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(Unofficial) Depth Chart: Guideline More Than Rule

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 4, 2012 – 9:51 pm

When the teacher issues a seating chart in the classroom, the rules are hard and fast. The spot in which you sit is clearly defined with no room for interpretation and no chance for change based on performance. When it comes to depth charts in the NFL, however, the lines are blurred and the chart is more of a guideline than a set of rules.

But even with that being the case, it’s always fun to take a look and see how things are stacked up. It’s an especially relevant exercise now because training camp and the preseason – the time when depth charts change rapidly – have given way to the regular season – the time when depth charts change less frequently.

Let’s take a look at the Vikings unofficial depth chart heading into the season-opener…

No surprises
The spots at quarterback, offensive line and tight end contain no surprises. Joe Webb is listed as the backup to Christian Ponder, with McLeod Bethel-Thompson listed third. The five starters along the offensive line are the same five who’ve been starting all training camp and preseason, with Joe Berger listed as the backup center and Geoff Schwartz listed as the backup right guard.

At tight end, second-year player Kyle Rudolph is the starter, with John Carlson, Rhett Ellison and Allen Reisner listed behind him.

Early receiver rotation
With Jerome Simpson suspended for the first three games, don’t be surprised to see the Vikings use a healthy rotation at wide receiver early in the season. Rather than lean heavily on one particular player among Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton and Michael Jenkins to try and replace Simpson, the Vikings could ask all three of them to contribute in some way. Jenkins is listed as the starter at the X position for now and Percy Harvin is of course #1 at Z position, but I expect Aromashodu and Burton to get their chances.

For the record, Burton is listed as the #2 at Z and rookie Jarius Wright is #3. But don’t read too much into any of the positioning at receiver because there could be an “all hands on deck” mentality until Simpson returns in Week 4.

Speaking of rotations…
There could also be a rotation at the Vikings defensive tackle position. Kevin Williams is solid as the #1 under-tackle and Christian Ballard is listed as his backup, but at nose tackle Letroy Guion is trying to recover from a knee injury. That means Fred Evans, who started the Vikings final two preseason games, will be on call to start should Guion be unable to play in Week 1, and regardless of starting status he’ll be relied upon to take plenty of reps.

It all sounds a bit murky right now, but the good news is Vikings defensive line coach Brendan Daly has good depth up and down the line to A) keep legs fresh during the entire game and B) survive the absence of Guion for however long he needs to be out.

Backup ‘Backers
Jasper Brinkley is the man in the middle at linebacker and he’ll be flanked by Chad Greenway (SLB) and Erin Henderson (WLB) on either side. Rookie Audie Cole, a preseason star for the Vikings, is listed as the backup to Brinkley, while free agent acquisition Marvin Mitchell is behind Henderson and an undrafted rookie free agent find from last year – Larry Dean – will play behind Greenway.

Safety in numbers
The Vikings prioritized improving their pass defense this past offseason, and you can tell that was a priority based on how they addressed both cornerback and safety in the draft and via other methods. First-round pick Harrison Smith and second-year player Mistral Raymond are listed as starters, although Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier would not commit to a starter in Raymond’s spot when asked about it on Monday. That will likely be a fluid situation for now, especially with Raymond looking to return from a back injury that prevented him from playing in the final two preseason games.

At cornerback, Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield are listed as starters, with rookie Josh Robinson behind Winfield and A.J. Jefferson, recently acquired via trade, behind Cook.

Looking for positive returns
Harvin is listed as the Vikings top kickoff returner, and when the team decides to give him a rest from that role they will lean on Marcus Sherels to handle the job. Sherels is also listed as the top punt returner, with Jarius Wright #2 behind him. Now, Sherels is dealing with an ankle injury heading into Week 1, so if he is unable to play it’ll be Jefferson as the backup kickoff returner and Robinson as the primary punt returner.


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Jefferson’s Man Coverage, Return Ability Appealed To Vikings

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 4, 2012 – 1:06 pm

Last weekend while they and all other NFL teams were cutting 20-some players from their rosters to reach the NFL’s mandated 53-man roster limit, the Vikings were also scheming to add a player to their roster.

That player was A.J. Jefferson. The Vikings sent undisclosed draft pick compensation to the Arizona Cardinals last Friday in exchange for Jefferson, a 6-1, 190-pound CB. Jefferson signed with the Cardinals in April of 2010 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Fresno State and played in 18 games with 7 starts over 2 seasons.

Jefferson’s size makes him a good fit in the Vikings defensive scheme at an outside CB spot, and his addition adds depth to a position that has veterans Chris Cook and Antoine Winfield as starters and youngsters Brandon Burton, Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels providing depth. He has good speed and, when dialed in, has displayed the ability to be a starting-caliber NFL DB.

While not a household name in Minnesota, Jefferson is a player the Vikings liked enough that they felt compelled to trade for him. Why? Vikings Head Coach Leslie Frazier spoke on that issue Monday.

“He has the ability to cover man and also play some zone coverage, good press corner, but he can also play off,” Frazier detailed. “He’s a willing tackler, we like that part of his game.”

This past offseason, Frazier had commented on multiple occasions that the Vikings may play more man coverage than they have in the past. That’s a plan that sounds great in theory, but a team must have the appropriate personnel on-hand in order to execute the plan.

Frazier feels Jefferson could give the Vikings just that.

“We wanted a guy who could play some man coverage and he’s shown that he has the strength to do that,” Frazier said.

Frazier noted that Jefferson has kick return abilities as well.

“His speed, his athleticism, he’s a good kickoff return guy as well. He’s a long guy with his size, we liked that as well.

“It was about what guy could fit what we’re trying to get done on defense that would really help us have a chance to win on Sundays. We felt like A.J. gave us some things that we were looking for and that’s why he’s here.”


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A Glance At Vikings Practice Squad

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 4, 2012 – 11:12 am

Preparations for Sunday’s regular season and home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars will be full-steam ahead on Wednesday. So today, let’s take a look at a group of players who will play important roles in aiding the Vikings in those preparations – the practice squad.

Teams use the practice squad primarily as a roster mechanism to procure the development (and hopefully future production) of young players who aren’t quite ready to hold down a spot on the 53-man roster. But an ancillary function of a practice squad player is helping the team prepare for the upcoming opponent.

The Vikings announced their full practice squad on Monday. Here is a quick look at all eight of those players…

DT Chase Baker – He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent and had a solid training camp. Baker was on the North squad at this year’s Senior Bowl, which gave the Vikings a detailed look at him prior to the draft. Baker measures in at 6-0, 300 pounds and played college football at Boise State.

CB Bobby Felder – Another undrafted rookie free agent who spent camp with the Vikings, Felder is around the ball a lot and ultimately showed enough for the Vikings to want to keep him around. Felder had a productive career (5 INTs and 3 blocked kicks as a senior in 2011) at Nicholls State and measures in at 5-11, 200 pounds.

WR Tori Gurley – Described as a receiver in a TE’s body, Gurley measures in at 6-4, 232 pounds and had a productive career at South Carolina, totaling 75 receptions for 905 yards and 6 TDs. He signed with the Packers last year as an undrafted free agent and spent the season on their practice squad.

OL Tyler Holmes – A 4-year starter and letterwinner at Tulsa, Holmes was actually selected with the 7th overall pick in the CFL Draft, but he ultimately signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent and spent training  camp impressing coaches enough to earn a spot on the practice squad. He started all 46 games he played at Tulsa, received his bachelor’s degree in management in May of 2011 and played last season while pursuing a Master’s degree in business.

OL Kevin Murphy – An undrafted rookie free agent from Harvard, Murphy signed with the Vikings just days before training camp. He measures in at 6-7, 305 pounds.

DE Ernest Owusu – A long and lean DE, Owusu is a product of California and had a productive career there, playing in 42 games with 18 starts and recoding 14.0 tackles for loss and 8.0 sacks. He signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent.

WR Chris Summers – Another tall receiver listed at 6-5, 215 pounds, Summers signed with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent and was waived last week. A product of Liberty, Summers joins Gurley as former members of division rivals who are now on the Vikings practice squad.

RB Jordan Todman – Signed off the San Diego Chargers practice squad last December, Todman was injured for much of training camp but performed well once healthy this preseason, capping off the exhibition season with a 10-carry, 114-yard, 1 TD outing against the Houston Texans. He was originally a 6th-round pick of the Chargers in 2011.


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Get A Sneak Peak Of The Vikings New Nike Equipment

Posted by Ryan Cardinal on September 4, 2012 – 9:56 am

As most fans probably know by now, Nike has taken over from Reebok as the league’s exclusive maker of licensed on-field apparel, including uniforms, sideline clothing and fan gear.  Nike is also taking this opportunity to supply some unique team-specific equipment for all teams starting with week one of the regular season.

The Vikings received their shipment of cleats and gloves from Nike on Tuesday morning.  View photos of the gear the team will be debuting this weekend at Mall of America Field vs. the Jaguars via the photo gallery below.

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