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Here’s The Story: 10 Camp Storylines To Follow

Posted by Mike Wobschall on July 27, 2012 – 7:00 am

There is never a shortage of storylines heading into training camp, and this year is no exception for the Vikings. As the team embarks on 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp today with a morning walk-thru and afternoon practice, let’s take a brief look at 10 of the most notable stories to chase during 2012 Verizon Vikings Training Camp…

Will Adrian Peterson begin on the Physical Unable to Perform (PUP) list?
There’s no question Peterson has made tremendous strides in his recovery from major knee surgery, and there’s also no question that Peterson feels confident in his knee and is eager to display just how ready he is. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to put the NFL’s best RB on the field of play unharnessed. Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier was non-committal when asked if Peterson would begin camp on the PUP list, instead saying the decision would be made after he spoke with Peterson and the team’s medical staff. If Peterson begins camp on the PUP list, the team can take him off the list at any time. Either way, Frazier and Peterson both said they expected the RB would be doing some kind of on-field work from the get-go.

Man in the middle – Jasper Brinkley’s opportunity
The Vikings selected LB Jasper Brinkley with a 5th-round pick in 2009 and he immediately became the understudy to E.J. Henderson. Now that Henderson is no longer with the team and Brinkley still sports the Purple and Gold, the time has come for Brinkley to display just how far he’s come in three-plus seasons with the club. Brinkley is expected to be the team’s starting middle LB, an important role in this defense especially considering how well Henderson fulfilled the role for so many seasons. There are questions about Brinkley’s durability because he dealt with an injury in college, missed all of 2011 with an injury and then missed some of the team’s offseason program with injury. But he’s healthy now, and it’ll be fun to watch him prove that he can be the team’s man in the middle.

Christian Ponder’s development
You can have everything else buttoned up and the stars can align, but if you don’t have the QB situation squared away in the NFL it won’t matter. The Vikings believe they will have it squared away with Ponder at the helm, and we’ll find out if they’re right this season. Early indications will come from training camp and the preseason, though. Vikings GM Rick Spielman and his crew have done a nice job of surrounding Ponder with weapons – both blockers and ball-handlers. The addition of Matt Kalil improves the offensive line tremendously, and then the additions of TE John Carlson, WR Jerome Simpson and a pair of draft picks in WRs Greg Childs and Jarius Wright give Ponder some weapons in the passing game. Add in guys such as Peterson, Toby Gerhart, Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph, and you can’t deny that the offensive weapons in place are much better this year than in previous seasons. That sets the stage perfectly for Ponder, a guy who knows how important he is to the team and a guy who relishes in that role.

Percy Harvin’s role on offense
Harvin was in the headlines a bit this offseason, and I’m guessing he’ll be in the headlines a bit more this season because he’s going to play a pivotal role in the Vikings offense. Harvin is as dynamic an offensive weapon as you’ll find because of his ability as a pass receiver and a ball carrier. You can line him up in the slot, out wide or even in the backfield. You can throw it to him, pitch it to him, hand it off to him, you can even snap it directly to him. Harvin is one of the best players on the team, and he’s going to get the ball a lot. It will be fun to watch how Offensive Coordinator Bill Musgrave and his staff plan to use Harvin.

Vikings look to improve pass defense
The Vikings ranked 26th in total passing defense a season ago and they yielded the most TD passes as well. So the team will look to improve in that area, and one big step in that direction was the hiring of Defensive Coordinator Alan Williams. In Williams’ decade working with the Indianapolis Colts DBs, the club ranked in the top six in NFL passing defense five times and finished out of the Top 15 only once. In that same span, the Colts allowed the fewest touchdown passes in the NFL (159), the fewest pass completions of 25+ yards (159) and the third-fewest passing yards (29,993). Aside from Williams, the team added a pair of safeties (Robert Blanton and Harrison Smith) and a CB (Josh Robinson) in the draft, and they signed a pair of veteran free agents (Chris Carr and Zack Bowman) to bring some experience to the group. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that the Vikings will have their two top CBs back on the field after they missed significant time a season ago. Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook played in a combined 11 games last year, and it’s tough to do well against the pass when you’re two best CBs are out of action. Expect a big jump in performance from the Vikings pass defense this season.

Kalil’s transition to the NFL
A dominant player at USC, Kalil enters the NFL as a starter on the Vikings offensive line. His first task? Block the best DE in the NFL for three straight weeks in Mankato. Kalil will go against Jared Allen on a daily basis at training camp, and we can all agree that it will only make the rookie LT that much better.

“It should be real good for Matt to go against maybe the best defensive end in the National Football League on a daily basis in practice and I think it will be good for Jared as well because Matt is going to challenge him,” Frazier said.

What to do with Everson Griffen?
Few players this offseason have been on the mind of Vikings fans more than Griffen. The consensus among fans is that Griffen is too talented to not be on the field, and there are a growing number of fans who want to see Griffen make the transition from DE to LB. Whether Griffen is asked to make that switch or not remains to be seen. What is clear, though, is that Griffen is viewed by most as a player on the rise.

The Blair Walsh project
The Vikings used a 6th-round pick in April’s draft to select K Blair Walsh, a standout player at Georgia for four seasons and one of just three kickers the Vikings deemed worthy of selection. Walsh replaces Ryan Longwell, a beloved Vikings player who made plenty of big kicks and was reliable. But the team wants more touchbacks on kickoffs, and there’s no question Walsh has the leg strength to stretch the team’s FG range. There will likely be some growing pains with a rookie kicker, but Walsh’s talent should allow him to absorb those pains and quickly turn into a solid player. Walsh projects to be a long-term option for the Vikings at kicker, and there’s nothing wrong with getting a long-term starter out of a 6th-round pick.

Stepping up at defensive tackle
As we wrote about yesterday in the defensive line version of Roster Rundown, Kevin Williams is looking for a running mate to start next to him at DT. 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. Will it be a veteran such as Letroy Guion or Fred Evans? Or will it be a youngster, such as Chase Baker, Christian Ballard or Tydreke Powell? Or will it be a rotational thing? We’ll find out soon.

Rick Spielman’s first camp as Vikings General Manager
Spielman has been with the club since 2006, but this is his first training camp with the Vikings as GM. In some respects, not much has changed because Spielman has made the transition from VP of Player Personnel to GM smoothly. On the other hand, the team’s organizational structure did change a bit with Spielman’s promotion. There’s no question now who is making the final decision on roster moves, and having a central voice such as Spielman who can work well with Frazier will improve how the team functions on a daily basis. We’ll start to see that even more during training camp and as the team gets closer to making decisions about the roster coming out of the preseason.


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Posted in All, Mike Wobschall | 27 Comments »


27 Responses to “Here’s The Story: 10 Camp Storylines To Follow”

  1. By sandwiches91 on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    It starts now! SKOL!!!!

  2. By greatirishpotatofamine on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    DT is our weakness, gotta get big and physical

  3. By ccfan80 on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    If those stats are true about the defense in Indy i think that Willimams will really help our secondary and have more than 8 INTs all year.

  4. By SmileyStar on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Where the heck are the Webb stories?? How is his development going? Ponder won’t make it physically through the whole season, so it’s kind of important to know where Webb is at and if he is improving.

  5. By Troutdaddy on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Ponder is going to do just fine physically throughout the season. he is in great shape. Webb is not the focus so that is why we don;t hear a lot. He will be ready as usual to step in if needed, but who knows- he may not even get the backup role with are other QB’s…

  6. By Carl K on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Nice post Wobby! Thanks.
    The Alan Williams’ defense will be the key to the Vikings success.
    The offense is set up with young interchangeable talent that will make its fair share of mistakes… but the young playmakers will also put enough points on the board to win games.

    On the defensive side, we have a strong core group of veterans that need to step up and control the tempo of the game. We can’t let teams come back on us.

    If Ponder has confidence in our defense, he won’t force things to happen.
    I am looking forward to this Alan Williams D to play inspired football and to be much improved from last year.

  7. By RI VIKE on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    “The Blair Walsh Project” That was actually pretty funny

  8. By rogerthevikefan on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Powell or Baker will beat out Evans for the final DT spot. So Williams, Guion, Ballard, and Powell as are DTs. Baker will be on the PS.

  9. By IMPOSTERfinder on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    SmileyStar is DeerTracks.

  10. By IMPOSTERfinder on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Everyone knows DeerTracks loves bashing Ponder and thinks Webb SH ITS gold. Ponder is are QB stop acting like a BI TCH.

  11. By rogerthevikefan on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Simpson, Harvin, Wright, Childs, and Burton will be the Vikings WR core. Jenkins knee is not fully healed so bye and doesn’t fit youth movement. Aroumashodu or Arceneaux may make the team during the first 3 games but likely gone after that.

  12. By sandiamond on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    more and more talk about M. Jenkins being on the bubble cut list. Due 5 mill next 2 years and a hefty bonus if he starts game1
    We need his vet presence on the field but more youth movement and less wins this season continuing to be the norm

  13. By Frederick Jones on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    @SmileyStar,

    Like you, I am not worried about Ponder’s talent. I am worried about his getting injured. KEEP WEBB READY TO PLAY!!!

  14. By Deer Tracks on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Just so happens Smileystar is NOT me, Juat happens to be another poster who happens to think that Joe Webb is a very good QB and should be ready to pull Ponder’s chestnuts out of the fire. Wake up, IMPOSTERfinder, you couldn’t find your A$$ using both hands!

  15. By Deer Tracks on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Fred

    We have another poster that understands the importance of keeping Joe Webb ready in case Ponder goes down.. Not to replace Ponder, but to help the team win games

    Right on Smileystar!

  16. By Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Toutdaddy is IMPOSTERfinder. Two can play this game.

  17. By rogerthevikefan on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Not everyone who supports Webb is DeerTracks. Personally I think he is a nice option to have but I definitly believe Ponder is the better QB.

  18. By rogerthevikefan on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    D@mn now it looks like I’m supporting DeerTracks.

  19. By Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Roger, that was not how I know. Calm down.

  20. By Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Oops, sorry Rogervike– I have about 12 windows open on my computer and am working. Never mind my last post.

  21. By rogerthevikefan on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Even if DeerTracks is SmileyStar its better than him acting like he is Titus, VikingFool, or me.

  22. By rogerthevikefan on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Back on topic now: Daly and Williams will bring a some much needed intensity (sorry if miss spelled Titus) to the Vikings Defence. Looking forward to lots of INTs and Allen breaking the sack record with 25.

  23. By viking Mike on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    I get tired of all the ‘experts’ saying the Vikings are the worst team in the NFL. Just read another one in a magazine. They’re are at least the third or fourth worst:)

    With what we’ve done and the schedule we should get 6-8 wins.

  24. By Deer Tracks on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    None of you read or understood a word I posted!

  25. By vikingforlife on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    One thing about the hiring about Alan Williams, a couple reasons the Colts had one of the best pass defences the past couple years is because no one needed to pass against them. Their run defence was one of the worst in NFL history, they had the best DE’s rushing the passer, and you wanted to run the clock down as much as you could before letting Manning back on the field.

  26. By Woodboat on Jul 27, 2012 | Reply

    Thank you, vikingforlife, for pointing this out. It’s like the Vikes prior vaunted run defense. We had the best in the league… because we couldn’t stop the pass AT ALL so the opposition didn’t bother running it. I’m not saying that Williams won’t be an improvement over Pagac, but I’ll be waiting to see the product on the field before getting all gung ho. I can’t say that I recall the Colts having a particularly good overall defense in recent years….

  27. By 72viktul on Jul 29, 2012 | Reply

    off. and dff. line,LB,and DB,s has to b greatest concern,running the ball and converting short 3rd downs keepin opposing off,on the side line.helping our dff.

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