1st-round picks to wait until the last minute to sign their deals, but it’s easy to become concerned when a player who will be so important to the team remains unsigned just days before camp.

Vikings fans can worry no more. Projected to be a cornerstone LT for the next decade, Kalil will be installed as the starter immediately. His presence at LT allows the Vikings to solidify their offensive line by moving Charlie Johnson to LG and holding a robust competition at RG among Joe Berger, Chris DeGeare, Brandon Fusco and Geoff Schwartz.


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Roster Rundown: Defensive Line

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 26, 2012 – 9:29 am

Vikings players report to 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp today and their first walk-thru and practice will be tomorrow, so it’s time for us to complete our Roster Rundown series. There are three position groups to go, and we’ll knock off the largest group right now – the defensive line.

Let’s split this up into DEs and DTs, without regard to who’s playing right DE compared to left DE and without regard to who’s playing the three-technique and who’s playing nose. Here we go…

Defensive Ends
For my money, the Vikings have the best DE in the NFL. Jared Allen comes off a 22.0-sack season a year ago, and no player has more sacks than Allen’s 105.0 since he entered the League in 2004. It’s not a stretch in the least to think Allen can have another sensational season in 2012. Yes, teams will be focusing on neutralizing him, but teams have been trying to neutralize him for years with no avail. As a bookend at DE, Brian Robison is the favorite to hold a starting position on the defense as he comes off a career-high 8.0-sack season in 2011.

Behind starters Allen and Robison, the Vikings have high hopes for Everson Griffen this season. Griffen has been a standout special teams player during his two-year career, and he’s gotten to the point now where the team will try to find more snaps for him on defense. Because of his versatility, those snaps could come at either DE or DT, and there’s also been talk of him getting into the mix at LB. Another reserve who could take a step forward this year is D’Aundre Reed. He was a 7th-round pick out of Arizona last season and didn’t play in a game, but coaches are excited about his athleticism and potential.

Other DEs on the roster who will fight to add depth to the group are: Jeff Charleston, Trevor Guyton, Anthony Jacobs, Eric Latimore, Ernest Owusu and Nick Reed. Charleston and Reed are veterans, Guyton was a 7th-round pick this year, and Jacobs (Minnesota), Latimore (Penn State) and Owusu (California) are undrafted college free agents.

Expect Allen and Robison to emerge from camp with starting spots, with Griffen pushing Robison for playing time and the two perhaps playing on a rotational basis. D’Aundre Reed has a big training camp ahead of him and could take a huge step forward. The rest of the group is a nice blend of veterans and youngsters, and they have a chance to provide some depth at what is a very strong position for the Vikings.

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Defensive Tackle
Teammates call him The Big Ticket. Kevin Williams is the leader of the Vikings DTs and has been changing games for the Purple since 2003. Williams played better than most people realize a year ago, and there’s no reason to expect a slowdown from Ticket in 2012.

This year, Williams is looking for a running mate to start next to him. The Vikings have been missing that aspect of their defense since Pat Williams’ decline and eventual departure from the team. Perhaps the team doesn’t need a Pat Williams clone – there is only one Pat Williams, after all – but the team does need another impact player at DT, and training camp is just the place to find that player.

Letroy Guion is a good, young option for the Vikings. Guion is only 25, but he’s entering his 5th season out of Florida State already and the Vikings would benefit greatly if he could step up and earn a starting position. Another returning veteran on the roster is Fred Evans, a six-year veteran who joined the Vikings in 2007.

Earlier this offseason, we identified Christian Ballard as one of eight Vikings poised for a breakout season in 2012. A rotational player in 2011 as a rookie, Ballard trained hard this offseason and is committed to earning more playing time for 2012. Perhaps Ballard’s biggest asset will be versatility because he can line up at defensive end or defensive tackle.

The Vikings have two undrafted college free agents at DT - Chase Baker (Boise State) and Tydreke Powell (North Carolina). Baker was a standout to me at this year’s Senior Bowl (Leslie Frazier and his staff had Baker on their North squad), and Powell will impress because of his size (6-3, 310 pounds).

Williams is obviously solidified as the starter at the three-technique, but a great opportunity exists for the rest of the DTs to earn a starting spot next to Williams. This will be a fun position battle to monitor during training camp. Don’t be surprised if this situation is ultimately resolved with a by-committee approach, but it also wouldn’t be surprising – and would be quite pleasant – if someone emerged from camp with a firm grasp on the job.


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